Why did Russell have to give Hamilton 6th place? 7 answers to the Imola GP

1. Why did Verstappen have problems in the end?

Max Verstappen saved the victory in Imola with a lead of seven tenths of a second. After the first stint he was already 6.5 seconds on Lando Norris. How could the race be so close again? In fact, the Dutchman’s lap times didn’t drop. Instead, Norris was suddenly able to drive significantly faster when Charles Leclerc made a mistake behind him and the Briton dared to push the limit more.

The question remains why Verstappen couldn’t follow up. The world champion had to struggle with the tire temperature. This is rather unusual for a Red Bull when driving freely. But Verstappen’s tires didn’t overheat, they were too cold. The surface temperature was right, but the carcass didn’t come into the desired window. That’s why he couldn’t attack anymore in the end.

2. Why didn’t Perez get further forward?

Sergio Perez experienced the first major setback of the 2024 Formula 1 season at the Emilia Romagna GP. After a mistake in qualifying, he only started from eleventh place. The Mexican crossed the finish line in eighth place. On lap 17 he lost five seconds during a ride in Rivazza. That made his strategy more difficult: starting on the hard tire, he had to stay on the track significantly longer than his direct competition.

Until Perez was finally allowed to change tires on lap 37, he found himself constantly in duels. Norris, Leclerc, Sainz and Russell passed Perez on fresh tires. The duels cost time. In total, only eighth place remained. If the race had gone optimally, Perez should have overtaken the two Mercedes drivers and taken sixth place.

3. What was Albon punished for – and what wasn’t he?

Alex Albon’s race was a tragedy. During the pit stop on lap eight, the front right wheel was not installed correctly – but Albon was sent off by the team. He was able to drive back to the pits at slow speed and have a new set fitted. The stewards reacted promptly: because Williams let him drive off in an unsafe condition, Albon received a drive-through penalty.

After the race, Albon still had to report to the stewards. Reason: Albon didn’t turn off the car immediately, but drove another whole lap. A blessing in disguise for the Thai: the stewards acquitted him. The team had not informed him that the wheel was actually not completely tight. In addition, after looking at the onboard recordings, it was not necessarily clear from the cockpit that it was a loose wheel.

4. What was going on at the start for the Racing Bulls?

Both Racing Bulls made it into Q3 on Saturday, Yuki Tsunoda even started in seventh place in the Mercedes sandwich, Daniel Ricciardo in ninth place. But after the first lap the two only found themselves in ninth and eleventh place. Both fell behind right at the start – like so often this season. In seven races, the starts only worked for both drivers on one weekend. The racing bulls don’t yet know what the problem is. The engine and transmission come from Honda and Red Bull. Max Verstappen is known for his consistently good starts. Team boss Peter Bayer has already announced a task force.

Racing Bulls driver Yuki Tsunoda
What was going on at the start at RB?, Photo: LAT Images

5. Why did Russell have to give Hamilton a seat?

For Mercedes there wasn’t much at stake in Imola. Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren were too fast, behind them Aston Martin and the Racing Bulls were too slow. George Russell and Lewis Hamilton actually only raced against each other – and in the end Russell had to give his teammate sixth place because of an additional pit stop. In return, he got fresh tires at the end and was able to set the fastest lap of the race. So the team gained one point – but Russell lost one.

Hamilton couldn’t be brought in for an extra stop because he would have fallen behind Sergio Perez. But Russell actually didn’t want to give up his position. That’s why he wanted a position swap at the end. But there wasn’t. “George came early [ersten] Stop and his tires would have worn out a few laps later,” says team boss Toto Wolff, justifying the strategy.

6. How did Alonso come last?

Fernando Alonso had an absolute horror weekend. After a departure in the third training session, he was just able to take part in the qualification. There he took off again and qualified in 19th place. After a setup change, he had to start from the pit lane. With the courage of desperation, he started on the soft tires and came to the pit stop on lap seven. It should have been the only one, but the tire wear was greater than expected. On lap 40 he had to change tires again.

Because at the end of the race there was nothing more important for the former world champion, Aston Martin brought Alonso into the pits shortly before the end to change his tires. Alonso should take the fastest lap and the extra point away from Mercedes. But Aston’s pace wasn’t even enough for that, Alonso failed in the last lap by four tenths of a second.

7. Have Sauber’s pit stop problems been solved?

Sauber finally got the long-awaited hardware upgrade in Imola, which should make the pit stop problems of the first six races a thing of the past. A new wheel hub in conjunction with a new wheel nut actually helped. Both pit stops went without any problems and even quite quickly. Zhou Guanyu was dispatched in 2.64 seconds, Valtteri Bottas in 2.71 seconds. After just two pit stops in racing trim, you don’t completely trust the roast at Sauber.

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