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Formula 1

Mercedes seals title as Hamilton wins eventful Imola race

by Matt Beer
9 min read

Mercedes sealed its record seventh consecutive Formula 1 constructors’ championship as Lewis Hamilton led Valtteri Bottas home in what became a highly dramatic Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola.

Hamilton had made a slow getaway from second on the grid, immediately dropping behind Max Verstappen’s Red Bull and having to work hard to fend off Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault for third.

Poleman Bottas then led Verstappen and Hamilton in a relatively close top three for the opening stint, but picked up substantial debris on the second lap.

The piece of another car remained lodged in Bottas’s Mercedes and damaged the floor.

Verstappen was first of the trio to pit, with Mercedes immediately covering him off by pitting Bottas.

But Hamilton extended his first stint for a further dozen laps, and would’ve gone further still had an extremely brief virtual safety car caused by Esteban Ocon’s Renault parking from 15th with a suspected gearbox problem not given him a neat pit window.

While the VSC helped Hamilton’s cause, he had already done enough to extend a sufficient lead to have pitted and rejoined ahead of Bottas and Verstappen anyway.

With Bottas struggling for pace, Hamilton then pulled away as his team-mate came under increasing pressure from Verstappen.

When Bottas locked up into Rivazza with 20 laps to go and briefly went into the gravel, Verstappen was given a run on him and capitalised by passing down the outside into Tamburello.

But seven laps later Verstappen’s race ended abruptly with a sudden tyre failure as he braked for the Villeneuve chicane.

That sent the Red Bull flying off the road and prompted a safety car that turned the race behind Mercedes inside out.

Hamilton’s initial pit call under the safety car was slightly too late for him to get into the pitlane, but he stopped for fresh tyres one lap later and still came out ahead of Bottas.

They had no dramas at the restart and pulled clear for another 1-2, clinching the constructors’ title and giving Hamilton a shot at sealing his drivers’ crown in the next race in Turkey.

In their wake, Daniel Ricciardo gave Renault its second podium in three races, but had to fend off a shock charge from Daniil Kvyat’s AlphaTauri to do so.

Sergio Perez had looked set for the best of the rest slot, having pulled off a mighty first stint.

Only 12th in the opening laps, he stayed out until lap 28 before pitting, and with Ricciardo and other early-stoppers getting caught behind Kevin Magnussen – who’d been tagged into a spin by Sebastian Vettel at Tosa on lap one and then ran long – Perez was able to leapfrog the ‘Class B’ pack and appear in fourth.

But Racing Point brought him in for fresh tyres under the safety car, whereas Ricciardo, Charles Leclerc and Alex Albon stayed out and moved up to third, fourth and fifth. Perez, Kvyat and the McLarens led the queue of cars on fresh tyres behind them.

Kvyat made a stunning restart to immediately pass Perez and Albon, then went around the outside of Leclerc at Piratella into fourth.

He couldn’t separate Ricciardo from the podium, but fourth still provided a reward for AlphaTauri after its qualifying hero Gasly dropped out of fifth early on with an apparent coolant leak.

Leclerc stayed ahead of Perez for fifth, while Albon spun on the exit of Villeneuve just after Perez overtook him. That consigned the remaining Red Bull to 15th and last.

Carlos Sainz Jr and Lando Norris were seventh and eighth for McLaren, followed by the Alfa Romeos of Kimi Raikkonen – whose mammoth 48-lap opening stint meant he ran fourth for much of the race – and Antonio Giovinazzi taking a valuable double points finish for their team.

Williams had looked like it had a great shot at points as George Russell was elevated to 10th by Verstappen’s exit. Russell would’ve been vulnerable to Raikkonen’s new soft tyres at the restart, but he didn’t get that far – crashing on the approach to Acque Minerali as he tried to warm his tyres under the safety car in an embarrassing and costly incident.

Vettel ran a similar strategy to Raikkonen but his race was wrecked by a painfully long 13-second pitstop in which Ferrari appeared to have problems fitting two wheels. He finished 13th.

Lance Stroll also had a miserable race in 14th. He broke his front wing on Ocon on lap one and then knocked over a member of his pit crew – who got up unaided – when he came in too fast for his final pitstop.

Race Results

Pos Name Car Laps Laps Led Total Time Fastest Lap Pitstops Pts
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 63 45 1h28m32.43s 1m15.484s 2 26
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 63 18 +5.783s 1m15.902s 2 18
3 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 63 0 +14.32s 1m17.552s 1 15
4 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri-Honda 63 0 +15.141s 1m17.666s 2 12
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 63 0 +19.111s 1m18.173s 1 10
6 Sergio Pérez Racing Point-Mercedes 63 0 +19.652s 1m18.084s 2 8
7 Carlos Sainz McLaren-Renault 63 0 +20.23s 1m18.118s 2 6
8 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 63 0 +21.131s 1m18.069s 2 4
9 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 63 0 +22.224s 1m18.088s 1 2
10 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 63 0 +26.398s 1m18.794s 1 1
11 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 63 0 +27.135s 1m18.719s 1 0
12 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 63 0 +28.453s 1m18.822s 2 0
13 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 63 0 +29.163s 1m17.767s 2 0
14 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 63 0 +32.935s 1m18.36s 3 0
15 Alex Albon Red Bull-Honda 63 0 +57.284s 1m16.177s 2 0
George Russell Williams-Mercedes 51 0 DNF 1m18.811s 1 0
Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 50 0 DNF 1m17.637s 1 0
Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 46 0 DNF 1m19.273s 2 0
Esteban Ocon Renault 27 0 DNF 1m19.606s 1 0
Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 7 0 DNF 1m20.403s 1 0
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