Lewis Hamilton led Mercedes to another 1-2 finish with Valterri Bottas taking home a second place finish to secure the dominant Silver Arrows a seventh, back-to-back, world title.
As the lights went out, Bottas (the pole-sitter) had a great start off the line while his teammate, Hamilton, struggled to get away. This made him vulnerable to an immediate attack from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
By the first chicane – after the first, right-handed kink – Hamilton fell back into third and was forced to defend from Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo after he lost his opening battle with Verstappen.
However, Racing Point’s Lance Stroll made contact with Renault’s Esteban Ocon at the first chicane that resulted in the Canadian being punished with front-wing damage.
Kevin Magnussen, Haas, was spun around on the exit of the Tosa hairpin (T7) after Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, was tangled up with the Dane – who came off second best.
The race was predicted to be a one-stop race. Stroll came in at the beginning of the second lap to repair his front-wing and to swap onto the hard compound tyres – in the hope they could take him to the end.
“It’s so hard to follow”Says Hamilton to Mercedes Pit Wall
Lap eight brought the first retirement of the race as Pierre Gasly, Alpha Tauri, suffered a terminal issue with his Honda Power Unit.
A problem which the mechanics hoped to fix on the starting grid prior to the race. However, it was later found to be a coolant leak.
Tyre degradation (thermal performance loss) was a major issue around Imola as many drivers came in for an early pit stop, with the likes of Ricciardo, Alexander Albon (Red Bull) and Daniil Kvyat (Alpha Tauri) entering the pit’s for the durable hard tyres on lap 15.
Shortly after, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, nearly rear-ended Ricciardo’s Renault as it was believed the Monegasque had lost crucial tyre temperatures which caused a lock-up on the prancing horse’s front tyres.
On Lap 19, Verstappen made an undercut attempt (to overtake a Mercedes while they were pitting) as the dutch driver went into the pits to change his Medium compounds for the hards.
In response to the Red Bull pit-stop, Bottas came in a lap later and managed to get back out ahead of the leading Dutch Red Bull.
After Bottas and Verstappen conducted their mandatory stops, Hamilton was requested by his engineer Peter Bonnington, commonly known as ‘Bono,’ if he could extend his first stint – which he did.
The Briton got lucky with his pit stop as Ocon suffered a clutch problem which saw the Frenchman parked up on the grass between turns 13 and 14.
This brought out the Virtual Safety Car, which dropped the average pit stop loss from 27s down to 17s.
This provided Hamilton with a quick and unthreatened pit stop for the race lead.
Despite Bottas’ best attempts to keep Verstappen at bay, he made a mistake going into the final corner as the Mercedes Finn paid a quick visit in the gravel.
This made it inevitable for the Dutch driver to overtake Bottas with the assistance from the Drag Reduction System (DRS).
After an impressive 49 laps on the Mediums, Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo, was the final driver to pit out of the field of running cars, swapping the Mediums for the soft compound.
On lap 51, Verstappen suffered a tyre failure as he sped towards the braking point at turn five. This caused the Dutchman to spin out and become stuck in the gravel.
Inevitably, this caused the Safety Car to be deployed.
As the Safety Car was deployed, Hamilton had just passed the Pit Entry, this meant he was immediately behind the safety car. However, everyone else behind – apart from a few drivers – pitted for fresher tyres.
Luckily there was a significant amount of time for Hamilton – the race leader, to pit for fresh soft tyres.
George Russell, Williams, who was in contention for his first amount of points, crashed behind the safety car as he tried to maintain his rear tyre temperatures. Unfortunately, the young British driver lost control and went into the barrier.
There was a late injury for the front-jack mechanic under the safety car conditions as Stroll thundered into Racing Point’s front jack, causing the mechanic to tumble over backwards. The Canadian apologised for the incident stating his ‘brakes were really cold.’
With only a handful of laps to go after the restart, manic ensued.
Hamilton hammered it away once the safety car returned to the pit lane and managed to create a sizable gap from his teammate.
There was double trouble for Red Bull, on lap 58, as Albon applied the power too quickly which caused the young London-born Thai driver to light up his back tires and spin out – similar to Russell a few laps before.
However, the second Red Bull driver managed to stay in the race – despite running at the back of the field.
Kvyat came extremely close in obtaining his first podium in 2020 as he overtook Leclerc at the Tosa Hairpin. However, he failed to overtake Ricciardo as the chequered flag appeared to keep him fourth.
- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
- Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
- Daniel Ricciardo (Renault)