How it happened: 2020 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola


Lap by lap - how Lewis Hamilton won the 2020 F1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on an unpredictable afternoon at Imola

Lewis Hamilton crosses the line at Imola to win the 2020 F1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix and clinmch the constructors championship for Mercedes

LAT via Mercedes

Mercedes’ one-two at Imola secured the team a record-breaking seventh consecutive constructors’ championship on Ferrari soil, as Lewis Hamilton headed home Valtteri Bottas for his ninth win of the season.

For the third time in 2020, F1 headed to Italy for a round of a peculiar 2020 championship, and it once again provided an unpredictable afternoon of racing around an old-school circuit.

Championship-leader Hamilton predicted a boring afternoon after missing out on pole position, but a tactical and eventually dramatic race threw up its fair share of surprises and spills; once again Mercedes saw off all of the threats come the chequered flag.

Valtteri Bottas leads at the start of the 2020 F1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola

Bottas led from the start, with Verstappen moving past Hamilton

Joao Filipe / DPPI

Bottas got a dream getaway from pole while Hamilton was busy looking in his mirrors to try and limit the damage.

An initially good launch was for naught as he bogged down in the second phase, allowing Verstappen to leapfrog him for P2 with Daniel Ricciardo in close pursuit having jumped into fourth ahead of Pierre Gasly.

Lance Stroll fell victim to the squeeze into the Tamburello Chicane, clipping his front wing on the right rear tyre of Esteban Ocon and losing part of his front wing. He was in at the end of the first lap for repairs.

Kevin Magnussen came unstuck at the Tosa Hairpin moments later to give Stroll company. Sebastian Vettel understeered into the side of the Haas, spinning the Dane round and into last position.

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The race leader extended his gap to his closest rivals to just over a second in the opening laps, keeping Verstappen out of DRS range while Hamilton edged into the sub-one second zone behind the Red Bull in by lap five.

While the drag reduction was not quite as effective as it had been one week ago in Portugal, Carlos Sainz was the first to show how to make the move into the first chicane, DRS-ing his way by team-mate Lando Norris for P9.

Gasly had been keeping close touch with Ricciardo in fifth position but an apparent power unit issue that was discovered on the grid reared its head on lap nine, forcing the Frenchman into retirement with a terminal issue.

The front three had managed to detach themselves comfortably from the rest, with Ricciardo 14sec down after the opening ten laps, but the tyre issues throughout the field began to emerge for many.

Antonio Giovinazzi managed to avoid the Vettel-Magnussen skirmish on the opening lap having been directly behind the pair and was the first driver in for an early scheduled stop on lap 11, fitting the medium tyre and rejoining clear of Grosjean and Stroll in P17.

Leclerc was the first of the front runners to come in for a stop on lap 14, fitting the hard tyres and dragging several others in with him, as they responded to the threat of an undercut.

Norris and Ocon joined Leclerc on the hard tyres for a one-stop strategy and rejoining 14th and 16th respectively.

Almost the entire midfield reacted by coming in on the following lap, but it was too late for Alex Albon, who failed to get past Leclerc, having become stuck behind the Ferrari in the first stint.

Sainz and McLaren extended their first stint to lap 18 then fitted the medium tyres and fed back into a Daniil Kvyat-Albon fight outside of the top 10.

Red Bull blinked first of the leaders with their pitstop for Verstappen, switching on to hard tyres on lap 19 in the hopes of making a one-stop work.

Mercedes responded with Bottas the following lap, mirroring the Red Bull strategy, but Hamilton asked to remain out for longer to push as hard as he could. The Finn rejoined with his lead over the Dutchman intact by 1.6sec.

Lewis Hamilton makes his pitstop at Imola in the 2020 F1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

Hamilton’s pitstop under the brief virtual safety car handed him the race lead

Peter Fox/Getty Images

Hamilton set a fastest lap as he tried to stretch the gap between Verstappen and Bottas to the 27sec needed to stop and retain the lead, finding time on his team-mate as Bottas got to grips with the cold medium tyres and a partially damaged floor around the rear right of his Mercedes.

Verstappen closed to within DRS range of Bottas by lap 23, but only just, as the Finn kept the Red Bull at arm’s length, maintaining a led of around 0.9sec.

Hamilton’s gap to Bottas extended to 26.4sec as he caught the tail end of the field in the form of Stroll but, from then on, the traffic limited his gains.

The scrap lower down in the top 10 closed right up as the yet-to-stop Magnussen bottled up Ricciardo, Leclerc and Albon. The Renault man made his DRS move around the outside of the Tamburello Chicane but Leclerc was forced to wait until the Tosa Hairpin, pulling off an around-the-outside pass on the drag up the hill and leaving Albon stuck behind the Haas.

It cost the Red Bull man two seconds in his battle with the Ferrari before he was released when Magnussen pitted at the end of lap 28.

Ocon was forced out of the race on lap 29 with a broken clutch, briefly bringing out the virtual safety car, just as Hamilton approached the pit entry.

He pitted for hard tyres as the field circulated at a reduced speed and came out comfortably clear of Bottas and Verstappen in the race lead by 4.2sec. The gap prior to the VSC had been around 28.4sec, so with an average pitstop time loss at 27sec he may well have done the job regardless.

Vettel, who had escaped any punishment for his first lap incident with Magnussen, was up to fourth by the halfway point but yet to pit. Kimi Räikkönen was keeping him company around 5sec behind on the same strategy.

Bottas was told his floor damage was resulting in a significant loss in downforce and he was pushing hard to keep Verstappen at bay. A lock-up into the first Rivazza left-hander on lap 37 handed the Red Bull DRS and the best shot at overtaking the Mercedes, but the straightline advantage of the Mercedes was still too much to overcome.

Valtteri Bottas' Mercedes runs wide onto the gravel at Imola as Max Verstappen's Red Bull looms behind during the 2020 F1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

Bottas’ error allowed Verstappen past to run second – briefly

Joe Portlock/Getty Images

Vettel’s hard work was all undone with a nightmare stop for the four-time champion, dropping him well below where he had been projected to rejoin. A stubborn front right would not go on, and having been set to fight for the final points positions, he slumped to 14th thanks to a 13sec stop.

Bottas was coping with his wounded W11 well but his defence of second came to an end on lap 43 after another mistake into Rivazza. He dipped two-wheels into the gravel leading into the main straight, bringing Verstappen right into play.

With DRS help, the Red Bull blasted by into the Tamburello chicane and sweeping around Bottas for P2, leaving him with a 13sec deficit to Hamilton in the remaining laps.

Sergio Perez was working his magic once again and was promoted up to P4 having started in 11th as Räikkönen and Alfa Romeo made their one stop for the day. The Finn was back out in 12th position on fresh soft tyres for the remaining 13 laps.

If they could have extended his stint a few laps longer, Räikkönen would have been one of the biggest winners of the day, as full safety car loomed.

Verstappen’s brilliant drive was undone with a failure on his Red Bull pitched him into a dramatic retirement. A rear-right tyre failure spun the Red Bull into the gravel at the Villeneuve Chicane and out of the race, bringing out the safety car with just over 10 laps remaining.