Imola GP - Stat Wrap
By Sean Kelly
C4F1's Virtual Statman
It’s now beyond any statistical doubt – Mercedes are the most relentless winning machine in Formula 1 history.
When Lewis Hamilton crossed the line to win Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix he clinched his team’s unprecedented seventh consecutive Constructors’ Championship title, while also simultaneously guaranteeing that a seventh Drivers’ Championship would also be headed back to Brackley – only Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas remain mathematically in contention.
Hamilton’s win in this race was the 100th for the Mercedes team since their reign of dominance began at the beginning of the 2014 season – compared to just 34 wins for all of the other constructors on the grid combined.
A staggering 53 of those victories have been 1-2 finishes, something achieved just four times by their opposition in the same timeframe, while they’ve also achieved 68 front row lockouts just since 2014, more than any constructor has EVER taken in all 71 seasons of Formula 1 history.
The scale of Mercedes’ superiority is such that even after all these years they are still breaking new records at practically every race, and it was no different this weekend as Hamilton made Imola the 29th different circuit on which he has won a Grand Prix.
Having surpassed Michael Schumacher’s 91 career victories last weekend in Portimao, Hamilton has now tied Schumacher’s record for wins with a single constructor. The German’s 72 wins with Ferrari from 1996-2006 has now been matched by Hamilton during his tenure with Mercedes.
At the end of lap 42 of this race Hamilton joined Schumacher as the only drivers in history to lead 5,000 laps in Formula 1. As he now trails the German by just 90 laps Hamilton could break this record as soon as the Bahrain Grand Prix at the end of this month – and even if he doesn’t reach Schumacher by then he will have the handily-timed Sakhir Grand Prix the following weekend, contested over a uniquely-high 87 laps.
If Lewis Hamilton were a one-car team he would be leading the Constructors’ Championship by 56 points on his own, so Valtteri Bottas’ contribution merely helps run up the score against their hapless opponents, but the Finn must be getting tired of playing second fiddle.
All of the elements aligned on this momentous day. Mercedes just claimed their 7th Constructors’ Championship! 🏆 To everyone back at the factory grafting away and continuing to push and innovate. You guys are the true unsung heroes. Let’s continue to make history together🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/LB9HTg8Zq7— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) November 1, 2020
Sunday’s race for the fourth time in the last five Grands Prix that Bottas has led the opening lap, but remarkably the only victory he has taken in that time was in Russia, the race in which he did NOT lead lap one!
His second-place finish also continued the oddity of Finnish drivers never having won in Italy despite seven pole positions and now 19 podium finishes in this country, including obscurities such as Mika Salo’s third place for Ferrari at Monza in 1999, or even JJ Lehto’s third place at Imola for Dallara back in 1991 (achieved on Pirelli tyres, one of just two podium finishes taken by the Italian company at Imola prior to this weekend’s sure-thing 1-2-3 result).
The final step of the podium will be a sore subject at Racing Point for the next couple of weeks. After the demise of Max Verstappen, an ill-fated decision to pit Sergio Perez when he was in third place saw him drop behind – among others – Daniel Ricciardo and Charles Leclerc – before also shipping a further position to the unexpectedly-rapid Daniil Kvyat in the late laps, to end the day in a frustrating sixth place.
If seeing a podium slip through their fingers wasn’t bad enough, the decision to pit Perez has also cost Racing Point two positions in the Constructors’ Championship, slipping behind Renault and McLaren as a direct consequence.
Daniel Ricciardo probably couldn’t believe his luck as Verstappen’s tyre blowout and Perez’ late stop cleared the way for him to pick up a second podium in the last three races, having gone more than two and a half years without even one. It was the sixth podium finish this season for teams other than Mercedes, Red Bull or Ferrari – more than in the previous three F1 seasons combined.
The aforementioned Daniil Kyvat nearly added another shock AlphaTauri podium in Italy to the one scored by Monza race winner Pierre Gasly, before settling for fourth place on an Imola circuit just 10 miles away from the team’s base in Faenza. This was a real boost for the under-pressure Russian, who had been the last classified finisher in the previous two races.
Teammate Gasly must have been kicking himself that his car gave up the ghost early in this one, having qualified fourth to tie his career-best performance. It was only the second time the team had started that high on the grid since Red Bull bought the team from Minardi at the end of 2005. The other occasion was again in Italy, when Sebastian Vettel famously won at Monza in 2008 from pole position, a weekend in which teammate Sebastien Bourdais also qualified fourth.
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto will be 51 years old this coming Tuesday, and for all the headaches he has endured this season he will be equally grateful for the consistent form of Charles Leclerc, for whom fifth position represented a fifth consecutive points finish.
Despite such an ostensibly dismal campaign for the Scuderia, Leclerc remains fifth in the Drivers’ Championship and only ten points adrift of Ricciardo.
The Australian will be swapping Renault for McLaren next season, and only one point separates the two constructors in the standings. They may not be headline-grabbing results, but seventh and eighth for Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris was the first time McLaren had scored with both cars since Monza, five races ago.
Minor points were also hugely well-received at Alfa Romeo, who saw both cars score in the same race for the first time in 2020. Kimi Raikkonen finished ninth, having run the first 48 laps on a single set of tyres and rising as high as fourth place in the process.
In retrospect Raikkonen and Alfa Romeo were unlucky not to have taken a spectacular result, as the Finn eventually pitted just two laps before Max Verstappen’s tyre blowout triggered a Safety Car, which would have afforded Raikkonen an opportunity to pit under yellow. On such small margins are big results won or lost….
Teammate Antonio Giovinazzi was tenth on a weekend when he became just the second driver in F1 history to race in his home nation three times in a single season. The other driver with that distinction is Eddie Cheever, who was the only full-time American on the grid when F1 ventured Stateside on three occasions in 1982.
Just 0.737s separated Giovinazzi from 11th-placed Nicholas Latifi, as Williams once again suffered a near miss in their efforts to finally score a point in 2020. This was the fourth time that one of their cars has finished 11th this season, three of which have been the Canadian, who like Raikkonen had ran long on his first set of tyres and rose as high as sixth place by mid-distance.
Ever tried, ever failed... pic.twitter.com/aIbc3rx0uT— Formula 1 (@F1) November 2, 2020
Latifi can be content, but George Russell might have been the most agitated man in Italy after crashing behind the Safety Car while running in the points, an accident he admitted was entirely of his own making. He now has 34 starts without ever scoring, an unfortunate total beaten only by Max Chilton (35), Charles Pic (39) and Luca Badoer (51). His self-inflicted mishap even attracted sympathy from compatriot Lewis Hamilton on social media after the race.
Russell certainly left Imola in a far different frame of mind to Hamilton, who knows that one more win in any of the remaining four races will seal a record-equaling seventh world championship.