Hamilton's Imola win secures Mercedes seventh title

01/11/2020
NEWS STORY

Amidst all the doom and gloom, we'd like to get November off to a good start by putting a smile on your face.

Sit back, close your eyes, and try to imagine the groans of frustration, the face-palming yesterday afternoon at F1 Towers and among the Sky F1 crew, when Lewis Hamilton predicted that today's race would be "boring".

Of course, despite never having raced here in F1, he's right, for unless the Weather Gods make an unscripted entrance, today's race will be decided at the first corner... well, the second actually, the infamous Tamburello. After that we can only hope for some epic bravery, be it the need to boost their team in the constructor standings or impress a would-be employer.

Having taken pole it is up to Valtteri to ensure that he maintains the advantage, though on previous form that seems unlikely. Lewis is currently on full-on, take no prisoners mode and it will take something special from the Finn to prevent the world champion extending an already daunting lead today.

As the Black Arrows fight it out, Max will be hoping to spoil the party, but despite the early promise yesterday, it appears that once again the Red Bull-Honda will be no match for the Three Pointed Star.

Though the battle between the two Mercedes - and hopefully the Red Bull - should be epic, if only for the opening moments, the scrap behind is likely to be where the real action is.

Even if the track isn't conducive to overtaking, there is always tyre strategy and big balls overtakes, not to mention the fact that, as in Portugal, track limits are certain to play a part.

We have Monza winner Pierre starting from fourth, ahead of Daniel, Alex, Charles, Daniil, Lando, Carlos, Sergio and Esteban, surely - despite the race being held behind closed doors - that's worth the price of admission alone.

According to Pirelli there's a gap of around 0.5 seconds between hard and medium, and 0.6 seconds between the medium and the soft. Of the Top Ten, the Mercedes and Verstappen are the only drivers starting on mediums.

In terms of strategy, a one-stopper looks set to be fastest. The optimal one-stop strategy uses the medium and soft tyres: softs for 28 to 30 laps and mediums for 33 to 35 laps (either way round). Very close to that is a soft to hard strategy: softs for 24 to 27 laps and hards for 36 to 39 laps (or vice versa).

Next quickest is mediums for 26 to 35 laps and hards for 28 to 37 laps, this strategy having the advantage of featuring a wider pit stop window.

A two-stop strategy is slower, but the best one is with two stints on softs of 18 laps, plus one stint on mediums of 27 laps.

While Lewis cannot wrap-up the title today, Mercedes can, indeed with a 209 point advantage securing that seventh successive crown is merely a formality.

Sadly, there is nothing to suggest that the steamroller won't continue next season also.

The pitlane opens and the drivers begin to head out.

On the grid, with 20 minutes before the start, there appears to be an issue with Gasly's AlphaTauri. It is understood to be power unit related but fixable.

There's work going on on Lewis' car also, where there appears to be a problem with his seat.

Air temperature is 17.8 degrees C, while the track temperature is 24.2 degrees. It is bright but there is a lot of cloud. However, race control insists there is 0% chance of rain.

Other than Bottas, Hamilton and Verstappen, Perez, Ocon, Russell, Vettel, Stroll, Grosjean, Magnussen, Raikkonen and Latifi start on mediums, while Giovinazzi, along with Gasly, Ricciardo, Albon, Leclerc, Kvyat, Norris and Sainz start on softs.

They head off on the warm-up lap.

"Keep up that rhythm from yesterday," Ricciardo is told. "Let's go!" he replies.

The grid forms. Bottas' car pointed in towards his teammate and Tamburello.

They're away! Bottas and Hamilton both get away well, as do Verstappen and Gasly. However, on the run to Tamburello the AlphaTauri loses ground behind Hamilton who is passed by Verstappen as the Mercedes driver loses momentum. Indeed, Ricciardo also has a very close look at the world champion.

Hamilton holds off the Renault at Tamburello while Leclerc has already passed Albon.

Magnussen subsequently spins at Tosa after tangling with Vettel.

At the end of lap 1, it's: Bottas, Verstappen, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Gasly, Leclerc, Albon, Kvyat, Norris and Sainz.

Stroll pits to replace his front wing after clouting Ocon at Tamburello. He rejoins in last position behind Magnussen.

As Verstappen maintains a 1s gap to the leader, Hamilton is all over the rear of the Red Bull. Ricciardo has already lost 3.4s to Hamilton.

Vettel reports front (right) wing damage following his clash with Magnussen earlier.

