Lewis Hamilton wins at Imola after Max Verstappen crash, Mercedes crowned F1 2020 champions
Lewis Hamilton wins Emilia-Romagna GP after overcutting Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen in pits; Late Verstappen crash leads to Safety Car, and Daniel Ricciardo seals podium for Renault; Alex Albon spins off in closing stages
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 01/11/20 6:11pm
Lewis Hamilton sealed a record-extending 93rd Formula 1 victory after recovering from third to win the Emilia-Romagna GP ahead of Valtteri Bottas, after Max Verstappen's crash led to a chaotic finish.
Mercedes, who were pushed hard by Verstappen, clinched their record seventh straight Constructors' Championship with the result, while Hamilton, 85 points clear in the standings, can wrap up his seventh title at the next race in Turkey.
Hamilton was leading from Verstappen before the Red Bull driver, following a long-awaited pass on Bottas, dramatically span off into the gravel to bring out the Safety Car on F1's Imola return.
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Hamilton then kept his nerve to secure maximum points from Bottas - who struggled with damage from the second lap of the race he started on pole - while Daniel Ricciardo secured his second podium in three races for Renault.
"People watching may feel we're used to this, but it always feels like the first with this team and that's because of the spirit," said Hamilton on Mercedes' achievement. "So I'm forever grateful to be a part of it and breaking a record like this. No one has ever done it before.
"It's unbelievable.... Seven-times champs, that's something I'm going to be able to tell my grandchildren one day."
Hamilton goes long, Merc crowned champions, Ricciardo takes third
It has been plain sailing for Mercedes in F1 2020, but it certainly wasn't that for Hamilton at Imola despite the familiar finish.
The Englishman, starting second, lost a place to Verstappen on the start and then was stuck behind Bottas and the Red Bull through the first stint of the race.
But he then ran longer than his two rivals and with Bottas struggling for pace and Verstappen unable to pass him, had built up a big enough gap to overcut his rivals before he was given a further helping hand by a Virtual Safety Car, caused by Esteban Ocon's stoppage.
He emerged from the pits with a big lead, which he extended, and was 13s clear of Verstappen after the Dutchman overtook Bottas on the main straight. Soon after, Verstappen's Red Bull failed and went spinning into the wall at the Villeneuve corner, leading to that late Safety Car.
Both Mercedes pitted, but Hamilton once again streaked clear of the driver who is now the only man who can stop him in his bid for a record-equalling crown.
The big battles in the closing stages instead became behind Mercedes, with Renault pulling off a masterstroke by deciding not to pit Ricciardo, who then held off a late charge from Daniil Kvyat for third place.
Charles Leclerc sealed fifth ahead of Sergio Perez, who may have been cost a podium by Racing Point's strategy, while Alex Albon endured almost as painful a finish as team-mate Verstappen.
Albon, when duelling with Perez following the Safety Car, made an unforced error by spinning his Red Bull off the track, finishing last of the 15 remaining drivers. The last thing he needed with his 2021 seat under threat.
Emilia-Romagna GP Race Result
1. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
2. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
3. Daniel Ricciardo, Renault
4. Daniil Kvyat, AlphaTauri
5. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
6. Sergio Perez, Racing Point
7. Carlos Sainz, McLaren
8. Lando Norris, McLaren
9. Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo
10. Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo
Gasly, Perez and Russell's big disappointment
There will be many drivers who are ruing missed opportunities after Sunday's race, not least Pierre Gasly, who was fourth on the grid and challenged the front three at the start but lasted less than 10 laps before retiring with a mechanical issue.
Perez will also be frustrated, having usurped Ricciardo for fourth during the race. He had pitted later than any of his midfield rivals, but Racing Point chose to pit him again under the Safety Car, dropping him down positions he could not make up in the six laps remaining.
Sebastian Vettel was unlucky to finish 13th, having performed solidly before a slow Ferrari pit-stop cost him a few places, while George Russell suffered the most bizarre - and disastrous - race retirement of the day.
Russell was running 10th, and was on course for his first F1 points, but lost control of his Williams while running slowly behind the Safety Car.
The 2020 season now heads to Turkey for round 14 of 17, where Bottas must outscore Hamilton by eight points to prevent him clinching the title.