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
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
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
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
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.