After just 4 laps we are already seeing drivers having their lap times deleted, among them Norris.

"It's hard to follow here," reports Hamilton as he remains 1.081s down Verstappen.

Sainz makes a move on Norris at Tamburello to take ninth, the Spaniard taking advantage of the solitary DRS zone.

A piece of debris by the side of the track - a large piece of Stroll's front wing assembly - has now been removed.

As Leclerc drops 2s behind Gasly, Albon is all over the rear of the Ferrari.

At the end of lap 8, Gasly is told that his race is over and that he must pit to retire the car.

Grosjean pits at the end of lap 9, as Verstappen is told that he is quickest in all corners... but losing time on the straights.

As Ricciardo falls 10.5s behind Hamilton the field is pretty evenly spread out as the inevitable issue with cars being unable to follow too closely becomes all too apparent, again.

As Giovinazzi pits at the end of lap 10, Raikkonen is all over the rear of Vettel as they battle for 13th.

Out front, Bottas posts a new fastest lap (19.069).

Russell pits from 15th at the end of lap 11.

As Hamilton reports that his front-right doesn't feel great, Leclerc, Norris and Ocon all pit. While the Ferrari driver switches to hards, the others opt for mediums.

Verstappen goes quickest with a 19.067.

At the end of lap 14, Ricciardo, Albon and Kvyat pit.

Ricciardo rejoins ahead of Leclerc, while Albon is stuck behind the Ferrari.

The Monegasque does well not to run into the rear of Ricciardo as they both struggle with their cold tyres.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Imola, here.

A new fastest lap from Bottas (18.944), as he builds a 2.9s lead.

Though he has yet to pit, despite that early spin Magnussen is up to 9th.

Though he is keen to pass Leclerc, Albon is now under pressure from Kvyat. Indeed, replay shows that they touched.

Sainz pits at the end of lap 17, rejoining behind Kvyat in 13th on mediums.

Verstappen pits at the end of lap 18, rejoining in third on hards.

"I'm going to pick up the pace, don't stop me," warns Hamilton.

Bottas pits at the end of lap 19, switching to hards he rejoins in second.

"We're going to be extending," Hamilton is told as he posts a new fastest lap (18.477).

Told his target lap time, Raikkonen replies, "you think I wouldn't go that fast if I could?" Got to love the guy.

Bottas is told that he has floor damage but is "safe to Hamilton", as the world champion posts an 18.367.

"We're just getting held up here by Bottas," Verstappen is told.

A train of ten cars is running behind Magnussen as the Dane falls 7s behind Latifi. Latifi???

"If you've got a little more pace we could do with it," Hamilton is told as the Mercedes crew get ready in the pitlane.

However, Hamilton - who has his time deleted - continues and is subsequently asked if he can extend for ten more laps. This would suggest a final stint on the softs.

King of the late brakers, Ricciardo makes his move on Magnussen at Tamburello and makes it stick. The Dane is subsequently passed by Leclerc, but he doesn't make it easy. Indeed, he slams the door in Albon's face.

Perez pits at the end of lap 28, as does Magnussen. The Mexican rejoins in 7th, ahead of Ricciardo, Leclerc and Albon. Clever strategy from the Mexican and his team.

Ocon pulls to the side of the track, the Frenchman reporting a "clutch problem".

Vettel is up to fourth, ahead of Raikkonen and Latifi, but all three need to pit, as does race leader Hamilton.

As Ocon's car is retrieved the VSC is deployed, which is fantastic news for Hamilton who dives straight into the pits. As does Stroll.

For reasons known only to themselves, Vettel, Raikkonen and Latifi opt not to pit.

Bottas is now 4.2s down on his teammate, with Verstappen 1.3s behind.

In seventh, there is stunned silence from Perez when his told that he is "racing Latifi ahead". In reality he isn't has the Canadian has to pit.

Sure enough, at the end of lap 34, Latifi pits. The Williams driver rejoining in 15th.

A lock-up for Bottas allows Verstappen to close the gap. The Red Bull driver doesn't wait for an invitation and is all over the rear of the Mercedes.

Bottas is told that his "aero damage" has been there since the second lap and that it is "significant", possibly due to running over debris from the Stroll/Vettel clash.

"we are critical for position with (12th placed) Norris," Vettel is told. He subsequently pits, but it is a disastrous stop and he rejoins in 14th, three cars behind the McLaren.

