WHAT a race it was – one of the best of the season.

After 63 laps of the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola justified its long name by providing it all: great spectacle, new records, many retirements, safety cars, success for some, misery for others and jubilation for Mercedes and Renault.

The 63 laps of the multi-cornered 4.96km circuit was again a Hamilton-Bottas Mercedes benefit, although second-placed Bottas was lucky to finish considering he had a fair chunk of rival machinery stuck to his car for most of the race.

Third, after keeping the fast-approaching Alpha Tauri of Daniil Kvyat at bay in the closing laps, was Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo, in the Renault, while Charles Leclerc was fifth for Ferrari after a ding-dong scrap with Sergio Perez in the Racing Point.

Lando Norris brought his McLaren home seventh, ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz and the final points positions went to the Alfa Romeos of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi.

While the Italian circuit smiled upon the Alfas, which had livery showing the Italian flag, and the word: “Welcome back, Imola” — it was not so hospitable for Red Bull. 

Max Verstappen hounded the ailing Merc of Valtteri Bottas for much of the race until a rear tyre disintegrated on lap 50 and he ended up facing the wrong way in the chicane.

Teammate Alex Albon, who was clearly hoping to improve on his mediocre showing in previous races, had another shocker and finished 15th after spinning in an attempt to stay ahead of Kvyat and Perez on lap 60. 

Albon is on a slippery slope at Red Bull, with talk that he’ll be dumped for 2021 in favour of either Perez or Nico Hulkenberg.

Perez later said missing the podium made it a ‘painful, painful day.’

The Mexican made a late pit stop for fresh tyres in a gamble that didn’t pay off.

Coinciding with the subsequent safety car, the move resulted in Ricciardo zooming into third place.

Non-finishers were Pierre Gasly, who started from a brilliant fourth but his Alpha Tauri suffered terminal thrombosis on lap 6, and Esteban Ocon’s Renault expired with a transmission problem on lap 28, bringing out the  safety car. 

Verstappen’s misfortune stopped his race, but also brought out the safety car, which resulted in a bizarre way for George Russell in the Williams.

He was cruising behind the safety car on a straight stretch when he tapped the accelerator to warm up his tyres, but the instant power surge spun his car into the barriers.

‘I don’t know what to say,’ the embarrassed Russell mumbled in apology to his team.

Magnussen said ‘all this upshift’ was giving him a headache, so his team asked if he wanted to retire. Which the Dane did.

He and teammate Romain Grosjean will not be driving for Haas next season.

Hamilton’s victory gives Mercedes its seventh consecutive Constructors’ championship and his own 93rd win. 

“It was an exhausting race with the speed we were having to go,” Hamilton said.

“And I had a poor start. But seven times champs . . . that’s something I’ll be able to tell my grandchildren.”

READ:  AlphaTauri ready for glory

Bottas said he had a good start but on lap two there was debris.

“It tried to avoid it but couldn’t and it caused damage which made the car tricky to drive.”

Daniel Ricciardo enjoyed his second trip to the podium this year.

“It was a bizarre one,” he said of the race.

“I got into fourth at the start and thought that was the best we could do,” he said.

“Perez had really good pace, and then it all happened with the safety car at the end.”

He and Hamilton celebrated on the podium with ‘shoes’ — champagne from Ricciardo’s size 9s.

“I think they’ll be dancing (in the streets across Australia) because I didn’t forget the shoey,” Ricciardo later said in the paddock. 

“You know what, on that, I was about to drink a beautiful fresh one, and I heard Lewis say, ‘Take your other shoe off’. And I was like, ‘No’ because three years ago on the podium, he said, ‘I’ll never ever drink it, you can offer me, you can’t force me, I’ll never do it’.

“He even asked for it. Took me by surprise but 2020 is the year of the strange so it was good fun, very happy.

“But two podiums in three races!

“I’m super happy to come away from Imola with a great podium: big thanks for everyone at the team.”

Did Hamilton like the shoey?

“Toe jam!” the Brit said.  

“It definitely didn’t taste great. I don’t like champagne as it is, but that definitely tasted worse.”

As an aside, Italy got to host a trio of Formula 1 Grand Prix this year: the Italian and Tuscan Grands Prix at Monza, and the Emilia Romagna, at Imola.

It’s only the second time in the history of the Formula 1 World Championship that one country has held three races in a single season. 

The US held three races in 1982, at Long Beach, Detroit and Las Vegas. 

As well, apart from Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, to give the Imola circuit its full name, is the only other anti-clockwise circuit used in this year’s revised calendar. 

The last Formula 1 Grand Prix at Imola was the San Marino Grand Prix, in 2006. It was won by Michael Schumacher in a Ferrari, from Fernando Alonso (Renault) and Juan Pablo Montoya, in a McLaren.

And a bit of trivia: The combined race distance of all three Italian Grands Prix this year measures an impressive 925.26km — almost the entire length of the Italian mainland which stretches 1185km. 

Next grand prix is in Turkey on November 13.

Results

144Lewis HamiltonMERCEDES631:28:32.43026
277Valtteri BottasMERCEDES63+5.783s18
33Daniel RicciardoRENAULT63+14.320s15
426Daniil KvyatALPHATAURI HONDA63+15.141s12
516Charles LeclercFERRARI63+19.111s10
611Sergio PerezRACING POINT BWT MERCEDES63+19.652s8
755Carlos SainzMCLAREN RENAULT63+20.230s6
84Lando NorrisMCLAREN RENAULT63+21.131s4
97Kimi RäikkönenALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI63+22.224s2
1099Antonio GiovinazziALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI63+26.398s1
116Nicholas LatifiWILLIAMS MERCEDES63+27.135s0
125Sebastian VettelFERRARI63+28.453s0
1318Lance StrollRACING POINT BWT MERCEDES63+29.163s0
148Romain GrosjeanHAAS FERRARI63+32.935s0
1523Alexander AlbonRED BULL RACING HONDA63+57.284s0
NC63George RussellWILLIAMS MERCEDES51DNF0
NC33Max VerstappenRED BULL RACING HONDA50DNF0
NC20Kevin MagnussenHAAS FERRARI47DNF0
NC31Esteban OconRENAULT27DNF0
NC10Pierre GaslyALPHATAURI HONDA8DNF0

Note – Hamilton scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race. Grosjean received a 5-second time penalty for exceeding track limits.

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Imola -- Ricciardo's 'Cinderella' moment

Buys

Bill Buys, probably Australia’s longest-serving motoring writer, has been at his craft for more than five decades. Athough motoring has always been in his DNA, he was also night crime reporter, foreign page editor and later chief reporter of the famed Rand Daily Mail. He’s twice been shot at, attacked by a rhinoceros and had several chilling experiences in aircraft. His experience includes stints in traffic law enforcement, motor racing and rallying and writing for a variety of local and international publications. He has covered countless events, ranging from world motor shows and Formula 1 Grands Prix to Targa tarmac and round-the-houses meetings. A motoring tragic, he has owned more than 90 cars. Somewhat of a nostalgic, he has a special interest in classic cars. He is the father of Targa star Robert Buys, who often adds his expertise to Bill’s reviews.
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