Verstappen wins at Imola as Hamilton fights back

RED BULL’S Max Verstappen won a chaotic and crash-halted Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix at Imola on Sunday. — AUTODROMO ENZO E DINO FERRARI DI IMOLA FB PAGE

RED BULL’S Max Verstappen won a chaotic and crash-halted Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix at Imola on Sunday with Lewis Hamilton second for Mercedes and staying ahead in the championship by a single point.

The win, by a commanding 22 seconds at the checkered flag of the season’s second race, was the 11th of the Dutch youngster’s career.

“It was very challenging out there, especially in the beginning to stay on track to be honest, it was very slippery,” Verstappen said of an afternoon that started with most drivers on intermediate tires but some on full wets.

Hamilton, winner of the Bahrain season-opener, took a crucial bonus point for fastest lap on a rollercoaster afternoon for the seven-time world champion, whose race was almost wrecked by a rare mistake.

The Briton started on pole, his 99th, but dropped from second to ninth after skidding into the gravel and nudging the barriers at Tosa with his car at a standstill and a retirement looming.

He kept the engine running, reversed back out and returned to the pits, a lap behind, for a new front wing.

A huge collision between teammate Valtteri Bottas and Mercedes-contracted Williams driver George Russell on lap 32 of the 63 threw him a lifeline by bringing out red flags with debris strewn across the track.

The drivers blamed each other, with Russell asking the Finn whether he had wanted to kill them both.

With the field closed up again, Hamilton fought his way back to the podium with a stirring recovery drive and passed McLaren’s third-placed Lando Norris with two laps to go.

“On my side, it was not the greatest of days. It’s the first time I’ve made a mistake in a long time,” said Hamilton.

Norris’s podium completed an excellent day’s work for a driver whose deleted best lap in qualifying would have seen him start third rather than seventh.

Hamilton now has 44 points to Verstappen’s 43, with Norris on 27. Mercedes stayed top of the constructors’ standings with 60 points to Red Bull’s 53. — Reuters