Lewis Hamilton Wins In Imola As Mercedes Win 7th

Lewis Hamilton took his 93rd race victory earlier in Imola at the Emilia

Romagna Grand Prix to extend his lead in the driver's championship after a race

with several retirements, a safety car, virtual safety car and late-race drama. Team

mate Valtteri Bottas finished in second ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, who took his

second podium in three races for Renault.


BOttas started from pole and got a good start to the race, leading into turn

two with Hamilton falling behind Max Verstappen and almost Pierre Gasly, with

the AlphaTauri driver enjoying a strong start from P4 on the grid.


Mercedes pitted Bottas first and extended Hamilton’s stint on his tyres,

which gave the Brit an easy lead when Esteban Ocon’s Renault pulled off at the

side of the track to retire. Hamilton came into the pits as the Virtual Safety Car

was introduced, and as such he resumed the race in P1, where he was to stay

until the chequered flag fell due to both Bottas and Verstappen having pitted

earlier.


Valtteri Bottas picked up damage on only the second lap as he ran over a

discarded piece of Ferrari front wing, which had come from Sebastian Vettel when

the German-made contact with Kevin Magnussen in the Haas on lap 1. The

damage started to affect his performance, and before too long Max Verstappen

made his move after a couple of errors from Bottas. Verstappen took P2 from the

Mercedes and seemed destined to stay there, as he pulled out a healthy lead over

the wounded Silver Arrows. It wasn’t to be, however, and with 12 laps to go, the

Red Bull suffered a catastrophic tyre failure which sent Verstappen spinning into

the gravel and out of the race. This brought out the safety car and gave Bottas his

P2 back.


Behind Daniel Ricciardo in third, Daniil Kvyat finished a terrific fourth for

AlphaTauri, with Charles LeClerc in fifth for yet another strong result for the

struggling Ferrari team. Sergio Perez finished sixth for Racing Point after a

gamble by the pink team to pit him under the Safety Car backfired. The two

McLaren’s of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris took 7th and 8th respectively, ahead

of Kimi Raikkonen in ninth. Raikkonen started in 18th, but a fantastic 49 lap stint

on his tyres ensured he finished in the points and also took home the Driver of the

Day award. The final point went to the other Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi.

Pierre Gasly suffered a gut-wrenching retirement, with the AlphaTauri

suffering from a loss of water pressure after a brilliant start from 4th and some

decent points on the table.

Other retirements included George Russell (more on
that later), Max Verstappen, Kevin Magnussen and Esteban Ocon.

Mercedes Take Another Record


Mercedes started this weekend knowing that they could take the record

for most consecutive Constructors titles. They already shared the record with

Ferrari on 6 and the team took another dominant 1-2 finish to take the record and

wrap up the title with plenty of races still to go.


While it has seemed obvious for some time that the team would win this

years title and their dominance has certainly become boring and predictable for

many, it is one hell of an achievement, so well done to everyone at the team.

I’m not a Mercedes fan by any accounts. Those who read my articles and

watch the F1 Fans Show podcast will know that I am a Williams fan through and

through and I will support them no matter where they are on the grid, but it’s hard

not to admire the Mercedes team. They returned to the grid in 2010 with Nico

Rosberg and Michael Schumacher, and after a few seasons of midfield running

and the occasional podium, they turned up the heat for 2014, absolutely nailed the

new regulations and hybrid systems and have since held the sport in a vice-like

grip. No one can get close. With the exception of Ferrari in 2018 threatening their

dominance and Red Bull winning the odd race here and there, you know that it will

most likely be a Mercedes driver standing on the top step, with the other one

probably right behind him in second.


So, well done to Mercedes. The achievement is admirable, as to keep so

far ahead in F1 over half a decade is an incredible achievement, and I’m sure they

will go on to win more titles. I do hope their dominance ends soon, as I’d love to

see some close racing for the lead, but for now, it’ll be Mercedes who stay on top.

Red Bull have dominated, as have Williams, Ferrari, McLaren and plenty

of other teams over the years since Formula One started, but no one seems to

have dominated like Mercedes.


