Another dominant performance from Hamilton sees in his ninety-third career victory, and with teammate Bottas coming in second it was celebrations all round in the Mercedes garage. The team now cementing themselves as one of the greatest in the history of the sport—winning the constructors titles an unprecedented seven times in a row.
Off the line Hamilton got a poor start and was swamped by Bottas and Verstappen who took the top two spots, demoting the Brit to third. There was close battling in the opening lap amongst the rest of the drivers as well: Ricciardo coming out best of the rest in fourth followed by Gasley, Leclerc and Albon. Giovinazzi again got a great start, making up six places from the very back of the grid.
The top three began to move away from the rest and a train of cars formed from fourth onwards. This becomes an overarching theme of the race. We see few overtakes in the race; instead trains of cars form—unable to quite get close enough to affect a pass on the driver ahead. The modern F1 cars rely quite heavily on DRS passes—usually using a long straight where they can open their DRS, close in on the car ahead and be along side them for the corner at the end of the straight, where they complete the overtake. Almost all overtakes in the previous race at Portimao, for instance, were undertaken in this way. Imola doesn’t really have that set up, therefore we see trains of cars forming—often cars were running only a second behind the driver ahead—but just unable to get close enough to pass.
A bad stroke of luck for the Alpha Tauri team, who have had amazing pace this weekend, when Gasley—who qualified fourth and is running in fifth—is asked to retire the car on lap 8. Hopefully Kyvat—a driver without a seat currently for next year—will bring home some points for the team.
The pit stop window opened earlier than expected by many, and we see quite a clear split of strategies. Some opt for a shorter first stint, replacing tyres early, and others go for a longer first stint: staying out gaining track position as those around them pit and changing tyres later. It seems to me the latter paid off.
Within the top three Hamilton opted to pit later and it worked out perfectly for him. Bottas and Verstappen in first and second positions pitted, gifting Hamilton the lead—who then put the hammer down, attempting to create a gap big enough between himself and the next driver to pit and return out on track ahead of them. Now, Hamilton is talented, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes a little luck helps. That luck comes firstly in the shape of a slightly stricken teammate, as it becomes apparent that Bottas is running with some damage to his floor and almost certainly costing him—and Verstappen, who is stuck behind him—some time. With difficulty overtaking on this track, Verstappen is unable to pass the Finn and is also slowed by the damaged Mercedes. Hamilton’s second stroke of luck comes in the shape of a stricken Renault. Unlucky again for Ocon who suffers yet another technical retirement this season and pulls over to the side of the track. The briefest of virtual safety car periods allows Hamilton to pit whilst Bottas and Verstappen are not allowed to run at full speed—therefore the leader loses less times than usual and is able to return to the track without losing the lead. From here it really is Hamilton’s victory to lose, and we all know how that story goes!
Further down the field, these pit stops are creating a group of racers who on track have position—but still need to pit—followed by faster cars with fresher tyres catching them. Again, with the difficulty to overtake, pit stop strategy was a major way to gain positions. We did get some on-track action though, especially overtakes from Ricciardo and Leclerc on Magnussen, which were executed perfectly.
After the pit stops, the main winner is Perez, using a similar strategy to that which worked so well for him last time out. Starting in eleventh, the Racing Point driver gained positions as other drivers ahead pitted. He was then able to create a gap large enough to pit and come out in front of his main rivals. Net result after all the pitstops: a gain of six places as he moves into fourth.
Late stops seem to be the winning tactic, and Alpha Romeo must of kicked themselves for not gambling another few laps. Raikkonen put in a great stint on his tyres pits on lap 49, dropping him from fourth to twelfth, only for a safety car to be called out two laps later, which would of essentially given him a free pit stop. Still, it was a good race for the Alpha Romeo team though, as both drivers have good outings and come home with points in ninth and tenth.
With sustained pressure, Verstappen is eventually able to pass Bottas’ damaged car when the Mercedes driver runs wide into the penultimate corner—presumably the damage affected the aero and handling of the car. What seems to be a second place in the bag for Verstappen, however, is snatched from his grasp with a tyre failure. An unlucky event for Verstappen, but for the fans it created a much needed dose of action to finish the race.
Once again we see a split of strategies in reaction to this safety car period, with some choosing to pit and get fresh tyres for a last dash to the end. Others stay out, believing track position to be paramount to their race result. Perez takes a gamble on pitting, giving up his third position for fresh rubber. Others to pit include both McLarens, Mercedes and Kyvat’s Alfa Tauri. Ricciardo, Leclerc and Albon, however, stay out. Under the safety car, Russell—trying to warm tyres—ends up in the wall, the young Brit visibly gutted by the mistake, a really unfortunate way to end what had been a really great performance from the Williams driver.
With a six-lap dash to the line in a close running pack, we see action as drivers jostle for position. Albon in fifth loses a few places and spins on his cold tyres, and Carlos Sainz avoids the Red Bull directly in front of him with astonishingly fast reactions. Not the ideal restart for Albon, whose seat at Red Bull for next year is very much in question.
Perez’s gamble doesn’t pay off, as he is unable to overtake Leclerc ahead of him, and the Mexican finishes fifth. The winner from all of this is undoubtedly Kyvat in the Alfa Tauri, showing blistering pace on his fresh tyres and utilising the restart to move from seventh up to fourth, effecting some great overtakes on the way. A well deserved result for the Kyvat and Alfa Tauri, who showed great pace here all weekend.
Perhaps not as action packed as some of the other races within the season, but we were treated to interesting divisions of pit strategies, last minute excitement, a safety car, another Renault podium and that stonking finish from Kyvat. Also, we saw Mercedes take their 7th consecutive constructors world championship title, breaking Ferrari’s record of six in a row. Although the dominance may not make the greatest interest with regards to on-track competition, you have to admire the ability of everyone in that team who continually strives to maintain that top level of achievement. Further down in the championship, it is still a close battle, with Renault, Mclaren and Racing Point separated only by one point.
Driver of the day: Kyvat
Honourable mentions: Raikkonen, Perez, Ricciardo.
2020 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Results
- Hamilton (Fastest Lap)
Next up: A return after eight years to one of Herman Tilke’s best tracks—can’t wait!
Where to watch-
USA: Sunday 13th November Live on ESPN race start at 5:10am EST
UK: Sunday 13th November Live on Sky Sports F1 race start at 10:10am GMT
Highlights on Sky One time TBC and Channel Four 4:30PM Sunday 13th November.