Formula 1 Tuscan Grand Prix-Ferrari 1000
It seemed plenty of drivers agreed with Mark Webber after Friday practice – The fast, flowing, intense layout of the Tuscan circuit made it a true test of skill, which would have to be something all F1 drivers cherish.
While a Ducati can hit 361km/h on the pit straight, an F1 car only goes to about 320km/h with DRS, but with the obvious advantage of downforce, the F1 lap is some 30 seconds faster.
Duncraig Dan 2020, Chapter 9: Under The Tuscan Sun
The first of these one-off circuits, Ferrari-owned Mugello, usually the home of the Italian MotoGP, became the 75th different circuit to host a Formula 1 Grand Prix, in what was the celebration of Ferrari’s 1000th Grand Prix.
Despite this being the 1027th race of the World Championship, the Scuderia had previously withdrawn from 27 races – The last being when Patrick Tambay was seriously injured for the Swiss GP of 1982…. which was held in Dijon, because Switzerland had banned motor racing.
To mark this historic moment, the Tifosi were allowed back to the stands in limited numbers (At a mere 1200 Euros a ticket), the livery of the 2020 Ferrari was changed from the iconic scarlet red to maroon/burgundy, matching the colour of the Scuderia’s first entry at Monaco 1950:
And the FIA celebrated by painting the Mercedes Safety Car in scarlet red, making it likely to be the only red car to lead a race this year.
So we had a Black Mercedes, a Pink Mercedes, and a Red Mercedes.
The other major piece of news – The worst kept secret in F1 was finally confirmed when Sebastian Vettel was confirmed to drive for Aston Martin/Racing Point in 2021, which leaves Sergio Perez without a drive for next season.
Sergio’s disappoint build-up continued when he had to watch Lance Stroll receive the team’s new aero parts first, then the Mexican was was handed a 1-place grid penalty for hitting Kimi Raikkonen at Turn 1 during Practice 2, caused by ignoring blue flags as he left the pits into Turn 1.
Speaking of Kimi, Saturday was the 20th anniversary of the first time he drove an F1 car, which amazingly enough, was for Sauber…. at Mugello!
Same old, same old – It didn’t matter if the drivers had next to no reference points on how to throw these cars around the fast-flowing Mugello, Mercedes dominated.
Lewis Hamilton claimed his 95th pole position, once again shattering the mind of Valtteri Bottas, who had topped all 3 practice sessions and Q1, only to witness his regular tormentor edge him by 0.013s in Q2, and again in Q3 by 0.059s.
It is worth noting that Hamilton isn’t exactly thumping Bottas to claim pole on a weekly basis – 3 of the last 4 poles have been decided by within one-tenth, but Lewis is just…. Lewis.
Max Verstappen was the only realistic chance at beating the Mercedes on Sunday, starting from a clear 3rd, and Alex Albon was able to give Red Bull a hope of putting pressure on Mercedes by securing 4th on the grid, apparently the first time both Red Bulls had qualified inside the Top 4 since Daniel Ricciardo left after 2018.
The end of Q3 was ruined by Esteban Ocon, who managed to spin off at Turn 3 and leave his Renault in a vulnerable position, bringing out the yellow flag in Sector 1 and ruining the final laps of the most of the Top 10, except Hamilton, Verstappen and Charles LeClerc, who was able to keep 5th on the grid in that Maroon Minardi.
Daniel Ricciardo had the pace to put his Renault 5th on the grid, as demonstrated in Q2, but he got caught in the yellow flag and started 8th behind the Racing Points, who effectively swapped positions with the Perez penalty.
Some of the other noteworthy performances – Lando Norris missed Q3 for the first time in 2020, Kvyat and Raikkonen both set a 1.16.854 (Kvyat set his time first and started 12th), Pierre Gasly had a massive comedown from Monza and was dropped out in Q1 to start 16th , and George Russell, despite putting 2 wheels in the gravel on his final lap, was still able to out-quality Nicholas Latifi, which means the Brit is now 30-0 against his teammates in Qualifying.
