Well that was a wild ride wasn’t it? (The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix I mean, not the ups and downs of trying to write/read the official name of yesterday’s race!)
Formula 1 arrived back in Imola for the second year in a row – its official name being shortened to the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix for ease – as it attempted to plug the holes left in its calendar by more fallout from the Coronavirus pandemic.
Williams arrived in Italy cautiously optimistic that the characteristics of the Imola circuit should suit their somewhat peaky car that struggled in the blustery conditions of Bahrain.
George Russell returned to the scene of perhaps his best opportunity yet of scoring points for Williams, before crashing out at the same Emilia Romagna Grand Prix last year, keen to make amends.
Saturday qualifying saw the first Q2 appearance for both Williams cars for the first time since the 2018 Italian Grand Prix – testament to the strides the team has made in the last 12 months or so, now mixing it with the likes of Alpine (formerly Renault) and Aston Martin (race winners from 2020), both of which, Williams’ George Russell – F1’s Mr Saturday – was able to outqualify.
Sadly, though, come the race it all came crashing down in spectacular fashion.
Having both made steady starts in tricky wet conditions, Nicholas Latifi ran off the circuit at Acque Minerale and upon rejoining, failed to spot the Haas of everyone’s favourite driver Nikita Mazepin, and cut across his boughs spearing Latifi into the wall with heavy contact.
George Russell was motoring along nicely and looked poised to take his first points for Williams in his third season in F1, until lap 29 reared its ugly head and it all kicked off.
George’s first noteworthy incident came as he approached the Tosa hairpin, and moved to the right to let fellow Mercedes stablemate through to go a lap down. Hamilton was forced to go on the wet part of the track, lost the traction he needed to make the corner and sailed off into the gravel.
Not really George’s fault, but it was said he could have made it less risky for the World Champion to pass if he’d wished.
But worse was to come the following lap. Incredibly, George was fighting Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s team-mate with designs on world titles (perhaps naively!) – for ninth position.
As the pair approached the Tamburello chicane, Russell attempted a pass around the outside, he hit a wet patch and speared into the side of the car he’s hoping to be driving next year.
Each driver blamed the other, but in reality it was more of a racing accident. They could have been kinder to one-another, but they were racing, and sometimes in racing these things happen – whether two drivers are employed by the same company or not.
It was a hefty shunt, and both drivers were visibly shaken by its severity, as well as being absolutely furious at the other. Unfairly in my book.
So there we have it. On paper, Williams score no points again, but in reality it was 8/10ths of a great Grand Prix. Solid build up, great qualifying, strong pace and strategy, and if George had made it to the end I rather think he’d have finished in the points. But it wasn’t to be.
On to Portimao!