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Verstappen shows champion class as Mercedes hopes fade - What we learned at the Emilia Romagna GP

Verstappen shows champion class as Mercedes hopes fade - What we learned at the Emilia Romagna GP

F1 News

Verstappen shows champion class as Mercedes hopes fade - What we learned at the Emilia Romagna GP

Verstappen shows champion class as Mercedes hopes fade - What we learned at the Emilia Romagna GP

Max Verstappen put on a dominant display at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix with the scales tipping, perhaps for the first time this year, in Red Bull's favour.

Verstappen entered the weekend trailing championship leader Charles Leclerc by 46 points but after taking a maximum personal haul of 34 from Imola, the Dutchman closed the margin to just 27.

In contrast, it was a Sunday to forget for Ferrari after Carlos Sainz crashed out on lap one before Leclerc spun into the walls whilst chasing Sergio Perez for second although eventually recovered to finish sixth.

So without further ado, here are five things we learned from the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Red Bull and Verstappen's champion class

In the hands of Max Verstappen, the RB18 was simply unstoppable across the weekend.

Ferrari had looked mighty in first practice but Verstappen was able to find the right pace at the right time in an interrupted qualifying session.

During the sprint, Leclerc offered a good fight but Verstappen and Red Bull's class showed, with better tyre management allowing a penultimate-lap overtake for the win.

On Sunday, the reigning champion was able to simply pull away from the chasing pack with team-mate Sergio Perez, who has been on a hot streak of late, unable to give any kind of reply.

After the dominance of Ferrari in Australia, Verstappen's performance this time around to close the gap to Charles Leclerc to just 27 points was ominous, to say the least. We have a championship fight, that much is abundantly clear.

Mercedes championship streak is over

After four races of the season, it is impossible to say who will end the year as the champion, but both Lewis Hamilton and team principal Toto Wolff were clear across the weekend that Mercedes is not in the fight.

Both men left the door fractionally open to the possibility that a solution to the team's troubles could be found and things could change but after Hamilton's scoreless P13, the outlook is bleak.

George Russell's fine drive to fourth provides a silver lining, but a record-breaking eight-year run of constructors' titles appears to be coming to an end.

McLaren Australia recovery was no one-off

McLaren endured a torrid opening two races after the team was forced to run an interim brake duct solution to prevent overheating issues.

But since fitting alternative parts in Australia, the team has moved forward with Imola providing further evidence of this progress after Lando Norris scored a first podium of the year in third.

In qualifying and the sprint, Daniel Ricciardo was also on pace but lost out with his first corner error that ended Carlos Sainz's race.

Team principal Andreas Seidl hinted at confidence that the MCL36 will perform everywhere moving forward, so with 19 races to go, could McLaren close the gap to the front two teams?

F1's new era is working

We'll try not to linger on this point after every race, but Imola highlighted the improvements made by the new generation of F1 machinery with cars able to follow much more closely through the more twisting, technical sections at the Italian venue.

Passing was limited by the DRS train that appeared but the fact that such a train was able to form at all around such a circuit is the proof needed that things are headed in the right direction, knowing two-second gaps between cars would have been present in previous years.

On DRS, however...

New FIA race direction must speed up

After the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, we complained about how slow the FIA were to allow Carlos Sainz back past Sergio Perez behind the safety car, with the move eventually made by the teams once the period had ended.

Imola again highlighted the new race direction's slowness to act with DRS not activated until lap 34 of 63 despite the track being dry enough for the entire field to have fitted slick tyres by the start of lap 20.

Having a safety-first approach is always to be applauded, but even the teams and drivers were left scratching their heads with this one.

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