F1 – Emilia Romagna GP – Race

Ciao, MiniFans! A third race in one country in the same season is something that has only happened once before in the history of this sport, albeit under very different conditions. Despite being a fan favourite, mostly for sentimental reasons, Imola isn’t the greatest track for overtaking and fighting on track, unless there’s a very noticeable difference in lap times. However, that won’t stop us from enjoying the race.

Bottas’ defence of pole position this season hasn’t been the greatest, but it all seemed taken care of this race, but rather thanks to Hamilton’s bad start. The British driver lost his place to Verstappen and needed to defend himself from Ricciardo, who had also overtaken Gasly in order to obtain a sought after fourth place. Giovinazzi, continuing his very own record of great starts, managed to get himself to fourteenth on a set of softs that wasn’t the first choice for the drivers who could pick their starting set. Stroll was the first to pit due to a broken front wing after clipping Ocon’s right rear tyre and both Vettel and Magnussen were under investigation for causing a collision. The first retirement came through Gasly’s radio, as his team reported critical issues with the car and asked him to pit.

Drivers and teams alike started to realise that overtaking was just short of a miracle and decided a Monaco style strategy was in order. That is, hard tyres were fitted on the cars with still most of the race to go in order to try and make it to the end with them. This seemed to reason with the top teams as well and Red Bull tried for an unsuccessful undercut with this same process.  Meanwhile, some graining started to present itself on the few soft tyres that remained on track and Albon was defending fiercely from Kvyat.

Mercedes’ strategy seemed to once again favour Hamilton, as they allowed him to stay out, not needing to protect from an undercut and hearing his plea. While Bottas had unceremoniously been given hard tyres, Hamilton was given the choice of softs for the second half of the race if he managed to take care of the current set. It was the midfield, yet again, who provided entertainment, even if just overtaking those who hadn’t stopped yet. Luck was once again walking in Hamilton’s stride, as an extremely brief virtual safety car to retire Ocon’s car allowed him to pit. In a show of wanting the fewest risks possible, the team gave him hard tyres in order not to have problems making it to the end of the race, as he’d still be in front of the field after his stop.

To add insult to injury, damage to the floor that Bottas had been notified about earlier was said to be pretty significant and due to some debris on track, but it wasn’t enough for Verstappen to be able to overtake him, even being consistently in the DRS zone and within one second of the silver arrow. Only two cars were still out from the start of the race and one of them, Vettel, decided it was time to get fresh tyres and try and fight for entering the points with both McLarens. However, his stop was dreadful and he lost a chunk of time that wouldn’t allow him to meddle in the top ten.

We finally saw an overtake at the front, due to Bottas’ mistake and Verstappen’s brawns upon seeing it. Raikkonen also made his stop a while after this and all together, it settled the timing tower into its usual positions, with Pérez being the only “intruder”, settled in fourth after having started eleventh. Once we thought that the race would end like that, Verstappen’s right rear tyre gave up and the safety car came out. A lot of cars came in for fresh tyres, including Pérez, who was sitting pretty in third, but not the three following him. Ricciardo, Leclerc and Albon remained out, with very old hard tyres, and would have to defend from the quick Racing Point fitted with softs. The worry grew for those teams as they saw Russell crashing from losing his car as he was trying to warm his white rimmed tyres.

Once the safety car turned its lights off, carnage started. Kvyat overtook both Pérez and Albon very quickly and the Thai driver couldn’t warm his tyres, causing him to spin and almost collide with Sainz, whose quick reflexes saved him from impacting into the Red Bull. Meanwhile, Ricciardo was managing to keep Kvyat, on softs, behind him and his 50-lap hard tyres. The Renault lost time in the straight, but he managed to distance himself enough during the rest of the lap that the Russian driver couldn’t get close enough, earning Ricciardo his second podium of the season.

The experiment came to a close and the racing weekend, albeit not seemingly missing anything, was shorter than usual. The saving grace of the race was the midfield once more, as they were the only ones fighting on track for actual positions, even if under very specific conditions, rather than gaining them thanks to strategy. Or so it seemed until the last handful of laps. Verstappen’s car failure meant that the race was turned upside down, all cars getting together and the midfield being compacted enough and with different tyres that it meant overtakes would be possible and plentiful. Once again, Ricciardo inherited a podium only possible due to mistakes and failures from others, but that is very difficult to earn, as the midfield has the closeness that the top guns lack.