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

2021 Emilia Romagna GP Imola F1 race best sector times Data FIA Edited by MAXF1net
Data FIA, Edited by MAXF1net

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

1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:16.702 60
2 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 1:17.524 0.822 60
3 4 Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 1:18.259 1.557 63
4 11 Sergio Pérez Red Bull/Honda 1:18.334 1.632 49
5 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri/Honda 1:18.353 1.651 62
6 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:18.379 1.677 60
7 55 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 1:18.490 1.788 60
8 10 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Honda 1:18.782 2.080 59
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
11 47 Mick Schumacher Haas/Ferrari 1:19.193 2.491 58
12 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren/Mercedes 1:19.341 2.639 54
13 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine/Renault 1:19.396 2.694 62
14 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 1:19.417 2.715 62
15 7 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:19.422 2.720 62
16 99 A.Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:19.470 2.768 57
17 9 Nikita Mazepin Haas/Ferrari 1:20.402 3.700 55
18 63 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 1:26.543 9.841 28
19 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:28.485 11.783 30
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