Max haul for Verstappen as Ferrari’s homecoming turns sour


WORLD champion Max Verstappen took maximum points from Formula One’s Imola sprint weekend, leading a Red Bull one-two on Sunday as Ferrari’s homecoming turned sour for overall leader Charles Leclerc and his Italian team.

Mexican Sergio Perez finished 16.527 seconds behind the Dutch driver, with Lando Norris repeating last year’s third place at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix to claim McLaren’s first podium of the season.

Championship leader Leclerc, winner of two of the first three races, fought back to sixth place after a late spin on a drying track while running in third.

His Spanish teammate Carlos Sainz saw his race end in the gravel after an opening lap collision with McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo.

Verstappen, who took the maximum eight points on Saturday for winning a sprint race from pole, also took a bonus point on Sunday for the fastest lap and is now 27 points adrift of Leclerc.

“That was a very lovely Sunday,” the 24-year-old said over the team radio after leading from start to finish for his second win of a season in which he has also suffered two retirements.

“It’s always tough to achieve something like that but already yesterday, and the day before, we were on it and it was looking like a strong weekend.”

Ferrari’s lead over Red Bull in the constructors standings was slashed to 11 points.

George Russell was an impressive fourth for Mercedes, gaining seven places from his grid position, but complained that his car’s ‘porpoising’ problem had made it a tough afternoon.

Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas, the man Russell replaced at the end of last season, finished fifth and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda seventh.

Four times world champion Sebastian Vettel took Aston Martin’s first points in eighth, Kevin Magnussen was ninth for Haas and Lance Stroll 10th for Aston Martin.

Mercedes’ seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton was lapped by Verstappen after 41 of the 63 laps and finished 13th, gaining a place at the finish when Alpine’s Esteban Ocon had a penalty added for an unsafe release in the pitlane.

“I’m out of the championship, for sure,” said Hamilton. “There’s no question about that, but I’ll still keep working as hard as I can and try to pull it back together somehow.”

Ocon’s Spanish teammate Fernando Alonso joined Sainz as the only drivers to retire.

Verstappen made a good start to lead away with Perez slotting into second as Leclerc dropped to fourth after being passed by Norris.

The safety car was then deployed as Sainz, spun around and facing Ricciardo, was left stranded in the gravel.

The Australian was first to pit on lap 17, swapping intermediate tyres for mediums in a move soon followed by the others as the track began to dry after earlier rain.

It remained treacherous in places, however, with Perez running wide and a delay in enabling the drag reduction system (DRS) until the halfway mark limited overtaking opportunities.

On lap 40 Hamilton was shown a blue flag to warn him Verstappen was approaching to lap him and he needed to let the leader through.

“Max is working his way through lapped traffic.” Red Bull posted cheekily on Twitter as the Dutch youngster went past the rival who fought until the last lap of last season for the title.

On lap 54 the red-shirted fans thronging the Enzo and Dino Ferrari circuit let out a collective groan as Leclerc, chasing Perez, spun into the tyre wall at the Variante Alta.

The Monegasque returned to the track, pitted for fresh tyres and a new front wing and resumed in eighth place.

“I was too greedy and I paid the price for it and lost seven potential points,” said the Ferrari driver.

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