Race (59 Laps)
The last treat for the Ferrari 1000 came just before the race – Formula 2 Championship leader Mick Schumacher driving Michael’s F2004 on a demonstration run.
In a repeat of Hungary, the Red Bull mechanics were frantically trying to fix Max Verstappen’s car on the grid, this time after noticing a problem with the power unit software, but it was apparently fixed before the grid was cleared.
Turns out it probably wasn’t.
When the Tuscan trek began, Bottas jumped Hamilton on the uphill run to Turn 1, LeClerc somehow picked his way up to 3rd, Ricciardo got around Perez, and Verstappen jumped well before his engine issues suddenly flayed up again and sent him falling back, right into the path of the oncoming carnage at Turns 2 & 3.
Gasly was the meat in the sandwich between Raikkonen and Grosjean, and contact between the Alpha and the Alfa dislodged Gasly’s front wing and sent him veering into Grosjean on his right, Raikkonen speared straight into the back of Verstappen and put the Red Bull in the gravel, and in a separate incident, Stroll and Sainz banged wheels and the Spaniard went around, and poor old Vettel had nowhere to go, and had his front wing dislodged via light contact with the McLaren.
So the Monza winner was gone, Verstappen was gone for the second race running, although I suspect Max would’ve retired anyway, while Grosjean went straight through the gravel trap, into a barrier and eventually back onto the track, and Raikkonen avoided major damage and continued on.
The red Safety Car was called out, and with Bottas leading, Mercedes set a new record of 32 consecutive races leading at least one lap, breaking the tie of 31 with the old Williams-Renault from 1995-97.
After the clean up was done, the SC peeled in to start Lap 7, but just as the race restarted, there apparently hadn’t been enough midfield carnage.
With no overtaking until the control line, Bottas waited until the start-finish line to finally floor it (As per the rules he maintained a consistent speed), but the unsighted midfield cars just went too early after seeing the green light, and were left slamming on the brakes, causing a major concertina effect as the Alfa Romeo of Giovinazzi speared into the Haas of Magnussen, Sainz had no time to react and hit both of them, and Latifi was hit hard by Giovinazzi’s wreckage and had to retire the Williams on the spot, leaving 14 cars remaining.
Somehow, despite finding himself in the second major incident of the race, Grosjean survived and copped a faceful of carbon fibre, describing it, among many things, as “****ing stupid.”
Because of the shards of carbon fibre littered on the pit straight, the Red Flag was called out on Lap 8, the first time since Monaco & Canada 2011 that the Red Flag has appeared in consecutive races.
As the race stopped, Ocon’s rear brakes were on fire (Something George Russell behind him had noticed in the SC), and would have ended in a DNF under a green flag – Renault were allowed to replace several parts in the red flag, but it proved to be a fatal problem, and the Frenchman was withdrawn from 10th before the race restarted.
It had to be a hilarious coincidence that the week after the Williams family bugger off from the team, George Russell was suddenly a realistic points chance, because he inherited 10th.
With the teams taking the option to change tyres, both Mercedes changed onto a new set of Medium tyres to take a strategic stranglehold on the race, while most of the field took a new set of Soft tyres.
The race restarted at 3:55pm, some 30 minutes after the crash, and Hamilton nailed the second start and reclaimed the lead down the outside into San Donato, the Racing Points jumped up to 4th and 5th to begin heaping pressure on LeClerc, and Ricciardo was able to maintain 6th after Albon began poorly.
As the race settled down and the Mercedes built a 10-second lead, Ricciardo showed the power of DRS with a tow down the pit straight on Lap 15, flying past Perez down the outside before they’d even arrived at San Donato.
San Donato was the prime overtaking spot on the track, and keeping up this theme, Stroll finally passed LeClerc for 3rd with DRS on Lap 18, and just behind them, Albon passed Perez for 6th.
