On Sunday, Formula 1 returned to Italy for the third race in the country and the first time at this particular track since 2006. Once again, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton won, followed by his teammate Valteri Bottas with Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo making a surprise podium. This was Ricciardo’s second podium of the year and his second in three races. With both Mercedes drivers taking first and second respectively, they have won the Constructors’ Championship for the seventh consecutive time, breaking the record of six consecutive champions of Ferrari from 1999 until 2004.
During qualifying on Saturday, Bottas took pole position ahead of Hamilton. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen qualified in third with Ricciardo qualifying in fifth. When the lights went out on Sunday, Verstappen overtook Hamilton for second and was aggressive against Bottas but ultimately unable to pass him. Ricciardo was also able to get into fourth. Eventually, Verstappen entered the pits to try and gain an undercut against Bottas, which failed. Hamilton decided to not enter the pits for a tire change and stayed out, trying to perform the overcut against Bottas and Verstappen. It seemed like the overcut was not going to work, until lap 27, when Ricciardo’s teammate Esteban Ocon retired due to an engine problem. This caused the virtual safety car to come out, requiring every car to slow down to a delta, which let Hamiliton enter the pits and still stay ahead of both Bottas and Verstappen by a comfortable margin. Since everyone else was going slower, the overall time lost in a pit stop was substantially reduced, which played right into Hamilton’s hands. Eventually, Verstappen passed Bottas for second, but it was not destined to end that way. On lap 50, Verstappen retired due to a tire blowout, which brought out the full safety car. The safety car brought everyone together and eliminated the huge gap between Hamilton and Bottas. At this point, Ricciardo moved up into third because of Verstappen’s retirement.When racing resumed, Hamilton was able to defend and get away from Bottas, with Ricciardo able to stay in third. After 63 laps, the top three remained the same.
Due to Verstappen not finishing, it means that it is mathematically impossible for him to have a chance of winning the driver’s championship. As for Bottas, he is 85 points behind Hamilton, and with a total of 104 available points left, it seems unlikely that he can stage a comeback. In two weeks, F1 returns to Turkey, where they haven’t raced since 2011. All Hamilton needs to do in Turkey is to finish second and get the fastest lap to take his seventh drivers championship. At that point, it doesn’t matter what Bottas does in the remaining races. Either way, we will see a Mercedes driver take the championship. However, Turkey has had a reputation for teammates colliding, so only time will tell if Hamilton can seal the title next time when F1 heads to Turkey for a potentially historic race.