Carnage at Mugello! F1 2020 Season Review: Tuscan GP
Plus a podium for Alex Albon!
Carnage. Carnage is the word I would use to discuss today's Tuscan Grand Prix that saw Red Bull's Alexander Albon finish on the podium for the first time in his career! Formula One has now ticked Mugello off the list of circuit's it has raced at in one action-packed race, and this article is going to take a look at the race in detail. But first, let's take a look at qualifying.
Qualifying for the Tuscan Grand Prix was always going to be tricky for this year's F1 drivers as they have never driven around the circuit before. Valtteri Bottas set the pace in practice, topping all three of the sessions and looked to be a contender for pole, though he would later get beaten to the front spot by a struggling Lewis Hamilton after a yellow flag on his final lap...
Q1 saw the elimination of Monza's race winner Pierre Gasly after a costly mistake on his final run, putting him into 16th place. Behind him, we saw the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi, followed by the two Williams of George Russel and Nicolas Latifi, with Kevin Magnussen qualifying behind them in twentieth.
The second qualifying session saw Lando Norris miss out on the top 10 for the first time this year, but putting him in a good position to start the race on a fresh set of tyres. The second Alpha Tauri of Daniil Kvyat would start alongside him in 12th, while Raikkonen and Vettel would start a row behind them in thirteenth and fourteenth. Romain Grosjean was the slowest of the Q2 runners, putting his Ferrari-powered Haas into fifteenth.
The final session of the qualifying shootout saw Lewis Hamilton take pole position, ahead of Valtteri Bottas who likely would have achieved pole if Esteban Ocon hadn't spun his car at Turn 3. Bottas was forced to slow down on his flying lap, and could not achieve a faster time than Lewis Hamilton. The Finn blamed himself, saying that he was at fault for not setting a faster time on his first Q3 run.
In third and fourth would be the two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alex Albon. Red Bull were looking quick during practice on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, but were still a few tenths behind in qualifying. Charles Leclerc would be the star of qualifying, putting his SF1000 into fifth place for the 1,000th qualifying session that Ferrari have participated in. While this is not a position Ferrari fans would have expected this time last year, it seemed to be a relief this year during Ferrari's struggle to reach Q3.
Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll would qualify in sixth and seventh respectively, but would switch grid places after Perez received a penalty for a collision with Kimi Raikkonen in FP2. Daniel Ricciardo qualified in eighth place, ahead of the driver he will be replacing at McLaren next year, Carlos Sainz. Esteban Ocon would qualify in tenth place after his spin.
Now that we are all caught up with qualifying, let's move on to the race!
There was once again pre-race drama for Red Bull when Max Verstappen had another engine issue that was similar to the cause of his retirement at last week's Italian Grand Prix at Monza. The problem was to do with the software of the engine, but seemed to be fixed for the formation lap, where the Dutchman got a smooth getaway.
As the five red lights went out, it was Valtteri Bottas that capitalised on a bad start by Lewis Hamilton by cutting in front and taking the lead into the first corner. Max Verstappen also got a better start than the number 44 Mercedes and drew alongside to challenge for second; but Max's engine issue seemed to return and caused him to drop multiple positions.
Charles Leclerc was another winner of the first lap, jumping Alex Albon at the start and making his way past Verstappen (whose engine started to lose electrical deployment at this point) by the first corner. Lance Stroll dives down the inside and puts pressure on Alex Albon, before going wheel-to-wheel with Carlos Sainz after the long right-hander that is Turn 1. Carlos Sainz forces Stroll wide before spinning his McLaren all by himself, causing Perez, Norris and both Renaults to take avoiding action.
(Regarding the tweet above, that red safety car looks fantastic!)
A little bit further back, Pierre Gasly found himself sandwiched between Romain Grosjean on the outside and Kimi Raikkonen - who is one of the most fair racers on the grid - on the inside. Grosjean damages his sidepod in the damage and spins gently into the barrier, but is able to get his car going again. Gasly completely loses his front wing and spins into the gravel trap while Raikkonen locks up after the impact, rear-ending Max Verstappen in the process. Verstappen would also spin into the tyre barrier, but would not be able to get his car going again.
Max Verstappen has not been very lucky in the last two races, failing to finish both of them. If Verstappen hadn't had the engine issue at the launch, he likely wouldn't have been involved in the incident - though he likely would have retired with engine issues anyway. It is also worth noting that Sebastian Vettel was caught out by the spinning McLaren of Sainz, losing his front wing and pitting at the end of the first lap. After the accident, the safety car was deployed to recover the cars that were beached in the gravel, pick up the debris and clear the track of gravel.
The race would soon be restarted for the best part of fifteen seconds, when a huge pileup occurred on the start-finish straight, bringing the number of retirements up to seven. Valtteri Bottas was trying to replicate Lewis Hamilton's usual restart tricks of backing up the pack and launching his car when nobody expects it. However, the number 77 Mercedes would leave this too late, and the cars at the back of the grid would start accelerating when they saw green flags flashing on the boards.
