By Robert Haile
Pole Position doesn’t seem to be the place to start from as Max Verstappen came from third in qualifying to win the second race of the season at Imola.
Speaking after his win Verstappen said: “I am of course very happy with this win for everyone in the Team and Honda. I think the key was of course the start as we had a great launch. I surprised myself as it was always hard to get off the line in the wet last year but we worked hard to try and improve that and it worked.
“The conditions were challenging out there, especially in the beginning and it was very hard to stay on track but we stayed out of trouble.
“I wouldn’t call it a dominant performance as Lewis was following me quite well and for him to come back to second after his incident means they have a lot of pace in that car.
“We won because we made the right calls with tyres at the right time and the Team managed everything well in these conditions. With the tyres degrading, choosing the right moment to go onto slicks wasn’t easy but we got it right. I had a little moment at the re-start trying to warm up the tyres with some throttle but luckily we didn’t spin.
“We still have to work hard to improve because it’s very close, but for now I’m very happy with the result. I’m looking forward to Portimão because it’s an amazing track and then we go to a track we all know well in Barcelona. We’ll see what we can do but so far, it’s been a good start to the year.”
One of the fastest circuits on the calendar the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix promised plenty of action and when rain fell throwing all the teams strategies out the window.
The tension was cranked up further when Alpine driver Fernando Alonso damaged his front wing after spinning on the way to the grid and Aston Martin changed the brakes on both cars with Sebastian Vettel starting from the pit lane.
Starting from pole for the ninety ninth time in his career Lewis Hamilton was overtaken from the start, as Verstappen fired himself from third to first overtaking teammate Sergio Perez in the process.
Williams were down to one car when Nicholas Latifi crashed early in the race bringing out the safety car, under which Mick Schumacher crashed but was able to continue.
Verstappen pitted a lap earlier than Hamilton as the teams tried to gain an advantage.
This didn’t workout for Hamilton as he went off dropping to eighth as teammate Valtteri Bottas and Williams’ George Russell crashed out, as the Williams driver tried to overtake causing the race to be red flagged due to the derby from the accident.
At the restart McLaren driver Norris jumped to second as Red Bull driver Sergio Perez dropped to fourteenth.
As Verstappen was cruising to victory Norris and Hamilton were battling it out for second and the McLaren driver was holding the seven time world champion until the sixtieth lap.
Hamilton said: “Considering I was facing the barrier at one stage, then a lap down, yeah, it was a difficult day in that regard. I had some really good pace in the rain and was catching but just a little bit impatient, maybe, with the backmarkers. I’m only human so these mistakes happen.
“I’m grateful that I was back in the race and could hunt down and get back to second. The car had a rough time today. I started first, should have been first at the finish but these things are sent to test us and we’ve got a great battle on our hands. Game on.”
Fellow Brit Norris said: “Obviously very happy to get a podium. A very well-executed race from the team and from myself. I think I drove very well – I made a lot of good decisions – but it wasn’t easy. The beginning of the race was pretty tough. A bit of contact here and there, not a perfect start but I kept my head cool.
“I kept focused throughout because sometimes you know you’ve got to expect the red flags and the Safety Cars and think that more opportunities can come towards you later in the race. So, I kept that in mind and solidly came back through.
“There were a couple of people crashing and making mistakes ahead of me, which is what we’re here to take advantage of, and then we made a good decision at the end to go onto the Soft tyres and get ahead of Leclerc. We almost held on to P2 [position 2] but not quite.
“It was a tough race, but very rewarding for myself and more importantly for the team, so a big thanks to them for bringing new parts, and working so hard on the car back at the factory to make it better every weekend.”
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was followed home by Carlos Sainz in fifth as Daniel Riacciardo finished where he started for McLaren.
Pierre Gasly in the AlphaTauri came in seventh after starting in fifth while Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll continued his points scoring start with eighth place.
Esteban Ocon scored Alpine there first points in ninth just ahead of teammate Alonso.
After yesterday’s second in qualifying Perez dropped nine places to eleventh as Yuki Tsunoda picked up eight for AlphaTauri to finish ahead of former drivers champion Kimi Räikkönen who brought his Alfa Romeo home in thirteen.
Antonio Giovinazzi for Alfa Romeo, Sebastian Vettel for Aston Martin and both Haas as Schumacher beat Nikita Mazepin.
Hamilton leads the drivers championship by the point picked up for the fastest lap in this race as Formula 1 goes to Portugal for the Heineken Grand Prémio De Portugal on April 30 – May 2.