Emilia Romagna GP: Max Verstappen charges to victory in dramatic race

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Max Verstappen earned his first win of the Formula 1 season at Imola on Sunday afternoon after leading from the first corner having started third on the grid, coming home ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris in an inicident-filled, wet-dry Grand Prix.

Verstappen took the lead the first chicane after a great launch put him past Sergio Perez and alongside Lewis Hamilton, with the reigning champion having to take to the curb on the exit and taking slight damage to his front wing in the process.

As the pair began to scamper off, Charles Leclerc moved himself up to third as an eventful afternoon for Sergio Perez began with his first mistake in the slippery conditions.

Indeed, his second misdemeanour would come behind the safety car after a coming together between Nicholas Latifi and Nikita Mazepin left the former in the wall and out of the race.

The Mexican ran wide and lost two places, but elected to take them back - something that earned him a 10-second time penalty at his next pit stop.

Pit stops, too, were naturally crucial as the race went from wet to dry with Sebastian Vettel the first onto the slicks, though it took him a while to get them fired up.

It was, though, the right call to be made and soon after the leaders would switch to slicks, too, with Max Verstappen coming in first and Lewis Hamilton going a lap longer in a bid to make up time with one extra quick lap - he'd been showing greater pace in the laps leading up to the stops after Verstappen had initially set the early tempo.

However, a sticky right front for Hamilton and Verstappen's pace on his first lap in the dryer conditions was enough to keep the Dutchman in front.

Hamilton, though, was looking the quicker again after the tyre change and was closing in but among traffic he made a rare mistake, sliding off at Tosa and damaging his front wing, as well as losing a lap in the process as he dropped to ninth.

That lap, though, was regained thanks to a red flag sparked by an incident between Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas and potential next team-mate George Russell, who had a huge shunt together into the first chicane and exchanged a few words afterwards - they were, at least, both okay.

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On the restart, barring a brief off-track interlude for Verstappen as the safety car peeled into the pitlane, the Dutchman pulled away to leave Lando Norris to put an overtake on Charles Leclerc to take second place.

Perez, now in fourth, suffered another off and dropped to the back of the field whilst Hamilton embarked on a recovery drive, overtaking Kimi Raikkonen, Lance Stroll and Daniel Ricciardo with relative ease.

By lap 50 of 63, Max Verstappen had very much left the pack in his wake with Lando Norris leading a train of Leclerc, Hamilton - who overtook Carlos Sainz at the second attempt - and the Spaniard in a battle for 2nd and 3rd place.

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The only changes there'd be in said train, though, would involve Hamilton. In the quicker car, of course, and with the help of an extended DRS window compared to last year, Hamilton was able to roar past Leclerc and set after Norris who, all weekend, had been mightily fast.

Indeed, twice the McLaren driver defended brilliantly at the end of the main straight but, ultimately, Norris couldn't hold on with Hamilton's fine comeback completed with four laps to go.

Verstappen, by this point, was untouchable and 20 seconds up the road whilst all that needed settling was now third place - something Norris held onto ahead of Charles Leclerc.

A second thrilling race of the season, then, as Verstappen hit back in the championship but Hamilton did his very best at damage limitation. 

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