Ferrari Flounders while Verstappen Wins Again!

Max Verstappen’s results show he had the perfect weekend. However, he failed to dominate in the sprint race on Saturday. At the start, Charles Leclerc roared past Verstappen and led much of the sprint in his powerful Ferrari. In the wanning laps, Leclerc’s tire degradation became too great, and Verstappen was able to finally overtake him for the Sprint race win.

The sprint sets the grid for the Grand Prix on Sunday. Qualification sets the grid for the sprint race. The results of qualification were quite interesting. The top five drivers were Verstappen, Leclerc, Lando Norris, Kevin Magnussen and Fernando Alonso. Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, Haas and Alpine were at the top of the grid. This year one would expect Red Bull and Ferrari to be at the top. However, with the changes made to Formula 1, the racing has become more competitive allowing for Haas and Alpine to compete for podiums.

Imola’s starting grid for the Grand Prix featured Red Bull and Ferrari in the top four spots; Verstappen, Leclerc, Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz. Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top six spots. Both Haas drivers, Valterri Bottas and Fernando Alonso completed the top ten starting grid.

Imola is a challenging track, especially in the wet. In the last few years several drivers have slipped off the narrow track costing podiums and finishes. The course features 19 turns and speeds up to 184 mph in the dry. Weather played a factor this week for all the drivers. The start of the race featured rain tires for the whole grid. As we all know, it’s not where you start, but how you finish. As the grid took off, water sprayed high and thick into the air as the drivers jockeyed for position. Lap one created a significant shake up in the driver positions. Both Ferraris had a terrible start, as Verstappen rocketed away from the grid in his pole position. Perez stormed past Leclerc followed closely by Norris going into turn two. As the front runners navigated the chicane that makes turns two and three, Ricciardo spun Sainz out. Unfortunately, Sainz’s Ferrari beached in the gravel, while Ricciardo was able to drive his way back onto the track, albeit in last place. Mick Schumacher’s Haas lost grip on the same chicane, taking him off the track and eventually shuffling him from tenth to seventeenth. George Russell was the biggest beneficiary of the initial chicane dustup as he went from eleventh to sixth place.

Ferrari wanted to perform well for their home crowd. Sadly, they were unable to do so. With Sainz DNF’ing for the second week in a row, Ferrari’s hopes rested on Leclerc once again. For most of the race Leclerc performed at an extremely high level. He managed to get around Norris on lap 8. He maintained third place for most of the race while putting significant pressure on Sergio Perez. However, DRS was not enabled when Leclerc was within a second of Perez and Leclerc had a hard time recovering to get within a second behind Perez consistently once DRS was enabled. Ferrari, realizing that they would not be able to gain a place decided to pit on lap 50 to change to new soft tires in an attempt to earn fastest lap. Red Bull decided to box Perez so that he could do the same. Not expecting this, Ferrari now had an opportunity to overtake Perez and earn 2nd place. Leclerc ripped off a fastest lap during lap 52 as he continued to put immense pressure on Perez, pulling within half a second of him. Then, as they raced into the last chicane before the pit box, Leclerc caught air on the first apex of the chicane, spun out and hit the wall. He was able to get the car back on track but took damage on his front wing and had to box to repair the damage. He came out of the pit in ninth-place and managed to secure a sixth-place finish during the last nine laps.

This weekend shows that McLaren has made a big jump from their Bahrain debacle. They started the race in position to put pressure on the front running Red Bull and Ferrari’s. Norris kept his car in position to take third when Leclerc met his unfortunate demise. McLaren may continue to tweak their car to put even more pressure on the front runners, but they have still have a ways to go.

It appears Red Bull is figuring out their power management issues. At one point in the race, Verstappen was 43 seconds away from the rest of the field. With Perez holding Leclerc up, Verstappen felt no real pressure during the entire race. He has won both races he finished. This weekend, he maxed out the points available to him by also winning the sprint. If Red Bull can remain consistent, Verstappen may secure his 2nd championship in a row.

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