Red Bull Takes A One-Two On Ferrari's Doorstep

Formula One / 14 Comments

Max Verstappen was on fire, taking home the Grand Slam.

Well, that was an entirely unexpected result. And it has to be said, the most boring F1 race of the season so far.

We were willing to bet an entire month's wages on Ferrari taking the victory at the first European Grand Prix of the season, but Red Bull threw a massive spanner in the works.

What makes it even worse is that it happened on Ferrari's home turf. Imola is less than 60 miles from Maranello, where the F1-75 and road cars like the 296 GTB are built. The Italians still have Monza to look forward to later in the year, but Imola's close location makes it the one you want to win for the Tifosi.

But it's far from the only surprising thing that came out of the weekend.

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A Dominant Red Bull Victory

The result of this race was decided right at the start. Charles Leclerc had a poor start, which allowed Verstappen to get away like a rabbit on LSD.

Because of Leclerc's delayed reactions, the Mexican Minister of Defence (Sergio Perez) and Lando Norris slipped behind Verstappen. And by that point, the race was pretty much over.

In the last Grand Prix, Leclerc took home his first Grand Slam. He put the car on pole, posted the fastest lap, and won the race. Verstappen took the Grand Slam in Italy, in addition to winning Saturday's sprint race. The sprint seemed like an easy win for Leclerc following a slow start from Verstappen, but he recovered and showed the young Monegasque why he's the defending champion.

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Red Bull's dominance this weekend elevates Verstappen to second place overall in the driver's championship. Leclerc is still on 86 points, followed by Verstappen on 59 points. The gap remains significant, but the Imola Grand Prix was again proof that anything can happen.

Carlos Sainz was tapped by Daniel Ricciardo going into the very first corner, ending his race prematurely. This opened the door for Red Bull to claw some constructor's championship points back. Ferrari is on top with 124 points, with Red Bull trailing on 113 points.

Mercedes is third on 77 points, but it will struggle to make any progress if it can't get its seven-time world champ back up to speed. More on that later.

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Bad Luck For Ferrari

Daniel Ricciardo made a mess into the first corner on the first lap. It was later decided that it was nothing more than a racing incident, and we agree with that assessment. The visibility was abysmal, and Danny Ric made a mistake. It happens.

Unfortunately, it ended Carlos Sainz's race and caused some damage to Valtteri Bottas' car. Sainz seemed calm after getting tapped, but watching him try and get that car out of the kitty litter was heartbreaking. He's been pushing so hard to get to the same level as his teammate.

He got such a good start, getting from tenth to fifth in around 20 seconds, which proves that he has as much right to be at Ferrari as Leclerc.

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Leclerc's primary battle was with traffic between him and Verstappen. First, he had to battle with Lando Norris, who made him work for that overtake. But then he faced Sergio Perez. Taking on Perez proved too tricky, and he couldn't make an overtake stick.

This allowed Verstappen to open up a massive gap up front, essentially scoring a free pitstop.

To make matters worse, Leclerc spun late in the race, but the way he calmly joined the track and pushed back to sixth place was pure class.

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Lando's Back

There's no easy way of saying this, so let's rip the BandAid right off: McLaren sucked at the beginning of the season.

During the first race of the season, Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris finished 14th and 15th, respectively. At the second race in Saudi Arabia, Norris managed to push up to fourth. In Australia, he claimed the fourth spot again, and at Imola, he made his season debut on the podium.

Was it luck or skill? A little bit of both. Norris was in fourth place, six seconds behind Leclerc, when the latter had his shunt with the wall. That makes Norris lucky, but it took great skill to keep George Russell and Valtteri Bottas behind him.

The battle with Russell was incredibly intense, as there was less than a second between the two drivers.

What's Up With Hamilton?

Hamilton's fall from grace is painful to watch. We were expecting F1's GOAT to bring it this season, especially after the controversial result of the 2021 season. But Sir Lewis Hamilton seems to be a lost cause. It's as if he's decided to retire instead of going after that elusive eighth world title, which would put him ahead of the great Michael Schumacher, finally ending the debate about who is the greatest of all time (statistically speaking anyway).

But now it seems like he's given up. Toto Wolff and the team apologized for giving him a trash car, which was a bit of an insult to George Russell, who took that same car home to fourth.

Mercedes' rookie is now fourth overall in the driver's championship, while Hamilton is seventh. That's already a sad state of affairs, but seeing the seven-time champ move over to be lapped by the current champ cut deep. Even non-fans felt terrible for Hamilton.

We're not here to kick a man when he's down, but Hamilton fans, please tell us what you think is up. If we had to guess, we think Sir Lewis will call it quits.

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