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F1 at Imola: Another Hamilton-Bottas one-two, Mercedes clinches the Manufacturers’ title

Formula 1 Emirates Gran Premio dell'Emilia Romagna 2020 at Imola
• Mercedes one-two; Ricciardo on the podium; Verstappen out with tire failure

Imola, Italy, Nov 1/20 (GRW): There was a time when there were two Grands Prix in Italy each year with an event here at Imola alongside the one at Monza. The last time this happened was in 2006 when Michael Schumacher won both events. This year, the pandemic has resulted in three Formula One races being run in Italy – Monza, Mugello and Imola – won by Gasly at Monza and Hamilton at the other two.

This year’s race at Imola started off offering hope that someone other than Hamilton – Bottas? Verstappen? – might come out the winner, but in the end, the podium had Lewis Hamilton on the top step having finished comfortably ahead of Valtteri Bottas after Max Verstappen’s strong run ended in tire failure.

The starting grid was lined up with the two Mercedes (Bottas, then Hamilton) on the front row with Verstappen in the second row alongside Pierre Gasly in the AlphaTauri.

On the start, Verstappen got past Hamilton into second place. A few laps later, Gasly was called into the pits with a ‘terminal situation’ – clearly they were trying to avoid more costly damage to the machinery.

The front two (and more) pitted around lap 17 and they changed over from ‘medium’ to ‘hard’ tires presumably planning to go the rest of the race’s 63 laps on these tires. With Hamilton staying out for the moment, this shuffled the order to Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen.

But now Bottas was told something he already knew – that he had damaged the floor of his car – and he knew that it was slowing it down. On looking back at the tape of the race, we could see that Lance Stroll had tangled with Sebastian Vettel on the first lap and he had dropped a piece of his front wing. Later this piece of debris disappeared from its spot near the edge of the road – presumably this was the price of errant debris that Bottas had picked up.

This gave Hamilton a big 29-second lead over his teammate which he gave up when he pitted on lap 31 – but he was still able to get out ahead of Bottas. About ten laps later, Verstappen caught and passed Bottas using his DRS to advantage. With the race half gone it looked like it was going to settle down as Hamilton-Verstappen at the front with Bottas in third if his car could keep going at this pace.

But, on lap 50, Verstappen suddenly spun around and crashed out of the race. He had a blown left-rear tire, cause unknown, but it was the end for him, letting Bottas up into second ahead of Sergio Perez in the Racing Point into third.

Verstappen’s crash brought out the safety car – and as a result a number of cars pitted again. Both Hamilton and Bottas pitted for ‘soft’ tires and they had such a big lead over the rest that they retained first and second. The Racing Point team, in their questionable wisdom, brought Perez in out of a potential podium position for ‘soft’ tires with 12 laps remaining. After that, the best he could manage was a sixth place finish; who knows what might have been the outcome had the team gambled on keeping him out on the ‘hard’ tires he had taken on lap 28.

On lap 56 the order was Hamilton, Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo, Charles Leclerc and Alex Albon. When the safety car was called in, Albon spun, falling to the back of the field. Meanwhile, Daniil Kvyat got his AlphaTauri up into fourth past Leclerc – with Perez stranded back in sixth place after his hopes of a podium had been dashed.

That was the way they finished the race. This win for Mercedes clinched the manufacture’s title for them and, with the season’s end approaching, it was now certain one of Hamilton or Bottas would win the driver’s title. I wonder which one it will be?

As for the Canadians in the race, Nicolas Latifi finished 11th, almost in the points, while Lance Stroll, after his first-lap trouble ended up in 13th place.

PHOTO F1 IMOLA PODIUMThe podium at Imola: Bottas, Hamilton, Ricciardo (LAT/Daimler AG)

Hamilton said, “The race itself was an exhausting one, particularly with the speeds that we are experiencing around this track. I had a tricky start but extended the stint and managed to fight back to the front. It feels fantastic to clinch the title today at Imola in style with a 1-2.”

Bottas said, “Obviously, it was a tough race for me today. The start was really good but then on lap two, out of Turn 7, there was some debris on the track. I didn't have time to avoid it, so I aimed for the middle of the car, trying not to run over the debris with the tires. But it caused some damage and got stuck on the car somehow, which made the car really tricky to drive and also cost a chunk of performance. I was trying as hard as I could to keep Max behind me and had to push over my limits, which led to some mistakes.”

Verstappen said, “I had a good start and got past Lewis, I pitted early to trigger the pit stops and Valtteri followed, but he had damage and started holding us up after the stop so we lost a lot of time to Lewis who was in clean air. Once I got past him, the pace was there and the car felt good. I was actually having a lot of fun and then suddenly on the straight I lost the car because of some sort of tire failure, so it’s a big shame because it would’ve been very nice to have second place and another podium.”

• Click here for the results + points after the Imola GP
• Click HERE for the lap chart of the race
• Click here for the tire usage history

• The next Grand Prix will be Turkish GP on November 15th.

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