Round 13 of the F1 season took place in Imola, Italy. This track has not been used in an F1 season since 2006 but is rich in F1 history. Mercedes dominated the weekend and took their 7th consecutive Constructors’ Championship title making them the most successful F1 team.
The weekend’s layout was a little different. Having raced in Portugal only the weekend before, the schedule was reduced to only two days. One free practice session was held on Saturday morning ahead of qualifying that afternoon. Luckily there were no incidents in FP1 meaning all the cars were set for qualifying.
Bottas took pole ahead of Hamilton by 0.1 seconds. Verstappen qualified 3rd but half a second off the Mercedes’ pace. Gasly, having secured a seat for next season, qualified 4th. Russell performed well to start 13th while Stroll in the Racing Point only managed 15th.
Trouble started for Gasly on the formation lap when power unit issues were detected but he made it to the grid to start the race. Hamilton also had troubles, requiring a seat replacement on the grid.
Verstappen made a great start and jumped Hamilton for 2nd place as Ricciardo jumped Gasly for 4th. Magnussen makes contact with Vettel and spun, dropping him to last. Vettel was told there was no damage to his car, but that was not the case. Stroll and Ocon also touched, requiring Stroll to pit for a new front wing.
On lap 6, the McLaren’s battle in 9th and 10th and Sainz gets past his teammate cleanly.
“We have to retire the car”
This dreadful radio message was sent to Gasly as his power unit issue became terminal. He was 5th but retired on lap 9 due to a drop in water pressure.
On lap 18, Kvyat and Albon are battling on track, and perhaps for their seat next year too as neither driver has been confirmed.
Verstappen pit from 3rd on lap 19 and holds his position. Mercedes responded by pitting Bottas from the lead after Hamilton made it very clear over the radio that he did not want to pit. Hamilton took the lead with a 24 second gap to Bottas in second. A pit stop here would take at least 26 seconds so he would have needed to push hard to extend his lead, or hope for a safety car.
Bottas was told he had left hand side floor damage which is slowing him down. This damage was revealed after the race to be a chunk of Vettel’s front wing that Bottas ran over.
On lap 27, Hamilton caught up to the backmarkers and had a 26 second gap to Bottas. Overtaking these cars will slow him down but he still chooses not to pit.
On lap 30, Ocon pulled over on the grass and a virtual safety was called. Hamilton pit, losing only 17 seconds in the pit stop. He emerged 5 seconds clear of Bottas.
On lap 37, Bottas locked up allowing Verstappen to close in and only a few laps later he ran wide allowing the overtake. Meanwhile, Vettel pit and should have emerged in 11th and fighting for points, but a stubborn tyre meant he emerged 14th after being stationary for 13.1 seconds in his pit box.
On lap 44, Hamilton surpassed 5000 laps led in an F1 race, a tremendous record. He is snatching up those titles this season having claimed the most race wins last race and is currently fighting for his 7th Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles.
A safety car was called on lap 50 and cameras flip to Verstappen in the gravel with a right rear puncture. This promoted Perez to 3rd but – called into the pits along with Bottas and Hamilton – Perez drops to 7th, surely a bad call as he was on for a podium finish.
Russell crashed under the safety car. He stamped on the throttle to get heat into his tyres but loses control and diverts into the wall. He was running in 10th, a points finishing place. His frustration was seen as he got out of his wrecked car and asked the marshals to leave him alone.
Stroll pit as the safety car period was extended to clear the Williams and his cold brakes saw him overshoot his pit box and hit the front jack mechanic. The mechanic walked away unharmed but a little shaken up, I bet!
The safety car period ended and Kvyat got a great jump on Albon, as did Perez. Albon spun – maybe due to the pressure, cold tyres or contact with one of the cars that overtook him. Replays showed no contact. Kvyat also overtook Leclerc for 4th.
The Mercedes crossed the line in 1st and 2nd ensuring the team took home their 7th consecutive Constructors’ Championship title. Ricciardo took the final podium position, his second in three races. On the podium, Ricciardo enjoyed his trademark ‘shoey’, and Hamilton joins him!
There have been conspiracies over Vettel having a different car to Leclerc, or at least being given the worse strategy and I think this race supported that theory. He did have front wing damage and a dodgy pit stop cost him the chance at a point.
Holly’s driver of the day…and loser
I thought many underdogs drove well in this race. Ricciardo made a great launch and had a secure race strategy allowing him to manage his tyres and keep 3rd. Kvyat drove excellently on the restart after the safety car. I should also mention the Alfa Romeo’s who finished 9th and 10th having started 18th and 20th.
My loser of the day is Albon having finished 15th and out of the points. He didn’t make a great start and struggled to overtake the AlphaTauri and Ferrari in his much higher-powered Red Bull.
Additionally, Bottas needed a faultless race to even hope of catching Hamilton for the Drivers’ Championship but lost out in the pit stop and made a couple of silly mistakes once again allowing Verstappen to overtake. He was lucky his tyre blew up.