Race Weekend Central

Lewis Hamilton Plays Perfect Strategy to Score Imola Victory

All season long, it has been clear that Mercedes was en-route to another constructors’ championship.

Having dominated Formula 1 to the ire of many since 2014, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix might have been one of Mercedes’s most interesting outings yet.

Fresh off of his record breaking 92nd career victory in Portugal, the weekend started out quite average for Lewis Hamilton. However, after his team played a magnificent strategy call, Hamilton was able to roll to his 93rd victory quick easily over teammate Valterri Bottas.

Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo took advantage of a hectic late-race safety car to finish third, claiming his second podium of the season by edging out Daniil Kvyat of AlphaTauri. Charles Leclerc completed the top-five finishers.

Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz were sixth and seventh, with Lando Norris, Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovanazzi completing the points-paying spots.

Williams Racing would come up one spot short of their first points again as after George Russell crashed out, Nicholas Latifi stalled out in 11th.

The Race

On the initial start, Bottas and Max Verstappen jumped out to an early advantage, blowing past Hamilton. There were a pair of incidents on the first lap, causing issues for Lance Stroll and Kevin Magnussen. Stroll would smash up his front wing after contact with another car, while Magnussen would be spun around by Vettel a few corners later.

On lap 9, Pierre Gasly became the first retirement of the day. After the team found the issue with the car to be terminal, rather than keep Gasly on track and possibly blow a motor, AlphaTauri elected to retire the Frenchman.

After Bottas and Verstappen pitted, Mercedes would keep Hamilton out for nearly 10 laps to help achieve an over-cut. With help from a lap 29 virtual safety car after Esteban Ocon blew a motor, the yellow was displayed just long enough for Hamilton to pit and retain a five-second lead on Bottas.

Hamilton would go onto achieve another outrageous statistic, 5,000 total laps lead. His performance today put him only a handful of laps behind the current record holder Michael Schumacher.

Magnussen retired on lap 50 after complaining about feeling unwell in the car.

The safety car was deployed one lap later as Verstappen suffered a spectacular tire failure while running in second. That ended the Dutchman’s day and set off a rather strange chain of events.

Drivers came into pit, taking advantage of the safety car. Williams’s Russell was in perfect position to finally score some points this season; however, while attempting to get his lap back around the safety car, Russell lost control and crashed, ruining his chance of that elusive points finish.

The caution period was extended, leaving a five-lap shootout to decide the race. On the restart, Bottas got massively loose allowing Hamilton to checkout. Alex Albon was spun on lap 63, giving Red Bull a rare double-finish outside the points.

In the end, there was nobody that could best Hamilton. Cruising his way to the victory, and a seventh straight Mercedes constructors’ title.

Well Done!

  • A brilliant strategy call by Mercedes helped get Hamilton the victory in Imola. Using both the over-cut and an incredible stroke of luck, Mercedes continued to show that they cannot be stopped out on the racetrack. Even on old medium tires, Hamilton extended the gap over second and third lap after lap. Despite not being the best in dirty air, once Hamilton got out front it was all over.
  • Kvyat and his AlphaTauri team nearly got themselves a podium. Despite coming home fourth, there was still a lot to celebrate for Kvyat. Severely lacking the pace of teammate Gasly, the Russian put on a drive that showcased how much skill he actually has behind the wheel. With his job in jeopardy, a podium would’ve made it that much sweeter if he could’ve achieved it, but the fourth place is still a valiant effort.
  • Raikkonen somehow found a way to run 46 laps on ONE set of tires. Running as high as P4, the driver of the day award easily went to the Fin. He waited and waited, managing to stretch the tires well past their breaking point, running a further 14 laps than Verstappen had when he suffered his blow-out. An excellent conservation effort indeed.

Tough Break

  • Poor Russell. He has been nipping at the points finishes all season long, but has always come up a few spots short. This time his almost had it in the bag before his crash under the safety car ended his day and his pretty much guaranteed points finish. His visible dejection was heartbreaking for fans watching across the world, as Russell didn’t even want the stewards to speak to him while he collected himself before the mandatory ambulance ride. He still has a few more chances to get that point, as well as teammate Latifi, who actually has three 11th-place finishes himself.
  • Poor Bottas. The Finnish driver has been learning all season what it actually means to be Mercedes’s second driver. Despite dominating all weekend long, Bottas once again loses to teammate Hamilton. In Bottas’s eyes, Mercedes’s call to keep Hamilton out was very puzzling as Bottas had been very dominant all race long. Being a second driver is never ideal, but for Bottas you wonder how frustrating it must be to always come up short to Hamilton. Ever since taking over for Nico Rosberg, Bottas has struggled to find a championship-winning edge and challenge Hamilton. Much to the dismay of Hamilton haters, the lack of race pace from Bottas is a prime reason for Hamilton’s domination in recent years.

Next Race

For the first time in nearly a decade, F1 will travel to a circuit voted to have the best corner in F1. The Intercity Istanbul Park Circuit will play host to the Turkish Grand Prix on November 15. Three current drivers have won at Turkey; Raikkonen won the inaugural race in 2006 and Hamilton won the 2010 edition, while Sebastian Vettel claimed victory in the most recent event in 2011. They are also the only three drivers with past experience at the circuit.

About the author

Alex has been writing in the motorsport world since he was 19. Starting his career with the NASCAR Pinty's Series, Alex's work has been featured in Inside Track Magazine, TSN & NBC Sports as well as countless race programs.

Alex has also worked within the junior hockey world in Canada, appearing as a desk host for the OHL's Barrie Colts. He also got the opportunity to cover the 2018 Chevy Silverado 250 which appeared as the headlining article on NASCAR.com.

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