Former Formula 1 driver, Sky Sports F1 commentator Martin Brandl summed up the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix …
Congratulations to Mercedes for a record seventh consecutive Constructors’ Cup. If they continue to win, they will undoubtedly earn the title of the best team in the history of Formula 1. Lotus, Williams, Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull also dominated in their time, but there is a feeling that Mercedes cannot be stopped, although Ferrari and some others have enough resources to perform at a good level.
They were helped by the transition to hybrid turbo engines in 2014. In my opinion, this is the main mistake of Formula 1 – with them the cars became too complicated, heavy, quiet and insanely expensive. At first, the Mercedes power plant turned out to be the best, but all these seven years they did not stand still. They strove to become the best in everything, to beat rivals in all respects. It is a confident, focused, mature, well-functioning and well-funded team. They have everything …
… except the luck of Valtteri Bottas. After an outstanding fast lap at the decisive moment of qualification, the Finn had a great start in the race, maintaining the lead. But then he caught a piece of the broken wing of Sebastian Vettel, and his car lost its aerodynamic efficiency.
Leading the race, Bottas had the right to be the first to pit-stop – and did so to prevent a “clipping” by Verstappen, responding to Max’s pit-stop on lap 18. Lewis said he wanted to stay on the track – and the team agreed. Hamilton got a free hand, he watched the rubber and drove at a good pace to create a chance for himself and catch on to him.
When Esteban Ocon had problems with the gearbox, the Frenchman stopped the car and the virtual safety car was declared, Lewis spent almost no time at the pit stop, securing the lead.
Valtteri fought with his car, which had lost some of the downforce, and after an error lost the second place to Verstappen who constantly attacked him.
In the middle group we saw excellent performances by Sergio Perez, Daniel Riccardo and Pierre Gasly, who came down due to a leak in the cooling system. Vettel and Raikkonen drove a long distance on the starting set of tires, especially Kimi – 49 laps, in the hope of a safety car leaving, which would allow him to stay ahead.
But it was too late for Kimi when a tire exploded on Verstappen’s 51 lap. The outgoing safety car did not particularly help Hamilton, who had just passed the entrance to the pits, but he changed tires on the next lap, retaining the lead.
George Russell did an excellent job at the wheel of Williams, almost not inferior in pace to McLaren – and confidently claimed points. While trying to keep the tire temperature behind the safety car, he made what he later called the worst mistake of his career, crashing into a wall in front of Aqua Minerali.
It would be logical to ask why he decided to press the gas pedal so hard when he was driving next to the barrier. A very painful and public mistake deprived him of a surefire opportunity to earn the first points of his career.
Unfortunately, Alex Albon, driving the second Red Bull car, is not involved in the fight. In Imola, he had another difficult race in which he finished 15th – and last. I hate to say this, but if he loses his place in the team, he will have no one to blame but himself. He is better than his results, but he urgently needs to get together to help Red Bull in the remaining races.
Russell’s crash extended the safety car’s on-track period to seven laps, affecting the bottom line for several riders.
Perez again had a great race. Behind the safety car, the team decided to change its tires, but in race mode it managed to drive fewer laps to the finish line than expected.
Unfortunately for Racing Point, Renault did not change Riccardo’s tires and Ferrari did not change its tires to Charles Leclair. As a result, the place of Perez on the podium was happily taken by Daniel Riccardo, who was pressed by the charged Daniel Kvyat. Having received fresh tires, the Russian spent several cool overtaking.
Perez was able to finish only sixth, ahead of two McLaren drivers. Only one point now separates Renault, McLaren and Racing Point.
Without Gasley’s departure, AlphaTauri could well have displaced Ferrari into seventh place in the Constructors’ Championship. Leclair again had a great race, like Vettel, but Sebastian’s race was ruined by a hitch at the pit stop when the team took 13 seconds to replace the rear wheel.
On the last lap, Hamilton collected the fastest lap from the top three sectors of the race to earn 26 points again. After a bad start, he did everything to win the race. He was partly lucky. He even joined Riccardo on the runway to sample the champagne from his boot, though he had previously said he would never have done so.
It was great to be back in Imola, the track looked great. It would be great to come back one day, although I can’t imagine it will happen unless we find ourselves in the same situation next year.