F1 drivers patiently await driving at unique Mugello circuit
Many of the grid also spoke on the prior experiences they have at the high-speed track.
As F1 teams embark on the Tuscan GP weekend, they do so whilst preparing to run a race on the first new track to grace the F1 calendar since the Baku street circuit did back in 2016. With this comes many challenges.
As they've yet to competitively run at Mugello, most teams - bar Ferrari - have any data from the track, and will have to learn in just two days and three practice sessions of preparation for Sunday's race. The F1 drivers will also have to make themselves familiar with the ideal lines through the sweeping corners of Mugello, learning the nuances of the lap across just three practice sessions.
Some have prior experience at the track, but even those that do will have to get reacquainted. Most, though, look forward to this process, a refreshing new experience in a season uncharacteristically falling into routine. Others also spoke to how the track, in combination with the 2020 cars, might race.
Here's most of the F1 drivers speaking on Mugello -
Drivers with no prior experience at the track:
Carlos Sainz (McLaren): "I haven’t driven here before, so probably I’m not the most position to give you an idea. I’m really looking forward to finding out. The track just looks how a track should look like, with a lot of cambered corners, medium-speed, high-speed. We miss that quite a lot nowadays in the new tracks with a lot of off-camber and 90-degree corners which don’t produce too much excitement. So nice to see these kind of tracks coming back, and nice to see them.
"I do believe that it won’t produce the best race, but for us F1 drivers, it will definitely give us a lot of excitement. And then McLaren, we’re normally pretty good on medium to high speed, so we are confident going into this weekend, but at the same time, we were not confident going into Monza and we performed. We might be confident here and we might underperform, so I prefer to keep it open and see how it goes."
Kevin Magnussen (Haas): "This will be my first time around this F1 track so I’m looking forward to it. It looks amazing but also hearing from Romain and what I’ve seen from the other drivers, they all say it’s an incredible track, so yeah, can’t wait.
"I’ve driven it in the simulator and already in the simulator I could tell that it is a spectacular circuit so, I am going to go and have a look at the track and obviously see what I can see from just cycling around, but it’s going to be very interesting and go out and have a go."
Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes): "I have never been in Mugello. I have never got to race here. It was really cool arriving. We did some running on the simulator. It was back like in the karting days. It is a beautiful track. I want to do a track walk it is my first time here. In fact, I may go for a walk with Roscoe and I will see the architecture and also this track. I will enjoy the learning process of discovering a new track."
Esteban Ocon (Renault): "I can't wait to be to be racing on this F1 track. I think it's gonna be awesome. Obviously I did some laps in the simulator. It felt hilly already but you know, going to walk down or I had the run last night. And it's just completely different. You know, it's kind of a roller coaster and it's an old school circuit, when we all love old schools circuits as racing drivers, very rewarding. There are special corners, good banking, quite rough on tires as well. It's going to be probably.
"So yeah, I can't wait to be tasting that on this track and to drive those new cars. Because, of course, I heard, for example from Johnny, he said in the 90s It was awesome. But, those cars have evolved so much. So it's gonna be awesome. I don't think there is a reason why we cannot perform at this track. Of course, it's a bit of a unknown for everyone because, obviously no one has raced recently, there has been some testing but nothing really serious.
"It's gonna be a little bit down to who's gonna be the quickest reacting and the quickest on adapting to obviously a new track and everything so we don't have much data, so it's a bit of a guess for what downforce we need to go, or how we set up the car and everything so, it will be about seeing if 8 or 9 are flat or not. And then maybe you can drop the downforce a bit."
Daniel Ricciardo (Renault): "A new F1 circuit. You do lean on the simulator. Try to find a few videos online to have a look that, I think you know now this point in the season we're in such a kind of high rhythm with the frequency we're racing at. So I think, we've got obviously a lot of time on track in practice, so it's not something we really need to rush into. You know, I don't think we need to be a hero in FP1. For sure we can't mess around.
"But we've got enough time I think if it was first race of the season and we hadn't, you know, raced for months, maybe a different story, there's a bit more urgency but I think we got time on our side to build up and go through the process properly. But driving on a new circuit like...it does, it does bait you in. You do want to go fast, straight away. It's fun, you know, and I've never had probably so much excitement for a Friday practice. It's been a while: unless it's a Thursday in Monaco."
Drivers that have driven at Mugello before:
Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo): "I think it’s nice to go to a new place. It’s obviously not new for driving… I did a race here in Formula Renault a long time ago. We did testing here with McLaren, we did testing here with Ferrari, I did my first test here. The Ferrari finals used to be here, so we did a lot of those, driving here. For the race it will be very interesting. I think it will be very difficult to overtake. Obviously if no one makes a mistake it’s difficult.
