RACE DEBRIEF

    Formula 1’s return to Imola for the 2020 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was an undoubted success, the drivers revelling in the challenge of the classic northern Italian track, as Lewis Hamilton spearheaded Mercedes’ claiming of their seventh straight constructors’ crown. But how were the drivers’ performances evaluated by our Power Rankings judges? The scores are in…

    HOW IT WORKS

    • Our five-judge panel assesses each driver after every Grand Prix and scores them out of 10 according to their performance across the weekend – taking machinery out of the equation

    • Our experts’ scores are then averaged out to produce a race score – with those scores then tallied up across the season on our overall Power Rankings Leaderboard (at the bottom of the page)

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    Pierre Gasly is the first driver to top a Power Rankings edition this year despite not finishing the race. In fact, Gasly only managed a grand total of eight laps of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. Up till then, though, it had been a staggeringly good performance from the rejuvenated Frenchman, as he took fourth in both practice and qualifying – while considering team mate Daniil Kvyat finished less than a second behind third-placed Daniel Ricciardo despite starting four places down on Gasly, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Gasly could have fought his way onto that rostrum. After a performance like that, you can understand why he was a touch put out at not have been considered for a Red Bull seat in 2021…

    READ MORE: ‘There was clearly a top-five to fight for’, says Gasly after Imola retirement heartbreak

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    Without Max Verstappen’s retirement from P2, Imola would have been yet another in a series of impressive performances from Ricciardo this year. But with his former team mate’s DNF ultimately promoting Ricciardo to third, the Australian – who’d qualified an excellent fifth before jumping Gasly at the start – was more than happy to take a second podium of the campaign with Renault, meaning he’s now matched his podium tally from his final year with Red Bull in 2018. Shoeys all round!

    READ MORE: Ricciardo shocked to take 'surreal' Imola podium and share 'shoey' with Hamilton

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    It was hard luck that Max Verstappen spun out of second place with a tyre issue seemingly caused by running over debris. Prior to that, he’d done brilliantly to get ahead of Hamilton at the start, while his attack on the hobbled car of Valtteri Bottas to claim P2 was sheer Verstappen brilliance, the Dutchman using an overtaking trick he’d learned racing at the track in European F3 by sending it around the outside of Bottas through the first part of Tamburello to poach P2. His Mercedes-bothering pace, meanwhile, bodes well for the remaining four races – and 2021…

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    Sergio Perez was left fuming after finishing sixth at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix – and it wasn’t hard to see why. A brilliant long first stint after starting P11 had allowed Perez to move ahead of the Daniel Ricciardo/Charles Leclerc/Alex Albon fight after his first stop. But Racing Point pitting Perez for a second time from P3 under the late-race Safety Car proved to be the wrong move, with Perez unable to use his fresh rubber to climb any higher than P6. Annoying for him – but another great race for Perez either way.

    The Ross Brawn Column: Racing Point could have been heroes – but you can’t always be right

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    Imola witnessed a more ragged display from Lewis Hamilton than we’ve been used to recently, the Mercedes driver clearly annoyed by missing pole to Bottas on Saturday, before a messy start saw him fall from second to third behind Verstappen. But his overcutting recovery was brilliant to watch – albeit that a big slice of luck came his way when the Virtual Safety Car was called at exactly the right moment for Hamilton to dive into the pits, emerge with his lead intact, and close out his 93rd win. But you know what they say – the more you practise, the luckier you get…

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    Daniil Kvyat is fighting to keep his F1 career alive – but his performance at Imola was a good reminder of why the then Toro Rosso team called him back to the series in the first place last year. In an AlphaTauri AT01 that looked very rapid around Imola, Kvyat took his first Q3 appearance of 2020 – while following a strong race, his brilliant restart after the Safety Car, which saw him pass Perez, Albon and Leclerc, ultimately netted him P4, thanks to comfortably his best performance of the season.

    READ MORE: Kvyat sad to miss ‘cherry on the cake’ podium after scintillating restart helps him to fourth at Imola

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    Kimi Raikkonen was handed a new contract with Alfa Romeo ahead of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix – and the Finn showed once again that there’s definitely still a place in Formula 1 for him, taking ninth place, and finishing right up the gearbox of Lando Norris’ McLaren in an Alfa Romeo that’s been off the pace throughout most of this season. Yes, retirements and issues for a number of frontrunners undoubtedly helped him on his way – but it was the type of assured drive from Raikkonen that Alfa Romeo love, hence why they’ve given him another go-around next year.

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    Fate seemed to conspire to snatch victory away from Valtteri Bottas at Imola, the Finn grabbing an excellent pole position and doing everything right at the start, only to get done over by the extraordinarily fortunate timing of the VSC for Hamilton – while he was already driving a wounded car after running over massive hunk of Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari on Lap 2. The Finn was actually lucky in the end of salvage second from Verstappen’s retirement – but he’s now almost certainly kissed goodbye to his fourth title bid as a Mercedes driver.

    READ MORE: Bottas says floor damage cost him ‘50 points of downforce’ as Mercedes reveal size of debris he hit

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    Once again, Charles Leclerc looked in another league to team mate Vettel in qualifying, taking seventh on the grid as Vettel could only manage P15. Leclerc then nipped past Alex Albon at the start before benefitting from Gasly’s retirement to run a net fifth for the majority of the race – moving up to fourth when Verstappen retired before losing out to the freshly-rubbered Kvyat in the closing stages, as he finished in the top five for the second straight race.

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    Antonio Giovinazzi was another Alfa Romeo driver with a freshly-inked contract in his back pocket at Imola – and he too rewarded the team’s faith in sticking with him for another year by bringing home a point on race day. That was a good effort considering he’d qualified last of all on Saturday – but a bold decision to start him on the soft tyre paid off handsomely, Giovinazzi jumping to 14th on the first lap, before ultimately ending up P10.

    READ MORE: Giovinazzi says Imola point was perfect way to celebrate 2021 Alfa Romeo contract renewal

    MISSING OUT

    Giovinazzi finished a comfortable 0.4 points ahead of a trio of drivers who shared 11th place in this week’s rankings, namely Carlos Sainz, Kevin Magnussen and Nicholas Latifi. Sainz had a solid, if unspectacular, weekend for a McLaren team who’ve struggled to match the pace of rivals Renault and Racing Point in recent races.

    Magnussen, meanwhile, showed a surprisingly decent turn of pace before being ruled out with a splitting upshift-related headache, while Nicholas Latifi came within one second of Williams’, and his, first point this season after finishing 11th.

    THE OVERALL STANDINGS

    There’s a fair amount of stasis on the leaderboard this week, the only changes being Bottas moving back past George Russell for P8 – Russell's Imola score hurt by his spin into the wall under the Safety Car – while after his excellent performance at Imola, Kvyat has turfed Renault’s Esteban Ocon out of the top 10 that he briefly occupied after Portugal.

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