Venue: Autodromo Enzo E Dino Ferrari
Lewis Hamilton outwitted Max Verstappen to claim victory in Bahrain and is again fancied to find a way to win in our Emilia Romagna Grand Prix predictions.
The seven-time world champion was outpaced in qualifying by the young pretender to his throne but got his tactics right on race day to start the new season with a thrilling success.
Hamilton had no right to win the 2021 opener but produced a defensive masterclass to keep his rival at bay in the closing stages.
Despite being on tyres 11 laps older than Verstappen’s and in a slower machine, the Briton did not make a single error.
That allowed him to take advantage of Mercedes’ aggressive and well-calculated strategy, as well as benefiting from Verstappen being forced to drop back after an illegal overtaking move.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admitted their car lacked “quite a bit of pace in qualifying” but added: “The racing Gods were on our side.
“We have not suddenly found some awesome performance but the win was a combination of good race strategy, a solid race car and being fortunate at the end.”
Three weeks is a long time between races, though, and it will be a big surprise if the Brackley-based outfit don’t come up with some significant tweaks.
They dominated when Formula One racing returned to this circuit for the first time since 2006 back in November and Valtteri Bottas can be backed at 7/1 this year.
The flying Finn claimed pole ahead of Hamilton five months ago and may have been hampered by hitting some debris when in front early on.
How the Bahrain Grand Prix finished
1 Hamilton (Mercedes), 2 Verstappen (Red Bull), 3 Bottas (Mercedes), 4 Norris (McLaren), 5 Perez (Red Bull), 6 Leclerc (Ferrari), 7 Ricciardo (McLaren), 8 Sainz (Ferrari), 9 Tsunoda (Alphatauri), 10 Stroll (Aston Martin), 11 Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo), 12 Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo), 13 Ocon (Renault), 14 Russell (Williams), 15 Vettel (Aston Martin), 16 Schumacher (Haas), 17 Gasly (Alphatauri), 18 Latifi (Williams), DNF Alonso (Renault), Mazepin (Haas)
There is no doubt Red Bull have created a car which can fight the all-conquering Silver Arrows, who are chasing eight straight drivers’ and constructors’ championships.
Verstappen finished almost four tenths clear of Hamilton in qualifying and his team usually improves as the year progresses, so hopes are high of a genuine title tussle.
McLaren might claim to have the best all-round package behind Red Bull and Mercedes, with Lando Norris fourth in Bahrain and Daniel Ricciardo seventh.
Team principal Andreas Seidl commented: “We had the third-quickest car but we acknowledge there’s going to be a tense battle for that spot this year.
“We leave Bahrain committed as ever to working hard, improving our car and ensuring we’re still as competitive at the final race as we were at the first.”
Ricciardo and Norris are both 40/1 to prevail in round two, with Charles Leclerc quoted at the same price after Ferrari showed glimpses of promise in Bahrain.
Past Emilia Romagna Grand Prix winners
2020 Hamilton (Mercedes), Bottas (Mercedes), Ricciardo (Renault)
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