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F1 – Verstappen Winns In Imola Before Pérez, With Leclerc Spinning To Sixth Place

Max Verstappen won the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix ahead of teammate Sergio Pérez to give Red Bull Racing a one-two finish, while championship leader Charles Leclerc finished sixth after a late-race spin and Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz crashed out on the opening lap. McLaren’s final podium finisher was Lando Norris.

Verstappen led every lap of the factory after starting from pole position and delivering a faultless performance to capture his second grand chelem of his career with pole position, fastest lap, and victory.

At addition, the world champion won the Sprint on Saturday, giving him a total of 34 points for the weekend in Imola.

When the lights went down, Verstappen made a strong move to take the lead. Behind him, Leclerc made a terrible start, allowing Pérez to pass the leading Ferrari on the run to Tamburello and take second place. Lando Norris of McLaren also sneaked by Leclerc into Turn 1.

Behind the leaders, Sainz was slow off the line, and Daniel Ricciardo in the second McLaren put him under pressure. The Spaniard ran a wide line into the first chicane, but Ricciardo dived alongside him and collided with Sainz’s Ferrari’s rear left wheel.

Both cars skidded into the gravel trap, but while the McLaren driver was able to crawl out and return to the pit lane, Sainz was beached and forced to quit from the race, and the Safety Car was deployed.

After the Safety Car exited the track at the conclusion of lap four, Verstappen and Pérez flawlessly managed the start to maintain their lead over Norris, who was defending hard against Leclerc. Until lap seven, the Briton held off the Monegasque driver, but as they approached Tamburello, Leclerc closed in and blew by the McLaren driver.

Verstappen was 3.2 seconds ahead of Pérez at the start of the next lap, with Leclerc 2.7 seconds behind. Norris is now fourth, ahead of Magnussen and Russell, while Bottas is seventh, ahead of Sebastian Vettel of Aston Martin. Russell eventually passed Magnussen on lap 13 with a courageous drive down the outside in the Variante Alta to claim P5. On the following lap, Magnussen went somewhat wide, and Bottas passed the Haas on the run down the hill to Rivazza 1.

Ricciardo was the first driver to switch to slick tyres at the end of lap 16, and the Australian finished on Pirelli medium compound tyres. P9 was followed by Vettel. Pérez was pitted by the team at the end of lap 18, and he was given medium tyres as well. Russell, Bottas, and Magnussen followed him, but Verstappen and Leclerc stuck on intermediates.

Verstappen and Leclerc pitted for medium tyres at the end of the next lap, but while Verstappen got away in a solid 2.3 seconds, Leclerc was stuck for 3.7 seconds. Despite the time wasted, he was able to rejoin ahead of Pérez. However, Leclerc was unable to keep Pérez at bay due to his cold tyres, and Pérez passed the Ferrari into the Villeneuve chicane.

However, Leclerc was not going down without a fight, as he re-closed the gap to Pérez and began to put the Red Bull driver under pressure. Pérez’s defence, on the other hand, was flawless, and over the next six laps he brilliantly thwarted Ferrari’s attempts before setting the fastest lap of the race on lap 24 to open up a 1.4-second gap over the Monegasque racer.

Verstappen was 10 seconds ahead of Pérez at the halfway point. The Mexican maintained his lead over Leclerc, with a 1.3-second gap between them, while Norris sat in fourth, little under 15 seconds behind the single remaining Ferrari.

Leclerc swiftly overtook Norris, and the three leaders headed off in search of the fastest lap point. Leclerc posted a lap time of 1:19.206 and overtook Pérez in the process. Even though Leclerc lowered the fastest lap record, Pérez’s tyres quickly warmed up and he was able to keep the Ferrari driver at bay.

Then Leclerc’s race came to an end. In an attempt to catch Pérez, the Ferrari driver grabbed too much kerb in Variante Alta, bouncing, spinning, and slamming into the barriers as he exited the circuit. He made it back to the pit lane for checks and a new set of tyres, but he had slid to ninth place by the time he rejoined.

In the meantime, Verstappen was on cruise control, and on lap 55, he set the fastest lap time with a time of 1:18.446. Pérez was now 12.8 seconds behind Norris but a comfortable 14 seconds ahead.

After 63 laps, Verstappen crossed the finish line for his 22nd career victory and a total of 34 points. Pérez finished 15 seconds later to give Red Bull their first one-two result since the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix, while Norris finished third for his sixth podium finish.

Despite being under a lot of pressure in the final circuits, Russell managed to hold off Bottas and take fourth place for Mercedes. Leclerc finished sixth at the finish line, ahead of Yuki Tsunoda of AlphaTauri and Sebastian Vettel of Mercedes, while Magnussen of Haas finished ninth and Lance Stroll of Aston Martin took the final point for Aston Martin.

Leclerc still leads the Drivers’ Championship standings with 86 points after finishing sixth in the race and second in the Sprint, but he is now only 27 points ahead of Verstappen, who now has 59 points. Pérez is in third place, five points ahead of Russell, with 54 points. Ferrari still leads the Constructors’ Championship with 124 points, but Red Bull’s one-two at Imola has reduced the gap to just 11 points, with Mercedes third on 77 points.

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