Lewis Hamilton has guided Mercedes to a seventh consecutive Formula 1 constructor’s championship by fronting a dominant 1-2 finish in an exciting Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola.
Hamilton was gifted the lead on lap 30 of 63 when a virtual safety car was deployed to recover the stricken Esteban Ocon.
The Brit had been running third for the entire race as poleman Valtteri Bottas controlled the pace up front. Meanwhile, Max Verstappen had leapt ahead of Hamilton on the dash into Turn One to steal second.
However, Bottas and Verstappen both made their first round of pitstops relatively early, with the former sustaining floor damage.
Hamilton extended his stint but was still lacking the sufficient gap needed to jump ahead of his teammate once he made his stop.
But an extremely short virtual safety car had Hamilton able to make his stop and rejoin the race with a mammoth ten-second lead.
Bottas then threw away second to Verstappen by running into the gravel at the penultimate corner. But seven laps later Verstappen’s race ended abruptly with a sudden tyre failure as he braked for the Villeneuve chicane.
The safety car was deployed as the leaders made another round of stops, this timing fitting the soft compound of tyre.
George Russell, who starred in qualifying for Williams, was then spied carrying significant front wing damage. Replays then showed that he had spun while trailing the safety car before ploughing into the inside barrier.
Hamilton expertly controlled the restart to lead home Bottas in another 1-2. Along with sealing the constructor’s championship, Hamilton’s victory also means he is now within a chance of securing a record seventh driver’s title in the next race at Turkey.
With Verstappen out of the picture, Daniel Ricciardo was promoted to third. He gave Renault a second podium in three races.
Behind, AlphaTauri’s Dannil Kvyat hounded the Australian to the line. The Russian was the team’s sole hope after Pierre Gasly retired from fifth place with mechanical issues.
Kvyat had executed a fantastic pair of overtakes on Sergio Perez and Alex Albon off the restart, which resulted in the Red Bull pitching himself into a half-spin on the exit of the second chicane.
Charles Leclerc than become engaged in a thrilling battle with Kvyat and Perez, eventuating coming home in fifth.
Perez was directly behind. The Racing Point driver elated with the result nevertheless after extending his first stint longer than most of the field had him leapfrog from 12th to a provisional fourth.
Though the most mega opening stint was that of Kimi Raikkonen, starting 18th, Raikkonen ran until Lap 48 before taking on a new set of boots.
When the Finn returned to the circuit, he was just behind the McLaren duo of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris, easing home in ninth to score some valuable points for Alfa Romeo.
His teammate Antonio Giovinazzi benefitted from Russell’s safety car blunder to score the final point in tenth.
Sebastian Vettel ran a similar strategy to Raikkonen. Still, his race was wrecked by a painfully long 13-second pitstop in which Ferrari appeared to have problems fitting two wheels. He finished 13th.
Lance Stroll also had a horrid race in 14th after picking up damage on Lap One in a collision with Ocon as well as knocking over one of his pit crew when he failed to stop on the marks for his final pitstop.