9 Points we can take away from the Tuscan Grand Prix
Hamilton stays out of trouble and wins the Tuscan Grand Prix in, what was, an incredibly chaotic race.
Tuscany, the home of the Italian Renaissance and Autodrome Internazionale del Mugello, which has hardly been altered since Ferrari purchased the track in 1974. Whilst the track is surrounded by Tuscany's breathtaking rolling hills, the drivers can feel over 5Gs on their neck for a few seconds at a time, making it one the most intense circuits to race around and, quite literally, breathtaking for them in the other sense of the terms meaning. Mugello will be the third fastest track in the 2020 Formula One season and the 3.3 mile circuit is almost equally divided between straights and corners - 48.5% being corners and 51.5% straights.
It was expected that there would be a 67% chance of a safety car, and looking at the earlier races over the weekend that were action packed, along with a predicted two stop strategy, we were all hoping for a good race, and boy oh boy, just like Monza, the Tuscan Grand Prix did not disappoint. One yellow flag and two red flags later, Lewis Hamilton won at Mugello closely followed by his teammate Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull's Alex Albon. Here is what we learnt...
Copyright: Williams Grand Prix Engineering Limited
1. Nothing is coming in-between George Russell and out qualifying his teammate streak
Despite missing out on FP3 due to a brake system issue, George Russell still managed to out qualify his teammate for the thirtieth race in a row. Not one to be out done, Russell put in his quickest lap of the weekend, a 1:17.232, even though he ran into the gravel at Turn 7. His teammate, Nicholas Latifi was faster than the Brit on the first two runs, but by keeping his foot firmly placed on the throttle and somehow keeping control of his car after his Turn 7 run in with the gravel, Russell just about got ahead of his Canadian teammate to take eighteenth place on the grid for Sunday.
During the chaotic race, and after the first red flag, Russell was in the respectable ninth position and was keeping Sebastian Vettel comfortably behind him. However, after the second red flag, Russell ended up in eleventh place due to a poor getaway at the restart and he was unable to catch up with Vettel. Russell put everything into the race and so it was majorly disappointing to see him not pick up any points.
"It is heartbreaking almost. The whole team had worked so hard, got ourselves in an amazing position P9, and it was well and truly under control and sealed. The car was feeling great. I was matching the pace of Sebastian and Charles behind me on the same life tyre and that red flag just threw it all away really. We made a really poor start just off the line. We don't know why yet because procedural wise everything was spot on... Nevertheless, just bitterly disappointing because we deserved it and it should have been ours."
2. Ferrari's 1000th race
Ferrari celebrated their 1000th race by changing their bright Ferrari red livery to a deep burgundy to replicate the same colour as the Ferrari 125 - the first car to enter Formula One at the 1950 Monoco Grand Prix. Ferrari also celebrated their 1000th race with a celebratory soirée in Florence on Saturday night and we were also blessed in hearing the 2004 title winning F2004 driven by World Champion Michael Schumacher's son Mick Schumancher before Sunday's race. Michael Schumacher was definitely in our thoughts over the race weekend.
Ferrari had a better start to the weekend in qualifying, especially in the form of the Monegasque Charles Leclerc. Both drivers got through into Q2, however Sebastian Vettel would stay there and take fourteenth place on the grid. Charles Leclerc, on the other hand, did much better than anticipated and ended up fifth on the starting grid, albeit partly due to the majority of the drivers not being able to improve on their time in Q3 after Esteban Ocon span out causing a yellow flag.
As the lights went out, Leclerc got a perfect getaway to take third position and did well not to crash into Verstappen who was loosing power. Behind Leclerc, a driving incident between Lance Stroll and Carlos Sainz, caused the McLaren to spin and Vettel could not get out of the way quick enough and clipped Sainz, damaging his front wing and forcing him to pit for repairs. At the second restart, Leclerc once again got a good start and maintained third position, however, with the faster Racing Point behind, Leclerc did will to fend off Stroll on Lap 16, whilst Vettel had DRS to overtake Räikkönen for eleventh. By Lap 18, Stroll had the Ferrari in sight and overtook Leclerc on Lap 18, before Leclerc was then overtaken by Albon on Lap 20. Leclerc then pitted on Lap 22 onto a hard set of tyres in the hope that that would last him throughout the race, however, by Lap 38 Leclerc had to pit again for a set of mediums. At the second restart, both Ferraris did not get the best start off of the line and Leclerc lost two positions, whilst Vettel lost one. Both Ferraris managed to overtake Romain Grosjean to take ninth and tenth, but with Räikkönen's five second penalty, Leclerc and Räikkönen swapped positions. Ferrari's 1000th race will probably be remembered for the wrong reasons, however, both Ferraris did managed to score points for the third time this season.
