5 Talking points: Making sense of the chaos at the Imola F1 Grand Prix
CAPE TOWN - The second race of the season dished up a chaotic, error-laden, and incident-filled race at the Emilia Romagna GP. Here, we look at a handful of things we learnt from the race at Imola this past weekend
5 AlphaTauri fail to deliver
Before the race, the development team of Red Bull were expected to be amongst the front-runners, even a possible podium-place finisher. That did not materialise as they struggled in the conditions. Pierre Gasly finished seventh, while rookie Yuki Tsunoda fluffed any chance of a points finish by flying off the track to eventually finish 12th. The AlphaTuari certainly has the power and speed to compete, but at the moment they are just not stitching together a package that can be competitive.
4 Ferrari are on the up
After a terrible 2020, the Scuderia are slowly becoming more competitive this season. Charles Leclerc finished fourth, while teammate Carlos Sainz jun was one spot behind. They could have secured a podium had it not been for the brilliance of Lando Norris in his McLaren, who took advantage of the red flag restart, and the soft compound tyre to hold onto third.
3 Silver Arrows are not in a happy space
It might seem a strange statement to make - after all defending world champions Lewis Hamilton did finish second and still leads the driver's standings, while in the constructors' title they hold a seven point advantage over Red Bull.
That will not be the immediate concern though - Valtteri Bottas, however, will be. The Finn had a torrid race day, and eventually crashed out when he collided with Williams' George Russell. Bottas qualified eight, and lacked the race pace to make him a threat, or of strategic significance for his team. The collision with Russell resulted in a heated and disrespectful exchange between the two at Villeneuve Corner, and you'd expect that team principal Toto Wolff will have harsh words for both drivers to defuse the tension between his incumbent driver and the Silver Arrows' future.
Bottas needs a good race, and soon.
2 Red Bull are the real deal
Max Verstappen had a near flawless performance at Imola, save for a singular, nerve-shredding spin before the red flag restart. Despite that hiccough, the Dutchmen sauntered to an easy win in the end - 22 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes.
Both Red Bulls made an immediate impact with excellent starts of the line, with Verstappen taking advantage to jump from third on the grid to claim first - which he never relinquished. Red Bull right now are no doubt the fastest car in the paddock.
1 We are in for one helluva ride
It cannot be stressed how important this victory was for Red Bull and Verstappen. They should have won in Bahrain, had it not been for some clever tactics by Mercedes and the imperious drive of Hamilton. It rubber-stamps, for now, the belief that Red Bull can compete against the dominance of Mercedes, and with the Spanish GP up next - another track where grid position is extremely important - the pace they showed at Imola could well extend their lead after the weekend of May 9. The Silver Arrows cannot be written off, though, and one can expect a massive fight from them to hold onto their supremacy.