Imola
2020 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Sunday - LAT images - Credit: Mercedes media site

F1’s return to Imola created drama, decided a championship and had heartbreak and elation in equal measure.

It scratched the itch that many fans had to see modern machinery racing at the historic circuit, although it felt more exciting to see that novelty than the racing itself.

Before the late safety car, much of the excitement came from the drivers running on different strategies and seeing who that would play out at the end, rather than wheel-to-wheel action.

But it came alive a bit at the end, with a mixed-up order and a podium place available to a midfield runner.

Here we look at the winners and losers of the Grand Prix, do you agree? Let us know by commenting on this post, or reaching out to us on Twitter.

Winner: Lewis Hamilton

Job done for Hamilton – a job that looked far from certain even a few laps into the race.

It was expected that he’d come good in Q3 as he usually does, but for once he was unable to find the proverbial yard of pace in a final lap he described as ‘**** poor’.

But come Sunday he was back to his best, defending robustly from Gasly on the run to the first corner which meant he could stay in touch with the top two while saving his tyres.

The decision to run long on his first stint shows the confidence Hamilton has at the moment and it paid off in spades – he very likely would’ve passed Bottas without the VSC – and from then on he just had to negotiate the safety car restart to win.

There’s an asterisk to all of this though: his job was made considerably easier by Bottas being hampered by the debris stuck under his car for most of the race.

Loser: Valtteri Bottas

Speaking of which; it was a tough race for Bottas. He kept Hamilton behind him on the first lap – actually getting Verstappen between his biggest rival – and could pull away from the Dutchman on the medium stint.

But the damage had been done on lap two when he ran over a piece of Sebastian Vettel’s front wing, which compromised the rest of his race.

Eventually he was lucky to get second after Verstappen looked to have second place sewn up before his tyre failure and it’s yet another pole position that Bottas has been unable to convert to a win.

It’s impossible to know whether he would’ve got the win were it not for the damage – it’s entirely possible that he would have – but ultimately this we’ll never know and Hamilton could wrap up the drivers’ title next week.

Winner: Alfa Romeo drivers

Probably their biggest win came in the lead-up to the race, as both drivers had their contracts renewed for 2021 despite widespread speculation.

It seems a bit of an uninspiring move but neither driver will care, and they celebrated the news with their first double points score of the season.

Raikkonen did a brilliant first stint that ran incredibly deep into the race and showed off all the experience of tyre management that he’s gleaned from his 325 race starts.

His day could’ve been even better as he only pitted a lap or so before the safety car was called for Verstappen, if he’d stayed out the sky would’ve been the limit.

Meanwhile Giovinazzi finished tenth having made up six places in a storming opening lap – we’d show you but unfortunately none of the videos on Twitter are licenced outside of South America.

He was slightly fortunate to get the point as Verstappen, Russell and Albon span out of points positions in the closing laps but someone’s got to be there to pick up the pieces.

Emilia Romagna GP: Hamilton wins at Imola as race comes alive at the end

Emilia Romagna GP: Our race predictions

Emilia Romagna GP: Bottas on pole as AlphaTauri lay down marker for Sunday

F1 championship standings

Loser: Pierre Gasly

Desperately unlucky for Gasly, after a brilliant Saturday for AlphaTauri. He was running a strong fifth when he was called to retire just eight laps in due to a coolant leak.

At that point he was closing in on fifth-placed Daniel Ricciardo – the Frenchman could’ve well been on for a podium had the cards fallen right for him, but at the very least should’ve had another strong points haul.

Maybe this was Italy reclaiming the debt of fortune he received at Monza to be in the winning position (a result that was still heavily down to his skill, pace and composure though).

This was also the weekend that Red Bull confirmed they’re not looking to promote him back to the top team, making it a bit of a double blow for Gasly.

Winner: Sergio Perez

How is this man still not signed up? Despite a poor qualifying, Perez was able to make the Raikkonen strategy work, elevating him up the grid and meaning he was third when the safety car was called.

Stroll had a nightmarish race, losing his front wing on the first lap and never recovering, eventually trailing home in 13th and not even the best Canadian on track.

But fortunately for Stroll, there were more drivers with bad races than good at Imola so he gets away with a footnote here.

Faultless Imola performance further underlines Perez’s F1 credentials

Loser: Red Bull

The first race since Monza that Red Bull have failed to score a podium, they also failed to score any points thanks to Alex Albon’s late spin.

Verstappen looked on course for a great result after the start when he jumped Hamilton on the run to turn two and kept the Brit behind him on the opening laps, forcing him to back off and conserve tyres.

He regained third with ruthless pressure on Bottas and was able to pounce when the Finn messed up one time too many. But a tyre failure sent him spinning into the gravel at Villeneuve on lap 50, ending his promising day and livening up the race thanks to the ensuing safety car.

Loser: George Russell

Argh George. There weren’t many fans out there that weren’t willing Russell to get his first points in F1, and Williams’ first of the season.

He had a brilliant Saturday, dragging every ounce of performance out of the car on his way to 13th on the grid – ahead of Vettel and Stroll.

On race day, he looked to be on for another strong finish, which was elevated to the points when Verstappen’s tyre gave him a yoink into the gravel trap in the closing stages.

In tenth place – albeit on old hard tyres – he had his best ever chance of points but as he tried to warm up his tyres he lost the back end and was sent spinning into the wall.

You had to feel sorry for him as he sat head in hands on trackside and his teammate Nicolas Latifi was just seven tenths off getting a point too – very disappointing for Williams.

Winner: Daniil Kvyat

What a final few laps Kvyat had. He’d been strong all weekend but slightly overshadowed by the brilliance of Gasly, while Kvyat lined up four places behind his teammate in eighth.

He had a tidy race and a good battle with Albon, nearly losing his front wing to the Thai at Tumburello. Their duel – either side of the first pitstops, was probably the battle of the race although Kvyat ultimately lost out to the faster car.

The safety car was when he came alive though – in stark contrast to Albon. He was the driver who was best able to make the soft tyres work at the end, and jumped to fourth in the blink of an eye when racing got back underway.

He was never able to challenge Ricciardo for the final podium place but held onto fourth to achieve his best result since Hockenheim last year.

Loser: Sebastian Vettel

The German was on for a great result for most of the race as he was another one to make the long first stint strategy work.

He definitely would’ve been on for a decent points haul until he came in for his pitstop, where the Ferrari mechanics thoroughly messed up his stop, with the wheel guns very sticky.

Ultimately he finished 12th, which in many ways was aided by three drivers in front of him dropping out.

He once again failed to get out of Q2, but that’s becoming the German who’s been thoroughly outshone my his teammate this season.

Winner: Daniel Ricciardo

Ricciardo and Renault are in a purple patch at the moment, as this is their second podium in three races proving once and for all that podiums are the same London buses.

It’s an incredible turnaround for the team who had to wait four years from their re-entry into the sport to their first one.

While Ricciardo had his customary strong weekend, it didn’t look to be anything majorly special until the craziness at the end, when he found himself elevated to third thanks to Verstappen’s retirement

Once there, he had the strong pace to hold off Kvyat, although he said Cyril Abiteboul won’t be getting another tattoo to mark the occasion.

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