3. Another crazy start to the race
Whilst Bottas had gotten off the line quicker than Hamilton to take pole position, Verstappen was loosing power and places meaning, our hopes that the two Red Bulls were going to put pressure on the Mercedes, were dashed. Around Turn 2, Carlos Sainz and Lance Stroll fought for track positions causing them to come together and Sainz spinning, which then caused Vettel to have front wing damage as he hit Sainz. Behind them, Pierre Gasly was sandwiched between Alfa Romeo, Kimi Räikkönen, to his left and Romain Grosjean in the Haas to his right, thus causing last weeks race winner, Gasly, to collide with Räikkönen, who then locked up and hit the back of Max Verstappen as Gasly the went off into the gravel, taking Grosjean with him. Although Grosjean hit the barrier, he managed to keep the car going and drove back onto the track. Verstappen and Gasly however, were not as lucky, and both cars were firmly parked in the gravel, ending their race, thus causing a yellow safety car and onto our next point...
4. A chaotic Lap 7 restart indicates that new rules may need to be put in place
On Lap 7, as the safety car went in, and Bottas had not even accelerated off yet, there was four car pile up between Giovinazzi, Latifi, Magnussen and Sainz. In front of those drivers, around Ocon and Kvyat, they were anticipating Bottas accelerating off, and hoping to move up positions, drivers started accelerating and then braking causing a concertina effect. As Magnussen braked, Latifi just about missed the Haas by swerving to the left of him, but Giovinazzi could not apply the brakes quickly enough and hit the Williams. From the onboard camera with Sainz, it appeared that all he could see were the drivers accelerating and then by the time he saw that the Haas had almost stopped, it was too late and he smashed straight into the back of Magnussen causing a red flag. After investigating, the FIA could not conclude who was at fault as no driver was fully to blame, however, they did clear Bottas of any responsibility, stating he complied with regulations.
FIA Race Director, Michael Masi, concluded that there is no need to review the Safety Car restart rule and instead, placed the blame on the drivers, however, in races where the control line is close to the pit lane exit, should there be a rule in place to limit the drivers inconsitstently applying the throttle and brakes?
5. Bottas was not fast when it counted
Valtteri Bottas was the fastest driver throughout all three practice sessions and Q1, yet when it counted most, he failed to produce the fastest time in Q3. Bottas was somewhat unlucky during Q3 as, whilst he was going faster during his second lap, he had to pull out due to Ocon causing a yellow flag out in front. On race day, Bottas got off to a great start, whilst Hamilton had the slower start, meaning Bottas took pole position, however, after the second restart, Hamilton had a much better start and capitalised on the slipstream from Bottas and overtook him to regain first place. Bottas tried to push the Mercedes and told his team that whatever strategy Hamilton was doing, he wanted to do the opposite to try and put pressure on Hamilton and take the lead from him. Bottas had a slow second restart which put him behind Daniel Ricciardo, and so he had to deal with overtaking the Renault before he could try to put any pressure on Hamilton. Once Bottas passed Ricciardo, despite his efforts, Hamilton always managed to keep a one second gap between the two drivers meaning he took his nintieth career victory.
6. Redemption day for Alex Albon
After his teammate, Max Verstappen, was out of the race due to a power unit issue and also crashing out on Lap 1, this was a race in which Albon had to capitalise on and get himself on the podium as he was now the third fastest driver in the race and had been under a lot of scrutiny recently. If Albon and Red Bull have anything to learn from this race, it is that he needs to get a better start off the line as this is where he looses positions and ends up fighting for positions the hard way. During the start of the race and the two restarts, Albon lost at least one position every time, but fortunately, for the Thai-British driver he is brilliant at getting his elbows out and overtaking, and he did just that. After getting a poor start off the line in the last restart, he lost fourth position to Sergio Perez, but he managed to pass Perez superbly and regain fourth position. Albon, lap after lap, closed the gap on Daniel Ricciardo in front, and with the help of DRS, had enough pace to make a brilliant pass around the Renault around Turn 1 and left Ricciardo for dust to take third. Albon thanked his team on the radio for sticking with him during a tricky season for the Thai and getting him his first podium. This weekend should be a huge confidence boost for Albon, not just because he got on the podium, but he stayed incredibly close to his teammate's pace throughout qualifying.
