The recent Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, held at Imola a week back produced an enthralling Red Bull versus Mercedes contest, eventually aced by Max Verstappen. In comparison to Lewis Hamilton’s 44 points, Verstappen is only a point shy from the celebrated saven-time world champion.
While to his credit, Lewis Hamilton had captured the 99th career pole in his checkered journey, it was a bold early move seconds from the five red lights that saw Verstappen dive into the outside of Lewis to make a ballsy pass in the approach to the first chicane.
That move in itself changed the complexion of the contest with the Red Bull’s nose ahead of the catching Mercedes.
But a race no stranger to drama saw collisions, safety car deployments and not just that- a vigorous shake up of the pecking order. And among the most dramatic moments arrived in the second half of the race wherein Lewis Hamilton, who locked up at the Tosa hairpin, slided into the gravel trap bringing the Grand Prix to perhaps one of its most nail-biting moments.
Resultantly, the multiple world champion fell down to P9 and from thereon forged a brave recovery drive that eventually led to him to a fighting second, even ahead of the McLaren of Lando Norris, that was nearly as quick in the corners and the straights as the Mercedes W12.
In the end of the crazy 63-lap run, while Verstappen was celebrated, everyone hailed Lewis Hamilton’s champion damage-control act that fetched home 18 useful points. Yet, one man doesn’t seem quite impressed. It’s Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.
Making no bones about the fact that Hamilton’s effort toward the end was indicative of sheer excellence, Horner also contended that the Briton would consider himself extremely fortunate.
As a matter of fact, penning a column on Red Bull’s official F1 site, Horner contended, “It has to be said that Lewis was extremely fortunate, a sentiment I’m sure he would echo.”
That’s not all, he’d further add, “The red flag, which was caused by his team-mate, allowed him to un-lap himself after his own accident when he would have been effectively out of the race for a podium finish.”
That being said, having almost claimed victory at Bahrain, with Verstappen ending a brave second, it can easily be said that the 2021 Formula 1 season is the real deal as far as Red Bull’s fight to stellar champions Mercedes is concerned. They are leaving no stone unturned in a bid to challenge the authority of the dominant leaders of this turbo-hybrid era of Formula 1 with their sights set on capturing both titles- the driver as well as the team championship.
Though, whether they are able to keep up the pressure and keep Lewis Hamilton’s advances in check will depend on a lot of factors. It’s not only raw pace that wins you a race in the end, it’s what happens inside the race strategy department was well as who comes up top in the all-important quali battle on Saturdays.
The next stop being the challenging Portimao, where neither Lewis or Verstappen have had any sizeable previous experience of racing other than the 2020 instalment of the exciting race should hopefully serve another fitting clash between two champion drivers on the current grid. What do you reckon?