With the massive difference in straight line speed, Ricciardo breezed past LeClerc’s Ferrari on Lap 19, as the Maroon Minardi just couldn’t compete in a straight line, and tempting fate, Renault were once again putting themselves in a great position to claim that elusive podium!
Albon was back up to 5th the next lap, Perez joined in the mugging of LeClerc the next lap, and the Maranello mob decided to call him straight in for Plan C – The Hard tyre to try and run to the end.
Further down, it looked like Russell was still more than holding his own against Vettel in 9th and 10th, which on the balance of probabilities, shows just how crap Ferrari are that they now can’t knock out a Williams in straight fight.
In the fight for 3rd, Ricciardo had closed up to within a second of Stroll, and Renault decided to go for the undercut by pittng Dan The Man on Lap 28, with a 2.4s stop putting him just behind, Kvyat as Norris had been weighing up an undercut on Perez, but he needn’t have bothered, because the McLaren passed the Racing Point with DRS down the pit straight.
That was the start of the pit acitivty – Vettel came in, Raikkonen had a botched stop when the jackman didn’t realise the left rear HAD gone on, Perez, Norris and Kvyat came in, Stroll pitted on Lap 30, and by the time he re-emerged, the undercut had worked for Renault – Ricciardo was ahead of the Canadian!
Bottas pitted on Lap 31 after reporting vibrations on his tyres, going on the Hard tyre after requesting the alternate tyre choice to Hamilton, but when Hamilton pitted the next lap, Mercedes put Hard tyres on Hamilton’s car.
I imagine Valtteri was sounding like George Bush after he realised that.
After Albon came in on Lap 33, the official order was Hamilton, Bottas, Ricciardo, Stroll, Albon, Perez, Norris, LeClerc, Kvyat and Russell in 10th, with Vettel, Raikkonen and Grosjean outside the points.
In what would apparently be the last scheduled stop, LeClerc pitted on Lap 38, going on the Medium tyre, which makes you wonder why Ferrari even bothered with that 17-lap stint on Hards.
Meanwhile, Ricciardo was still about 1.8 seconds ahead of Stroll, driving to a number to manage his tyres and the gap behind, which always seemed to be dwindling, while Alex Albon really came to life on the Medium tyre, closing up to within 1.5 seconds of Stroll, setting the fastest lap on Lap 39, which was making the fight for 3rd very interesting!
On Lap 43, the gap had closed down to 1.2 seconds, but it came to a crashing end when Stroll went careering into the wall at Arrabbiata 2 due to an apparent high-speed puncture caused by kerb contact, bringing out the SC again, and giving everyone a free pit stop to go to the end of the race, which also allowed LeClerc to get back up to 8th place.
So that meant the entire podium from Monza last weekend didn’t even finish this weekend.
After about 2 laps behind the SC, it became apparent that the barriers needed repairing, and on that note…
IT WAS TIME FOR ANOTHER RED FLAG, the first race since Brazil 2016 that two red flags have appeared in a race.
That came on Lap 46, and because Red Flags don’t count towards the 2-hour time limit, the race was still going to go full distance, despite the fact it was going to finish
Meantime, the Italian fire marshals were hard at work dealing with the destroyed Racing Point, first hooking it up to the crane WHEN IT WAS ON FIRE, then they tried putting out the fire WHEN IT WAS STILL ON THE CRANE, WHICH DID NEXT TO NOTHING.
Eventually they were able to get it down, rip off the bodywork (Stuff your aero upgrades) and fill the insides with extinguisher foam, which gave us this classic moment where a fire marshal just gracefully flings an extinguisher away after it goes empty.
Well, if the fire hasn’t destroyed 98% of the engine components in that car, the foam definitely did.