7. Daniel Ricciardo - Driver of the Day
We were so close to seeing Daniel Ricciardo back on the podium again downing champagne from his shoe whilst thinking about what tattoo his Team Principle, Cyril Abiteboul, should have. If it was not for Lance Stroll's crash on Lap 42 at Arrabiatta 2 then that would have been our reality, but on the last restart, although Ricciardo had a great start off the line and got up to second, it was only a matter of time before Bottas got Ricciardo and put him back into third place. There was no point in Ricciardo fighting what was going to be the inevitable and so, sensibly, he let Bottas pass pretty easily, before Alex Albon was all over him due to the Red Bull purely having better pace and overtook him on Lap 51. In the words of the Aussie himself:
"It's at the end of the last part of the race, that final restart, Albon showed more pace than he had all race and we didn't have an answer for that. He was really quick on the softs, on lower fuel, and it looked like that suited them more than us. I felt really good in the car but third sector was where he had us and that's where you latch on to the DRS... If there wasn't a red for Stroll, I guess, we had track position at the time and the medium was looking pretty good for us."
If it had not been for the second red flag, we would have more than likely seen Ricciardo on the podium, but, Mugello was a circuit that did not particularly favour Renault so hopefully, in the next few races to come, Ricciardo can capitalise on more favourable circuits and get the podium he deserves.
8. Kimi Raikkonen got into the points for the first time this season
Twenty years ago, a young Kimi Räikkönen was stepping into a Sauber to take his first ever test lap around Mugello after his managers, David and Steve Robertson, convinced Peter Sauber to take a chance on a man who said little and, instead, let his driving do the talking. For a driver who had only done twenty races in Formula Renault, Räikkönen had impressive pace and, on the second day of the three day test, the Iceman was half a second quicker than Sauber driver, Pedro Diniz, yet he had done less than half the laps of Diniz. Impressed by his pace, Peter Sauber convinced the FIA to give Räikkönen his super licence and hired him for the next Formula One season.
Forward twenty years and Räikkönen, has so far, completed his best race weekend this season back at the track where it all began. The Finn put in a solid lap to get him into Q2 for the third time this season, and ended up putting in a 1:16.854, the same time as Daniil Kvyat, taking thirteenth place on the grid and a position above Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel. Räikkönen did not have the cleanest start to a race and found himself being hit by a sandwiched Pierre Gasly to his right meaning he went straight into the back of Max Verstappen. Fortunately for Kimi, he came out of the collision fairly unscathed, but he still had to pit to repair his chassis. On the Lap 7 restart, he was fortunate to not have got tangled up in the four car collision in front of him, but he received a five second penalty after cutting the pit the lane entry during the yellow flag due to Lance Stroll's accident which then turned into a red flag. Räikkönen finished the race in eighth place but was demoted down to ninth once the five second penalty was taken into account for. Nonetheless, Räikkönen was given his first points of the season.
9. We would love to see Formula One come back to Mugello again
Mugello was exciting for viewers to watch and drivers to race around and so it would be great to see Mugello become a regular, but how feasible is it? The only reason we got see a chaotic race in Tuscany is due to the chaotic 2020 we are currently having. The drivers echoed each other in praising the old school track which leaves no room for driver errors, yet it gives room to overtake around Turn 1 and allows drivers to go almost flat out around most of the course.
Whilst it is more than likely that this track will be a one off, if it were to be a serious contender then the infrastructure would need improving, and it could quite easily be argued that the reason for the good race was down to the fact the teams were stepping into the unknown and had no data to go off of, so instead, maybe Formula One needs a few "one off" tracks every season which spices things up.
The other factor that would need to be considered is the fact that Formula One is not going to leave Monza and so is there room for two Grand Prix in Italy?
I'm certainly looking forward to Formula One coming back to Italy and racing at Imola in a few weeks time given Italy's current track record this season. So far the two most exciting races have come from the two Italian Grand Prix at Monza and Mugello. It just goes to show how cruel of a sport Formula One can be sometimes with all three drivers that were on the podium at the previous race, were out in the next one. With all the action from the last two weeks I already have withdrawal symptoms... although the break may be a good thing as I'm not sure my heart can deal with all the race action.