Lewis Hamilton set the fastest lap of the race for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix which gave him the lead in the driver’s standings after two races of the new 2021 F1 season, but what attracts attention is the huge advantage he had over the second fastest lap driven by Max Verstappen.
Hamilton and Verstappen drove the last stint of the race on medium tyres, after a red flag due to a collision between Russell and Bottas, and both set their fastest laps in the lap 60.
Given the fairly similiar pace of Mercedes and Red Bull in both the qualifying and the race, it is surprising at first glance that Hamilton was as much as 0.822 seconds faster than Verstappen in his fastest lap.
The motivation of both drivers to win the fastest lap is not questionable because of the extra point it brings, which in this case decided who will lead in the driver’s standings, but there are several reasons why Hamilton was so much faster.
The first reason is that Hamilton in his fastest lap had a slipstream and DRS from Norris before he overtook in that lap and that Norris blocked the inside line for the first braking zone so Hamilton did not have a compromised line for the Tamburello chicane.
That’s why Hamilton only benefited from Norris due to the slipstream and DRS and achieved the maximum speed on the finish line of all drivers (292.6 km/h) which is even faster than the speed he achieved in the same place in the qualifying in which he also had DRS and even less fuel (289.0 km/h).
Although there is no data on the speed at the end of the main straight, Hamilton’s benefit from Norris’s lee was increasing the closer he got to McLaren driver, and his speed is evidenced by his best time in the first sector, which is 0.425 s faster than Verstappen’s best time in that sector.
2021 EMILIA ROMAGNA GP – FASTEST RACE SECTOR TIMES
Hamilton was a tenth faster than Verstappen in each of the remaining two sectors, and Red Bull knew they had no chance of knocking down Hamilton’s time as Verstappen had no DRS at that stage of the race so after the 60th lap they gave up the pursuit of the fastest lap.
Another advantage of Mercedes over Red Bull, at least judging by the first two races, is superior tyre degradation as Hamilton slashed Verstappen’s lead at the end of the first stint of the race on intermediate tyres and seems to have had a bit more speed in the final stint on medium tyres.
We saw a similar scenario in Bahrain where Verstappen failed to pull a gap from Hamilton in the first stint of the race on medium tyres and Hamilton held up very well in the last stint on hard tyres even though his tyres were 11 laps older than Verstappen’s.
2021 EMILIA ROMAGNA GP – FASTEST LAPS
|2||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Honda||1:17.524||0.822||60|
|4||11||Sergio Pérez||Red Bull/Honda||1:18.334||1.632||49|
|7||55||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Ferrari||1:18.490||1.788||60|
|9||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin/Mercedes||1:18.994||2.292||52|
|10||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin/Mercedes||1:19.074||2.372||59|
|15||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||1:19.422||2.720||62|