"We’ll see how it is and try to figure out lines and make the car work as well as we can, and go from there. From my first test here, I remember quite a bit, because it was something completely new that I hadn’t done before. The time has gone quickly, because it doesn’t feel like 20 years ago. Obviously it’s a long time, half of my life. Something new started in my life, and obviously we spent three days here."
Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo): "It’s a completely different track, with a lot more downforce, and fast corners, only one straight which is long, but not like Monza. So we’ll see. I think qualifying will again be really important, because to overtake here I think will be quite difficult. We have to make sure that we are in a good position in the quali, and then see what happens in the race. It’s always really special to be here in Italy, last week in Monza, this week here in Mugello.
"It’s a new track for me, I just did one test back in 2018 with a GT car. So it will be a new track, a new experience for me. I can’t wait. I did a track walk this morning, and it looked like it will be really amazing with these new F1 cars. I can’t wait to be in the car, and we’ll see also in qualifying with a lighter car when we’re pushing 100%, it will be a really fast track, with really fast corners."
Alexander Albon (Red Bull): "I think it's gonna be the most physical track for drivers this year, possibly ever. The lowest gear is fourth gear. So it's going to be it's going to be fun, especially on our necks, I’m sure we’re going to feel it. It's a really cool circuit, it’s nice to be going to these old school circuits with proper history, and it has that character that you don’t always get with new F1 circuits. So it’s a thumbs up.
"I was doing a bit of sim, getting up to speed with the circuit. It’s always a little bit difficult, there’s nothing to compare it too, or even if there’s previous data, it’s old. It’s kind of like, how does it feel? It feels like a track. That’s pretty much been it. I’ve looked at some on-boards and things like that, but there aren’t many onboard of F1 cars at Mugello.
"On paper I would say downforce levels are kind of an in-between of maybe Barcelona and Spa if you could say that? And Silverstone. We've got a long one into Turn One. That's one thing. But of course, it's most probably going to be a balance of these high speed corners, if we can do it flat or not. It will be tricky out there. I think it's going to be quick, obviously. But I wouldn't be able to tell you until we drive out."
Max Verstappen (Red Bull): "I came here a few weeks ago to drive in a GT car, because I have not been here before. I think that is the best way to learn a track. I mean you can drive it on the simulator, but I haven’t done that. Of course the car is a bit slower but it’s still fun. Yeah, that is important, it gives you a little bit of a head start. I know of course that other drivers have been racing here. It’s going to be very fast compared to Suzuka.
"I think every track is a bit different, and the layout is different. There’s are always things you need to work on on the set-up, but overall we try to get as close as possible. That’s different on any track. And on my side, not too many laps. I mean, you just look at it and you try to of course to pitch it at where you think it's going to be at.
"It all depends on how fast you can actually go through the fast corners. I guess we'll find out. I think with a bike you can always overtake in every corner. So no, it's different, different driving lines. What I said before, it's more important that I just got here and drove a bit myself, and have a first understanding of the track. But Friday will be an important day to just learn even more, and see where you are with the car."
Lando Norris (McLaren): "I raced here in 2015 in Italian Formula 4, so it’s been a while. I don’t know. I think we have good expectations, a lot of it is in the unknown for what it is going to be around here. The lowest gear we use is third, probably fourth, so it’s just very different, very abnormal, so you set up the car in quite different ways compared to normal. So there’s just quite a lot of unknowns, even for us, knowing what the car can achieve. There’s also some strengths for what the car can achieve around here.
"We’ll have to wait and see on the car’s performance, but I think especially in qualifying, the Arrabiatas will be quite easily flat, which is impressive, because I remember that it was not easily flat here in F4. It’s weird. You have to walk the track and really feel it to get to feel what it was like. It’s quite cambered, the corners, massively uphill, but this track is the pure performance and definition of what a F1 car can achieve in such corners, such medium and high-speed corners, and just goes to show the limit for us as drivers. Physically it’s going to be very tough.
"But also what a Formula 1 car can achieve nowadays. The track has even changed slightly since then. I don't even remember the track being cambered in so many of the corners. I think some of the bumps have gone from what they used to be, so I don’t think there’s any advantage for anyone. Maybe within the last year or two years possibly, but anything before, probably not.