Replay shows issues with the left-rear and right-front tyres. Usual shambles from the Italian team.

Struck behind the Mercedes (again), Verstappen's frustration become all too obvious.

A brilliantly, bold move sees Verstappen nail Bottas at Tamburello after the Finn locked-up (again) at Rivazza.

"Send it!!!" shouts the Red Bull driver.

As Raikkonen continues in fourth, but has yet to stop, Perez is fifth, ahead of Ricciardo, Leclerc, Albon, Kvyat and Sainz. Russell is currently twelfth.

"I'm getting a massive headache," complains Magnussen, who adds that the upshifts are like "a kick in the head every time".

13.6s down on the race leader, there is little that Verstappen can do about it.

Magnussen pits at the end of lap 48, as does Raikkonen. However, while the Iceman rejoins in 12th, behind Russell, the Dane's work is done, Haas appearing to retire him due to safety concerns over his headache.

Bottas has fallen 9.6s behind Verstappen, while, 8s behind Perez, Ricciardo heads a train of 4 cars.

"Something broke on the car," reports Verstappen as he goes off into the gravel his right-rear appearing to have exploded.

The safety car is deployed and as Hamilton is told to "box" the Briton has already passed the pitlane entrance. Not so Bottas who heads into the pits.

On board replay does indeed show something appearing to fail at the rear of the Red Bull, which spins across the track into the gravel with all four tyres damaged. Red Bull subsequently reports a "right-rear failure".

Perez, Kvyat and Sainz pit, as does Hamilton next time around. Vettel also stops.

Bottas is now on softs, as is his teammate, who rejoins just ahead of the Finn.

Behind the two Mercedes, Ricciardo is third, ahead of Leclerc, Albon and Norris, however all are on old rubber while Perez (7th) is on fresh softs.

Russell pulls to the side of the track, the Briton losing the Williams after applying the gas just a little too heavily behind the safety car.

"I don't know what to say," sighs the Briton.

In the Racing Point garage, a mechanic is sent flying when Stroll overshoots his mark. "Sorry about that," says the Canadian, "the brakes are a little cold."

The cameras pick up on Russell, who was running tenth at the time of his accident, who is sitting by the track, helmet on, and appears to be crying.

The safety car withdraws at the end of lap 57.

While Bottas fails to catch Hamilton off guard, Kvyat passes Perez, with Albon spinning moments later after being passed by Perez.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Imola, here.

Subsequently passing Leclerc at Tosa courtesy of his fresh rubber, Kvyat is up to fourth and hunting down Ricciardo.

Perez is all over Leclerc, with Sainz and Norris in hot pursuit, as Albon has dropped to 15th.

Albon pits at the end of lap 59, the youngster switching to softs.

As Ricciardo attempts to hold off Kvyat, so too Leclerc is using everything in his arsenal to fend off Perez.

A new fastest lap from Hamilton (16.305)from Hamilton who is now 2.9s clear of his teammate.

Albon's mistake has paid off for Alfa which has both of its cars in the points at their home race.

As he begins his final lap, Hamilton posts a 15.914.

The world champion is remorseless, taking the flag with yet another fastest lap (15.484), as he leads his teammate home to claim the 2020 crown for Mercedes.

Ricciardo is third, ahead of Kvyat, Leclerc, Perez, Sainz, Norris, Raikkonen and Giovinazzi.

Latifi is eleventh, ahead of Vettel, Stroll, Grosjean and Albon, as the French driver is handed a late 5s time penalty for track limit violations.

Boring?

While the race was worryingly processional in parts, just as one began reach for the remote or nod off, something would kick fresh life into the proceedings.

It will be interesting hear more about the damage to Bottas' car, and as one of those who subscribes to the start-line crash in 1994 playing a part in Ayrton Senna's fatal accident, one wonders whether debris played a part in Verstappen's puncture also.

Then there was the strategy error under the safety car, when Renault and Ferrari opted to leave Ricciardo and Leclerc out, while Racing Point and AlphaTauri brought in Perez and Kvyat.

Nonetheless, that shouldn't detract from another strong performance from Ricciardo.

Whatever the reason for Albon's spin, he shouldn't have been in the position in the first place. Much as we like the cat-loving Thai he is not helping himself and maybe it is time to refocus and step away from the pressure cooker that is Red Bull.

Today however belongs to Hamilton and Mercedes, who have essentially stomped the opposition into the dust, and not for the first (or last) time.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Imola, here.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 01/11/2020
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