Virtual Safety Car Helps Hamilton Win 2020 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton won the 2020 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, and must be the luckiest man in Formula 1. He is the only driver not to have retired out of a race or failed to start one so far in 2020, and even on the days when he appears more vulnerable than usual, the elements seem to conspire in his favor more often than not.
On Saturday, Hamilton had qualified behind teammate Valtteri Bottas, with yet another sub-0.1 second margin separating the two drivers. Then, on Sunday, he was slow off the start and passed by Max Verstappen, who had good pace.
It’s difficult to overtake at the Imola circuit, which made a surprise reappearance on the F1 calendar to host the 2020 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix after COVID-19 disruptions pushed other circuits out. But Hamilton ultimately never had to resort to overtakes to regain the lead.
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Red Bull Racing pit Verstappen early, and Mercedes pit Bottas to cover him from the undercut. It was, as it turned out, probably much too early, as the tires had plenty of life left — as Hamilton then showed by putting in fast lap after fast lap.
But just in case the strategy didn’t work enough in Hamilton’s favor, random chance ensured it would. On lap 28, Mercedes junior driver Esteban Ocon parked his Renault by the track because of a clutch issue. At first, that section of track was put under double yellow caution, but just two laps later, just as Hamilton was about to pit, the virtual safety car was triggered.
The timing was incredibly fortuitous for Hamilton, and the VSC lasted only 30 seconds, ensuring only he could benefit from it and nobody else. Hamilton essentially received a much-discounted pit stop in terms of time, came out of the pits well in the lead, and never relinquished it from there.
There was a lot of drama behind him to entertain those bummed at the prospect of yet another Hamilton win, though. Verstappen caught and passed Bottas — who was suffering from floor damage — only to then crash out of the race after his rear tire dramatically popped in a braking zone.
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The Honda-powered AlphaTauri had looked mighty quick all weekend, but Pierre Gasly, who had magically qualified on the second row, was unfortunately unable to capitalize because of a reported weld failure in the car. Fortunately, his teammate Daniil Kvyat swept in and picked up the pieces, finishing in fourth place.
Both of the Alfa Romeo Racing drivers also did well, with Kimi Räikkönen earning the “Driver of the Day” vote by finishing ninth after starting in 18th position. George Russell may have had his best chance at scoring points for the first time in his career, but threw it away by spinning all on his own while behind the safety car.
Sebastian Vettel would likely have scored decent points had his team put him on the tire he requested and not added over 10 seconds to his race time by messing up his pit stop. And the season continued going from bad to worse for Alexander Albon, who also spun on his own and was last across the finish line at the 2020 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
Finally, Daniel Ricciardo returned to the podium for the second time this season, and this time didn’t forget to perform his famous shoey — even Hamilton joined in on those particular festivities, later describing the taste as “toe jam.” Well, when you’ve been on the podium 162 times, you may as well try something new.
Kurt Verlin was born in France and lives in the United States. Throughout his life he was always told French was the language of romance, but it was English he fell in love with. He likes cats, music, cars, 30 Rock, Formula 1, and pretending to be a race car driver in simulators; but most of all, he just likes to write about it all. See more articles by Kurt.