Lewis Hamilton has taken victory in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix beating Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas by five seconds, allowing Mercedes to secure the drivers and constructors championship for a seventh consecutive season.
Hamilton ran long into the race getting passed Bottas following a long opening stint and then undercutting the Finn when he was handed a free pit stop under the virtual safety car after inheriting the lead.
Mercedes appeared to be slightly vulnerable to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, which prompted the decision to run long so they switched to a long opening stint. That gave them the overcut, also the VSC caused by Esteban Ocon stopping on track gave them a perfect window to stop
It means that if the Englishman finishes eight points ahead of Bottas in Istanbul, when F1 begins its flyway races in the Middle East on 13 – 15 November, he will take a seventh world title equalling Michael Schumacher.
Hamilton was comfortably leading from Verstappen until something broke at the rear of the car striking the tyre, which ripped it to shreds leading him to retire following a spinning out while braking for Villeneuve.
Bottas then pitted, Hamilton was forced to wait an extra lap having just missed the entry to the pit lane, on his next lap behind the safety car he managed to pit and re-join still in the lead of the race. It ultimately handed Hamilton the overcut, key in the final round of stops.
Mercedes would have made a precautionary third stop following the issue for the Dutchman anyway regardless of the cause of the tyre failure. Imola is a high speed, grip and old school circuit proving tough on tyres and cars.
Hamilton said, “People watching may feel we’re used to this, but it always feels like the first with this team and that’s because of the spirit. So I’m forever grateful to be a part of it and breaking a record like this. No one has ever done it before.”
Verstappen’s outside chance of a late charge for the championship is over with him mathematically out of the title race. The Dutchman looked strong before his tyre failure, caused by a part falling off the car sent him into the wall.
Verstappen was running at the same pace as Mercedes before his crash, but with just over ten laps remaining it was unlikely that he could have closed the gap to Bottas or Hamilton. But he had pushed Mercedes hard throughout most of the race
The tyre failure is a bit of a mystery at the moment, they were well within the expected range and Pirelli will investigate whether the failure was caused by debris or was influenced by certain circuit characteristics that put extra strain into tyres.
The final safety car was extended, when George Russell crashed at Acqua Minerali. Russell had been on course to score his first points in F1, as he warmed his tyres for the restart he lost control of the Williams and went into the wall, once again slipped through his fingers.
Daniel Ricciardo was another driver to make a long first stint work, he finished third holding off a late charge from his former teammate Daniil Kvyat. The Russian, however, was still over half a second behind Ricciardo when the flag fell, but it was his best finish of the season.
A somewhat consolation prize, after Pierre Gasly was forced to retire before lap ten with a mechanical issue when looking to challenge the front three.
Riccardo had chosen not to make a second stop, that put him under pressure as Kvyat shoot past Albon and Sergio Perez, before passing Charles Leclerc at Tosa on the restart. Ricciardo hung on to finish eight tenths ahead of the Russian.
Ferrari’s Leclerc was fifth holding off Perez in the closing stages after the Mexican got passed Alex Albon at the Villeneuve chicane and the Red Bull spun down to last place.
Perez was sixth, a decision to make a second pit stop following Verstappen’s stop was not copied by those around him, he was unable then to recover the lost ground following the late stop. That left Ricciardo in pole position for the podium after pass, which he secured.
Carlos Sainz was seventh finishing nine-tenths ahead of teammate Lando Norris. The two McLaren’s finishing ahead of both the Alfa Romeo’s, who had a brilliant race, with Kimi Raikkonen starting eighteenth and Antonio Giovinazzi last to finish ninth and tenth.
Both drivers ran alternative strategies, Raikkonen running the longest on the hard tyres before switching to softs, Giovinazzi starting on softs before switching early on to hards. It earned the team a double points finish at their home Grand Prix.
Nicolas Latifi was eleventh, he finished ahead of Sebastian Vettel, Romain Grosjean and Lance Stroll, after opting not to pit under the safety car. Stroll’s stop was a bit messy, cold brakes caused him to slide into his box knocking over the jackman.
Albon was the final finisher in fifteenth following the spin at Villeneuve. It is not what he needed as his future still hangs in the balance, and cost Red Bull the chance to try and keep the small championship hopes alive.