The Formula 1 2020 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was held at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola, Italy. It was the 13th round of the F1 2020 season and the first race since 2006 of the famous Imola circuit, which was named after the founder of Ferrari Enzo and his son Dino.
With this race, Italy became the first country to hold three grands prix in a single calendar year. The track is a mixture of medium and high-speed corners and plenty of gravel traps, so designed to punish even small mistakes committed by the drivers. All these factors made overtaking difficult, which meant that track position was crucial.
Bottas took the pole position on Saturday with a storming lap and defeated his teammate to the P1 slot. Unfortunately, Lady Luck wasn’t on his side on Sunday; Hamilton emerged victorious at the track where his idol Ayrton Senna won eight times. Ricciardo grabbed the opportunity arising from others’ mistakes and won for Renault its second podium of the season.
Pre-Race Preparations Friday: 2-day F1 format debuts at the 2020 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix
This grand prix was a two-day event due to logistic issues, thus there was no running on Friday. The teams usually arrive on a circuit on Wednesday and are ready to race by Friday morning. With a condensed event this time, the teams arrived on Thursday. The weather outlook was fair with plenty of sunshine for the race weekend.
Alfa Romeo announced that Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Räikkönen will continue to drive for the team during the 2021 season. Räikkönen will be starting his 19th season in the Formula 1 racing.
Alpha Tauri confirmed that Pierre Gasly will drive for the team in the 2021 season, but there was no word on the identity of his partner.
Williams confirmed that they would retain the driver lineup of Nicholas Latifi and George Russell for next season. It implies that Sergio Perez does not have many options to choose from and might have to leave F1 at the end of the 2020 season.
The sole practice session took place on Saturday morning, lasting one and a half hours compared to one hour on regular race weekends. The teams got 10 sets of dry weather tyres instead of 13 and had to hand back three sets at the end of the Saturday practice session. Lewis Hamilton went quickest ahead of a fast-charging Max Verstappen and Valterri Bottas. Pierre Gasly was a surprise 4th, ahead of Charles Leclerc, Daniel Ricciardo, Esteban Ocon, Daniil Kvyat, Alexander Albon and Lance Stroll, to complete the top 10 at the end of Saturday practice.
Bottas was in deep trouble during the closing stages of the Q1 session because he failed to set a time due to track limit infringements at more than one occasion, so he had to use an extra set of tyres to set the quickest time of Q1 to progress to Q2. George Russell was once again the star of the session by getting out of Q1. As usual, the Alfa Romeos, the Haas duo, Latifi were expected to get knocked out of the first session.
Verstappen had an engine problem at the start of the Q2 session and returned to the pits. Luckily, the team heroically fixed the problem with only a few minutes left on the clock to allow the Dutchman to get out of the garage and put in a great lap on medium tyres to progress to Q3. Gasly was the star of the session by going 3rd quickest behind the two Silver Arrows. Vettel, Russell, Perez, Stroll and Ocon failed to reach the top-ten shootout.
Hamilton had an initial advantage over Bottas at the end of the first round of hot laps and took provisional pole position. Max was quite close in 3rd place ahead of Pierre Gasly. Valterri Bottas put in a grand final lap to claim the pole position from his teammate and increased his chances of victory on Sunday. Max qualified in his usual spot of P3 behind the two Mercedes drivers, Gasly 4th, Ricciardo 5th, Albon 6th, Leclerc 7th, Kvyat 8th, Norris 9th and Sainz 10th.
Bottas made a great start when the lights went out on Sunday afternoon, and so did his teammate. It was in the second phase of the clutch drop that Hamilton lost some speed and was overtaken by Verstappen and Gasly. Somehow he managed to squeeze past Gasly at the Tamburello and slotted into 3rd place. Ricciardo didn’t waste any time and overtook Gasly moving into 4th place. Behind, Lance Stroll tagged with Renault’s Ocon and damaged his front wing, which he changed at the end of lap 1.
Gasly, who had driven brilliantly throughout the weekend, encountered an engine problem and was forced to retire from the race on lap 8. The tyre degradation was relatively high, and Leclerc pitted on lap 13 for a fresh set of hard tyres. Ricciardo, Kvyat and Albon followed him by pitting the next lap.
Verstappen pitted on lap 18 and Bottas was brought in the next lap to counter the undercut. Hamilton took over the lead and got the hammer down by going very long in the first stint. Ocon parked his car on the side of the road after a gearbox failure, and it changed the complexion of the race. A virtual safety car was deployed briefly to clear Ocon’s car, while Hamilton pitted to keep the lead of the race. Sergio Perez, who started 11th on medium tyres jumped to 4th by going very long in the first stint.
Twenty laps from the end, Bottas locked his tyres while going through Rivazza and ran wide allowing Verstappen to close the gap and overtake him for P2. Verstappen was well placed to take 2nd position at the end of the race, but with 12 laps remaining, the Dutchman had an instantaneous right rear tyre failure and spun out of the race.
The safety car was deployed, and Perez, who inherited 3rd place from Max's retirement, decided to pit for fresh rubber and gave away track position without realising that overtaking is very difficult. Russell, who was running 10th made a rookie mistake under the Safety Car deployment and crashed into the barrier.
On the restart, Kvyat made a great act and moved ahead of Leclerc into 4th place. Racing Point made a gamble which did not pay off at the end of the race. Hamilton took a great victory at the end of the race ahead of his teammate, and Ricciardo grabbed his and Renault's second podium of the season.
Kvyat finished a brilliant 4th, Leclerc 5th, Perez 6th, Sainz 7th, Norris 8th, Räikkönen 9th and Giovinazzi 10th. Kimi Räikkönen also got the Driver of the Day award.
Mercedes set a new record by clinching the 7th consecutive constructor's titles and beating Ferrari's record of 6 straight titles.
F1 2020 Turkish GP, Coming up!
With the end of the races in Europe, the F1 circus moves to another addition to the F1 calendar – the Turkish Grand Prix at the Istanbul Park Circuit. Hamilton has a chance to clinch his 7th title at the Turkish GP; let’s watch how it goes!