RACE DEBRIEF

    The chances of Lewis Hamilton finishing the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on the podium looked slim as he slid into the gravel on Lap 31 of 63 while passing backmarkers. But a superb recovery saw the seven-time champion climb back to P2 by the chequered flag, finishing behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen while maintaining his lead at the head of the drivers’ championship.

    Hamilton lost out at the race start to Verstappen, who muscled past the Mercedes from third on the grid to grab the lead going into Tamburello. From there, Hamilton was keeping a watching brief on the Red Bull driver when he came up to lap the Williams of George Russell going into the still-damp Tosa corner – with Hamilton making an rare error that saw him slide off into the gravel before damaging his front wing in the barrier.

    READ MORE: Russell accuses Bottas of breaking 'gentleman's agreement' over crash, as Finn says Briton's move made no sense

    “It wasn’t the greatest of days, the first time I’ve made a mistake in a long time – but I’m grateful I was able to bring the car home still,” said Hamilton.

    “There was only one dry line and I guess I was in a bit too much of a hurry to get through everyone, came onto the inside and I could see it was wet and I was trying to stop but the thing wouldn’t stop and sent me off. A bit unfortunate but grateful we got to get going again, and to get some points for the team was really important today.

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    Hamilton said he definitely didn't expect to appear on the podium midway through the race

    “I definitely didn’t think I’d be [on the podium] when I was facing that barrier,” he added. “But I remember just sitting there looking at the barrier and I refused to think that the race was over, refused to believe that the race was done. I could have obviously turned the car off and got out – but I’m grateful I didn’t.”

    Hamilton dropped from his P2 position down to a lapped P9 as a result of the incident, which required a change of front wing. But Hamilton’s race recovery was then aided by a crash for Russell and Hamilton’s Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas a few laps later that brought out a red flag – with Hamilton then able to unlap himself him before scything through the field.

    READ MORE: Verstappen takes victory from Hamilton and Norris in action-packed Grand Prix at Imola

    He would ultimately claim second place from the McLaren of Lando Norris with three laps to go, coming home in that position and with a bonus point for fastest lap to retain his championship lead by a point over winner Verstappen – with Hamilton’s recovery drive having taken him back to his karting days.

    “I loved it!” said Hamilton. “That’s how my career actually started as a kid, coming through. We had a really dodgy old go kart so I was always starting at the back. So it just took me back to my roots. It’s a very hard track to overtake on.

    2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix: Hamilton overtakes Norris to take P2

    “Without doubt, getting back to second and getting these points today will be very valuable through the season,” he added. “If I’d lost 25 points today, it would have been very hard to recover, based on the fact that Red Bull – it’s the first time they’ve had a championship-winning car in a long time and their car was incredibly fast this weekend.

    DRIVER OF THE DAY: Stellar drive to third at Imola wins Norris your vote

    “We love the fact that it’s a close battle and it’s great to see McLaren up there after such a long time, great to see Ferrari looking strong. There’s going to be a lot exciting races up ahead.”

    2021

    Drivers' dtandings after Imola

    POSITION POINTS
    1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 44
    2 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 43
    3 Lando Norris McLaren 27
    4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 20
    5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 16