By Carol M. Creasey
After the heat of Bahrain three weeks ago, Formula One moved to Imola, where the temperature was considerably colder. This was further endorsed by Sir Lewis Hamilton, who could be seen walking about with a very thick tyre blanket around him.
Free Practice 1 was led by Valtteri Bottas, who posted a time which was 0.01 faster than Sir Lewis, and he was in P1 again in Free Practice 2. In FP1 Verstappen was third, also very close in time, but in FP2, after only 5 laps, he had to sit out the rest of the session due to a mechanical failure. So this time third place went to Pierre Gasly, whose performance was lauded by Sir Lewis, who commented that he was glad to see the talented driver have a good car beneath him.
On Saturday when Free Practice 3 took place, Verstappen and his car were back on form. The Dutch driver headed Sir Lewis in his fastest lap by 6 tenths of a second. By the time Qualifying arrived, it was clear that Red Bull had lost none of its pace and, once again, Mercedes would be on the back foot. But another surprise came from Lando Norris, as he put his car into second place. However, unfortunately he had his lap deleted for exceeding track limits. Valtteri Bottas had a good start to qualifying, but in Q3 he made an error during one of his laps, and later remarked that his car was not the same afterwards. He qualified only in eight place..
Sir Lewis set a provisional pole time with his first lap in Q3, but was unable to improve on it on his second attempt. This provisional pole was a surprise to everyone, especially the Mercedes team, as it was quite clear that Red Bull had the fastest car, and pole position should have been taken by Verstappen or Perez. The difference was they both made mistakes on their hot lap, whereas Sir Lewis kept his cool, and delivered an error-free lap. Once again he has proven he can prevail without being in the fastest car.
After qualifying, an upset Lando tweeted how he felt he had let his team down by exceeding track limits, and Sir Lewis was quick to offer his support, and to remind him just how well he is driving right now.
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On race day it was raining, and when the flag dropped Verstappen caused Sir Lewis to mount the kerb while attempting to overtake him, which damaged his front wing. Soon after Nicholas Latifi came off and the Safety Car was deployed. Then Mick Schumacher spun and hit the wall, but he was able to carry on driving.
When the Safety Car came in. Sir Lewis attacked Verstappen for the lead, but the Dutch driver managed to hold him off. Sergio Perez was then put under investigation for overtaking under the Safety Car, and was given a ten second time penalty. Carlos Sainz had a couple of moments off the track and into the gravel, but managed to keep going.
On lap 32, Sir Lewis made a rare mistake, leaving the track and ditching his car into the gravel. Everyone held their breath whilst he tried to reverse his car out, which he finally managed to do, and then he drove the wounded car back to the pits. Meanwhile Valtteri Bottas and George Russell crashed, and their cars were too badly damaged to continue the race.
The race resumed once again, Verstappen was still in first place, but Sir Lewis had to rejoin again in ninth, after having a fresh set of soft tyres and a new front wing. But he was undeterred, and one by one he picked off his opponents, as he worked his way up. When he reached third position, it was clear that Norris’s tyres had fallen off, so Sir Lewis was able to make his final overtake to finish in second place.
Afterwards he congratulated both Verstappen and Norris on their drives. He was in a buoyant mood, and clearly enjoyed the challenge of coming from the back to show his superb racing skills. He also managed to get the fastest lap, which means that although himself and Verstappen have had one win each, Sir Lewis is still leading the championship by one point. Clearly this year the championship is going to be fiercely fought, and there will be more nail biting races like this. Formula One fans are in for a treat!
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