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Hamilton wins at Imola as Mercedes clinch constructors' title

(Reuters) - Mercedes became the first team to win seven successive Formula One constructors’ titles on Sunday as Lewis Hamilton celebrated a record-extending 93rd career win at Imola to stand on the brink of a seventh drivers’ crown.

Formula One F1 - Emilia Romagna Grand Prix - Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Imola, Italy - November 1, 2020 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium with the trophy after winning the race Pool via Reuters/Miguel Medina

Hamilton came back from third place at the end of the opening lap to lead Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas in a Mercedes one-two at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at the Italian circuit.

The Briton, who took the chequered flag 5.783 seconds ahead of pole man Bottas, also banked a bonus point for the fastest lap to extend his lead to a hefty 85 points with four races remaining.

Hamilton can now equal Ferrari great Michael Schumacher’s record seven titles in two weeks’ time at the Turkish Grand Prix.

Bottas is the only rival remaining in mathematical contention, meaning Mercedes have also taken seven successive championship doubles, after Red Bull’s Max Verstappen crashed out with a sudden tyre blowout while in second place.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo finished third for Renault, his second podium of the season for a French team now third overall, with Russian Daniil Kvyat fourth for AlphaTauri .

“What an incredible achievement for all of you. I am so proud of everybody and I am so grateful to be a part of it,” said Hamilton over the team radio after being told of the constructors’ success.

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“People watching maybe think we’re used to this but it always feels like the first with this team and I think that’s because of the spirit,” he said after stepping out of the car.

“It’s unbelievable... seven-times champs. That’s something I’m going to be able to tell my grandchildren one day.”

Verstappen’s exit 12 laps from the end sealed the constructors’ title since Red Bull had to score 34 points more than Mercedes to keep the championship open beyond Imola.

The Dutch driver had passed Bottas, struggling with a damaged car and debris lodged under it, on lap 43 of 63. His under-pressure Thai team mate Alexander Albon failed to score in 15th place.

A virtual safety car on lap 31, following the retirement of Renault’s Esteban Ocon after Bottas had pitted, played into Hamilton’s hands with the Briton coming in for fresh tyres and rejoining in the lead.

The real safety car was deployed after Verstappen’s incident, with the Dutchman declaring over the radio that ‘something broke on my car’.

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Williams’s George Russell, looking good for his first points in Formula One, then speared into the tyre barrier 10 laps from the end while trying to warm up his tyres behind the safety car.

“I don’t know what to say,” he said in dismay before getting out and crouching by the side of the barrier.

Canadian Lance Stroll also caused some drama when he overshot his pit-lane stop and sent the waiting front jack mechanic tumbling to the ground.

French driver Pierre Gasly, who qualified fourth for AlphaTauri, was the first retirement of the afternoon with a power unit problem.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc finished fifth with Mexican Sergio Perez sixth for Racing Point after a podium had looked to be his for the taking.

McLaren’s Carlos Sainz was seventh with team mate Lando Norris eighth.

Alfa Romeo also celebrated a double points finish with Kimi Raikkonen ninth and Antonio Giovinazzi 10th.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Clare Fallon

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