Williams Come Agonisingly Close

Oh, man. George Russell is rapidly becoming known as Mr Saturday, and

he cemented that reputation again by putting the Williams 13th on the grid, ahead

of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel once again. His record against teammates in

qualifying currently stands at 34-0, which is incredible. With him starting 13th on

the grid, I had a strong feeling that he could well take his first-ever points, and the

team's first points of the year at Imola. He wasn’t far off getting into Q3, and his

long run pace was looking good.


My confidence increased as the race went on, as he stayed competitive

with the cars around him, and towards the end of the race, when Verstappen

retired from the race, he was in with a shot at points and was running inside the

top 10.


Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. He lost control of his Williams and slammed

into the barrier with only a handful of laps left while warming up his tyres.

“I don’t know what to say,”

Russell said before he sat downhearted and dismayed on the

the grass beside the circuit.


I was absolutely heartbroken for him. He came so close, and he had

been racing so well, he deserved at least a point. I’m confident the results will

come, and the progress at Williams is there for everyone to see, but it was an

unforced error with big consequences.


Not Quite Bemoaning Bottas


I could. But I won’t. He started on pole after a great lap saw him under a

tenth of a second quicker than Hamilton. He then got a decent start and held his

lead, before driving off and extending that lead for a number of laps. Unbeknownst

to us, he had picked up damage which really started to undo his race further down

the line. I thought we would see him take the win, and with Hamilton down to third

in the early stages, I thought that we could see some fight from the Finnish driver

and he could try to close the gap in the championship.


Once he had lost the lead of the race to Lewis, however, he just seemed

to back off. Verstappen caught and passed him as he made a number of errors,

which were partly down to his damaged Mercedes, but he just seemed to have no

fight in him.


He knows the championship is all but gone, you can see that. All the

porridge in the world and even his new moustache won’t help him now.

Sometimes he is the architect of his own downfall.


Albon Goes AWOL Again


It’s a familiar story. A decent qualifying, but not spectacular, followed by a

quiet race. Alex Albon is racing for his seat at Red Bull right now, and his future

took another hit in Imola. An unspectacular qualifying turned into an unspectacular

race, where he was unable to pass Charles LeClerc in the slower Ferrari, while his

teammate raced away to challenge for the podium.


Albon never looked like threatening the top 3 all weekend, and his race

was made much worse in the dying laps, just after the Safety Car restart. Sergio

Perez made a brilliant move around the outside of Albon, who then spun all on his

own, narrowly avoiding a crash with Carlos Sainz. There was no contact with any

driver, no issues with the car, it was just another unforced error from the Thai

driver. He eventually finished at the back of the pack, with his employers currently

wondering whether or not to give him a drive for next year.


With some big names and talented and popular drivers on the market for

next year, Albon needs to make sure the rest of his season gives Red Bull plenty

of reasons to keep him on.


How Does The Championship Look Now?


Well, Hamilton has all but won it. He currently leads the championship, 85

points ahead of team mate Bottas. Verstappen is still third, with Daniel Ricciardo

in fourth. Charles LeClerc is still fifth for Ferrari with Perez only three points behind

for Racing Point.


The constructors has of course been won by Mercedes. Red Bull are

second with Renault in third, but only one point ahead of McLaren who are tied on

points with Racing Point! What a fight we have for third place. If only it was a fight

for the top spot!


Williams remains the only team yet to score, but oh, what could have

been. Russell seemed certain to end the drought, and Latifi eventually finished

11th, agonisingly close to the points.

Where Are We Heading Next?

Formula One returns to Turkey for the first time since 2011 for the Turkish

Grand Prix in Istanbul. A circuit that Felipe Massa used to conquer, we only have

a few drivers left on the grid who have raced there before; Hamilton, Vettel and

Raikkonen. We head there on the 13th November, giving us a week away from

the sport, and giving me time to get over George Russell’s heartbreaking

retirement.


As always, take care, stay safe, and join us every Monday at 8 pm for the

F1 Fans Show! Get a beverage, get comfortable and get involved! I can’t tell you

how much it means to me and everyone involved to see you getting involved and

giving us your opinions. It’s fantastic to see, and I am so happy to be a part of it.


Steve Thomson