"I think simulators are very good, but at the same time, it was very late notice for us to know that we’re going to Mugello, so maybe everything was not as perfect and up to date as all the tracks that we normally go to. You have a good enough of an understanding driving a F1 car in a simulator of what you need to achieve coming to a track like Mugello. But driving a Formula 4 car here six years ago, it’s not something I’m very fond of."
Lance Stroll (Racing Point): "I think I’ll still be a bit rusty like everyone else here, and I think Formula 1 cars are 30 seconds or more faster than Italian F4 car. I think there can be some adapting to be done. It’s a great track and I think it’s going to be mega in these cars, so I’m looking forward to getting out there tomorrow."
Romain Grosjean (Haas): "Mega. Absolutely mega. And obviously 2012 is a long time ago. I do remember a bit of that testing but with the new generation of cars, it’s going to be absolutely outstanding. So I’m really looking forward to drive it. Maybe for the overtaking maybe not the best in the world, but for driving and enjoying ourselves, oh, it’s going to be very high on the list."
"It’s very different to Monza. There are basically no low speed corners here. So you don’t really need that low speed, good front end mid corner and good traction at exit, you really need a stable car to the high speed and a lot of confidence into your car going in to those very high speed corners. And yes, that’s what we need to work on and getting the best of the aero platform and making sure the tyres stay in the operating window through the corners."
"I think there is [adequate run-off]. I guess the FIA has got much more simulating tools to find out, but I think it’s good to see circuits where we have gravel and not run off with tarmac and so on. It really closes down the problem of track limits. So I’m really happy that we are here, you know, it’s very similar to Suzuka in a way. And I think we are all looking forward to it."
George Russell (Williams): "I’m incredibly excited to come to these races. I’m really excited for Mugello, I’ve raced here once with Charles in 2014 I think when we were competing in Formula Renault. Incredible circuit. In terms of ranking, I’d say the one I’m most excited for is probably this one. It’s so fast, it’s so flowing, it’s going to be an absolute killer physically. Turn 6, 7, 8, 9, absolutely flat out, probably. 280 kph. Maybe I’m overhitting it a bit there. Flat out in seventh gear I think anyway.
"The ranking then, overall on the calendar, except for the Bahrain short circuit, which I am excited for for different reasons, the other four are probably in the top 10 circuits from a normal calendar, just how good they are. This one I’m most excited for, probably Imola next followed by the Nurburgring and Portimao, and Turkey. But all of them I’m really excited for. Great job to F1 to give us that opportunity. It will spice things up a bit because we won’t have our usual prep ahead of the weekend. Might give us a chance, I hope it will, and maybe we need to do this more often, moving forward.
"Maybe every year we need two joker races or something. Maybe what they need to do is Bahrain short circuit, but you need to do a joker lap on the old circuit. Just one joker lap on the old circuit, like rallycross. That could be pretty spicy. We’ve got a lot of drag so we’re entering it a bit slower. I think Arrabiata will be quite easy flat. It’s the corners before, Casanova and Savelli, those are the difficult ones. I hope it will be. We’ll try. We’ve done a sweepstake to see who is going to do it first. We’ll let you know on Sunday."
Nicholas Latifi (Williams): "I raced here in my first year in cars in 2012, in Italian F3, so a long time ago, and I did a test day here in 2014 in Formula 3 as well. It seems quite a bit different from what I remember, but my rankings, I would have to say again, this is probably the one I’m most looking forward to out of all of them. Then I’d probably say Istanbul next. Just seems like a really cool, flowing track.
"To be honest, among Imola, Portimao, Nurburgring, don’t really have a specific rank for them, but like they’re all great tracks. I think interesting to see how it goes without as much historical data on some of the tracks. Actually quite curious to see how the Imola weekend specifically, with the two-day weekend format, way less practice time, how that is going to pan out. See if that is maybe something F1 is going to adopt moving forward."
"It helps if I do have experience on the track before, which most of them I do have some sort of experience. The teams won’t have as much historical data to go off of, so in a way everyone is taking a bit more of a shot in the dark in terms of how you’re going to arrive on the weekend. Imola is specific as well because we only have one practice before qualifying and the races. It will be exciting."
Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari): "Mugello may be better than the past week ends. It should be a bit more positive. Lets see how it goes. We have done a filming day [and it was] difficult for the neck."
Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes): "I was at Mugello in 2012 at the tests and I have some experiences. Mugello is a bit more narrow and not a lot of room for mistakes and runs off are quite technical with corner combination. I am going to enjoy driving there like here . It is going to be very challenging."
[This story was written by me for FormulaRapida and edited by Darshan Chokhani]