As for the cars still in the race, it seemed like the second Red Flag really didn’t help Ricciardo, given his tyre management had been wiped out, Russell lost all his momentum, while Raikkonen was given a 5-second time penalty for crossing the white line on the pit entry, after getting a late call to pit under the Safety Car.
The race would restart at 5:12pm local time, and given the field would spend a lap behind the SC, it was set for a crazy 12-lap sprint to the finish, and fair to say, I was shitting myself for Danny Ric, due to the fact that 2nd-4th-6th was apparently the better side to start from.
In the third race start of the day, Hamilton nailed the jump and won the race there and then with a fantastic getaway, and behind him, RICCIARDO JUMPED BOTTAS, Perez and Albon fought for 5th, and behind them, Raikkonen went from 11th to 8th, and Russell had a terrible getaway and fell from 9th to 12th, as the great dream of Williams points was given a kick to the gonads.
Kimi also got the news that he’d been given his penalty, which gave us another all-time great Iceman radio message.
For someone named the Iceman, he gets very hot under the collar.
Ricciardo’s glorious run in 2nd was only fleeting, because Bottas breezed past the Renault at the end of Lap 49, in what was never going to be a fair fight with the Mercedes getting a tow, and just to make it even better for ‘us’, Albon had cleared Perez and was absolutely flying up behind Ricciardo, and with the DRS activated on Lap 51, the Red Bull was simply too quick to hold out into San Donato, and while the Thai driver was finally going to stand on the podium, the grand dream of a Renault podium, and a Cyril Abiteboul tattoo, would keep on waiting.
Hamilton and Bottas spent the rest of the race trading fastest laps, Perez, Norris and Kvyat were pretty much welded on for 5th, 6th and 7th, while the real action was the fight for the final points positions, because Raikkonen in 8th had his 5-second penalty hanging over his head, which meant he would drop at least one spot to LeClerc, while Russell was driving his nuts off and was back within a second of Vettel, and only 5.7 off Raikkonen.
Sadly for the Williams crew, Russell went slightly wide off Turn 6 on Lap 56, and that pretty much consigned him to 11th, still waiting for his first point in F1, as the final 3 laps went on without incident, as Raikkonen did just enough to not lose 9th and his first points of 2020.
So having nailed the second and third restarts, Lewis Hamilton won the greatest Tuscan Grand Prix ever seen for career win No.90, closing to within 1 win of Schumacher, with Bottas in 2nd as Mercedes got the maximum 44 points, Alex Albon finally claimed his maiden F1 podium after 2 previous near-misses, becoming the first Southeast Asian driver to stand on the podium, and for the third time in 2020, Duncraig Dan finished 4th, taking Driver Of The Day as some small consolation prize for an extremely hard day’s work.
There’s a funny stat – 8 cars retired from 8 different teams…. only Mercedes and Ferrari got both cars home.
It was also Hamilton’s 222nd points finish, surpassing yet another Michael Schumacher record, while Albon was also the first Asian driver to stand on the since Kamui Kobayashi at Japan in 2012, and the first Red Bull driver not named Max Verstappen to finish on the podium since Daniel Ricciardo won the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix.
That was Daniel’s last podium… Max has been up 25 times since.
A grand total of 12 drivers were warned by the stewards for “Inconsistent application of throttle and brake” ahead of the race restart on Lap 7, although nobody was actually penalised for causing the massive accident, as no driver was totally to blame.
Anyway, what does it matter, Formula 1 won’t come back to Mugello until the next global pandemic hits in the 22nd century.
That’s now 4 times that ‘Our hero’ has finished 4th for Renault.
Yes, it’s another top result, but I’d point out
FERRARI, RACING POINT AND MCLAREN HAVE ALL ENDED UP ON THE PODIUM THIS SEASON, AND ALPHA TAURI WON A BLOODY RACE.
COME ON, I JUST WANT TO SEE ONE MORE GODDAMN SHOEY BEFORE I DIE.
Next Race: Russia in a fortnight…