Nicolas Latifi was the first to start a concertina effect of multiple cars accelerating before the leaders. Antonio Giovinazzi would follow the Williams, with Carlos Sainz accelerating behind him. Nicolas Latifi would realise that the rest of the field hadn't started to speed up and would move over to the left of the circuit before slowing down; meaning Giovinazzi had nowhere to go. The Alfa Romeo would crash into the back of the Haas of Kevin Magnussen, promptly causing Sainz to brake hard and move to the left. Sainz would then heavily hit the back of Giovinazzi, pushing him into the side of Latifi and briefly putting the Alfa Romeo on its side. All of the cars would glide to the left of the circuit, with Grosjean weaving between them and collecting debris on his tyres.
Many of the drivers that were involved in the impact blamed the leader of the race (Bottas), and called his actions 'dangerous' for those at the back of the grid. According to Autosport, 12 drivers were given warnings for the actions that occurred during the restart. The safety car was immediately deployed before a red flag was called for the second race in a row.
Another standing start would occur on Lap 9, this time with Valtteri Bottas in the pole position spot. Despite a lot of smoke rising from Lewis Hamilton's brakes, the Briton would tuck into the slipstream and have more confidence on the brakes going into Turn 1 - going around the outside of his teammate to take the lead of the race. Alex Albon has a bad getaway from his box and loses three places on the pit straight, while Vettel passes Grosjean around the outside of Turn 1. Ricciardo makes his way past Perez on the main straight while Stroll puts pressure on Leclerc, who is in third at this point and falling far behind the dominant Mercedes cars.
Vettel overtakes Raikkonen around the outside of Turn 1 the following lap, a move that he would make a lot during this race, while Stroll finally passes Leclerc to reach the podium positions for the second race in a row. Leclerc loses places to Ricciardo, Albon and Perez over the next three laps, with his Ferrari still struggling with top speed. Charles' engineer asks him if he would like to switch to 'Plan C', with Leclerc responding with "What do we have to lose?" before pitting at the end of the lap to fit the Hard tyre.
Lando Norris received a bizarre radio message, asking if he would like to undercut Perez in front without any code-words to make the strategy a secret. The McLaren driver would agree, but many of us believed this was a psychological move as he would overtake Perez a couple of laps later. Daniel Ricciardo would pit on Lap 28 for a set of Medium tyres, starting a chain of pitstops to prevent drivers losing their positions. Bottas would pit after saying that they were 'dead' over the radio, but Hamilton opted to stay out as his tyres were 'fine'; though he would pit a lap later to cover the undercut move by Bottas. Albon would pit at the same time as Hamilton, fitting the Medium tyres in the process; though this seemed like a strange move by Red Bull as both Mercedes had fitted the Hard tyre. Lewis Hamilton would retain the lead of the race, ahead of Bottas, and Ricciardo - who had jumped Stroll for third during the pitstops.
Leclerc would continue to struggle in his under-powered Ferrari, being passed by Lando Norris' Papaya-coloured McLaren and being put under pressure by Daniil Kvyat. Leclerc then pits again to switch his Hard tyres for a set of Mediums on Lap 38.
Six laps later, and Daniel Ricciardo is being chased down by Lance Stroll in third place, followed by an Alex Albon that is setting fastest laps and flying through the field. The camera cuts to Daniel Ricciardo as he takes the Turn 9 right hander (the fastest corner on the circuit) flat out, followed by the sound of gravel. Lance Stroll had spun at a flat out corner and crash heavily into the wall, bringing out the safety car, then the red flag for the second time.
Both Mercedes drivers had received warnings by their engineers to keep off the kerbs as it was damaging the tyres, which is why Bottas was struggling so much in his first stint. The cause of Lance Stroll's accident at Turn 9 was caused by a left-rear puncture that sent the Canadian spinning through the gravel traps. It took a while for the Racing Point driver to get out of the car as he was shaken (you could hear it in his voice on the radio), but thankfully he was okay!
The red flag would be deployed to fix the barrier and recovered a destroyed car at Turn 9, but the race would continue at another standing restart on Lap 46. This restart was the third time in Formula One's history that there have been two standing restarts in a race, and thankfully this one was a lot more clean.
As the five red lights went out for a final time in Mugello, Ricciardo jumps Bottas after a bad start for the Finn. Perez passes Albon going through the first corner, but Alex makes a fantastic move around the outside of Turn three to take back his position in fourth. Raikkonen would also be informed that he received a 5-second time penalty for crossing the pit-lane entrance line during the safety car, and the time would be added to his race result.
Bottas overtook Ricciardo in an easy move around the outside at Turn one on Lap 48 of 59, and the race started to settle down again, with Albon putting Ricciardo under pressure for third. Albon would pass Ricciardo around the outside of Turn one - just like Bottas - at Turn 1. Russel also makes his way past Grosjean after a great exit from the final corner and makes the final overtake of the race.
Lewis Hamilton crosses the line to win his 90th Grand Prix, while Bottas crossed the line in second and must have wondered where it all went wrong. Alex Albon scored his first podium in F1 by finishing in third, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in fourth, one place short of that Renault podium he has been waiting for!
Wow, what a race that was. While the start of the race was incredibly exciting with all of the drama (thankfully, nobody was hurt!); while the rest of the race was average. I would rate the first Formula One race at Mugello a 7 out of 10, and I would love to see the circuit return to the calendar over the next few years! What did you think of the Tuscan Grand Prix? Be sure to let me know in the comments below.
In the meantime, you can check out the full race results below:
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