Lewis Hamilton won an eventful Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday to secure a record seventh consecutive constructors championship for Mercedes, a feat he described as “something to tell my grandchildren”.
The six-time champion capitalised on teammate and pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas’s misfortune to notch up his 93rd career success and extend his lead in the drivers’ title race.
Bottas took second with Daniel Ricciardo of Renault in third.
A clearly emotional Hamilton hugged Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff, lifting him off the ground.
“People watching at home might think we are used to this, but to be part of breaking a record like this is incredible. It’s overwhelming right now,” he said.
“I look at my team and I think of everyone back home at Brackley (Mercedes base in Britain). They’re unsung heroes.
“They are the ones that have continued to graft away, never given up. People watching think we are used to it, but it always feels like the first because of the spirit of this team.
“We have a great leader in our team and a big, big thank you to Mercedes.
“Seven times champs! That’s something to tell my grand-children.”
Wolff said: “I’m not so much into the numbers, but this is something to be proud of – as long as we can stay energised and motivated, I think we can push it for ever. We are looking forward to a new challenge.”
Any hopes Bottas had of denying Hamilton were undone when debris from a Ferrari car lodged behind his front wheels, costing him valuable time.
‘Over my limits’
“I think the damage made a big impact for me today,” he said.
“The start was good and that was one of the main things to get right today.
“Then out of Turn Seven, there was debris and I didn’t have time to avoid it.”
He added: “I pushed hard to stop letting Max (Verstappen) through and I went over my limits which led to a few mistakes… Unlucky.”
Hamilton and Bottas, together with Ricciardo, were awarded special trophies for their podium finishes.
All featured a tribute to Ayrton Senna, including a 0.14 carat diamond to mark the location of Tamburello where the Brazilian lost his life during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
Sergio Perez was sixth for Racing Point, Carlos Sainz finished seventh ahead of his McLaren team-mate Lando Norris and the two Alfa Romeos of Kimi Raikkonen, in his 325th Grand Prix race, and Antonio Giovinazzi.
On a near-perfect autumnal afternoon at Imola with temperatures of 18 and 25 degrees for air and track, Bottas made an equally bright start from his 15th pole while Verstappen surged past Hamilton for second.
On lap nine, after an excellent start, Pierre Gasly was called in to retire his Alpha Tauri from fifth.
“We have a terminal situation, we have to box and retire,” said the team, citing a coolant leak.
Hamilton then produced successive fastest laps to lead by 25 seconds before Mercedes told Bottas his floor was damaged.
Bottas then slid wide at Rivazza and Verstappen seized his chance to take second. With 16 laps to go, the Dutchman began his chase after Hamilton, who led by 14 seconds.
His charge was soon over. On lap 51, his car failed – seemingly due to an instant right-rear puncture — as he braked and he lost control, crashing into a gravel trap and out of the race.
A full Safety Car period ensued, during which both Bottas and Hamilton pitted, before George Russell crashed, while weaving to warm his tyres behind the Safety Car.
“I don’t know what to say,” he told Williams.
All this drama left Hamilton leading Bottas, when the Safety Car came in, for a six-lap dash to the flag.
Formula One takes a break next weekend before returning for the Turkish Grand Prix on November 15 where Hamilton could wrap up a record-equalling seventh drivers’ crown.