Why Mugello has earned its place on the F1 calendar
Why Mugello circuit has already done enough to become a perminent F1 fixture.
For the first time in the sport's history, Mugello has hosted Formula 1 Grand Prix. Or should I say, at the time of writing this, is in the process of hosting one. A circuit owned by Ferrari, but more well known for hosting the Italian round of MotoGP, there was scepticism about F1 taking to the circuit for the first time.
As we know, Mugello was not originally in the pipeline for F1 in 2020. With the FIA and F1 looking to add enough races in a reworked calendar throughout the middle of this year, thanks again to COVID-19, Mugello was selected to become the second of three races that would take place in Italy this year, with Monza last weekend and Imola returning to the calendar for the first time since 2006 in a November slot.
As a circuit, I did not really know all too much about Mugello. I have a tendency to watch and keep up with MotoGP when I can, and Mugello is one of the race weekends I enjoy very much. Of course, motorcycles and cars are very different, and what could make it an interesting circuit for motorcycle racing in terms of overtaking and racing usually is the exact opposite of four wheels.
Of course, with this being written during the build up to the Grand Prix itself, it is hard to comment whether the race will be actually any good, but we have seen a number of races on the circuit already thanks to F2 and F3 and one thing that stood out was the massive overtaking opportunities thanks to DRS and the long straight into turn one, San Donato.
The wide opening corner gives massive opportunity to overtake on either the inside or outside, and often left drivers in the junior formula wheel to wheel in exciting battles through the next couple of corners. Mick Schumacher showed us this morning it's also possible to overtake at other parts of the circuit, such as turn eight, Arrabbiata 1, and turn fourteen, Bucine.
Looking back at the F1 action we have seen so far this weekend, it is becoming clear that this is definitely a very demanding and physical circuit for the drivers, and completing the fifty-three laps in the gleaming Tuscan sunshine will be no easy feat this afternoon. What I love about Mugello so far is the sheer speed of the circuit and that it is so demanding. It's a proper circuit that is proving quite the handful for the drivers, Renault's Daniel Ricciardo claiming he was 'out of breath' after one of his fast laps during yesterday's qualifying.
The circuit itself is a mix of medium to high-speed corners, and absolutely no sign of tarmac run-offs anywhere. A proper old-school circuit. There is a belief that some circuits and their corners, such as Monza's Parabolica, are no longer the challenge they used to be due to the introduction of tarmac run-offs. But Mugello is a circuit that demands respect and concentration and will punish you hard if you get it wrong, such as we saw with Nicholas Latifi and Lando Norris during practice on Friday.
I was a bit concerned coming up to this weekend that the cars would be out of proportion with the circuit itself but I have to say, watching F1 cars blast around Mugello is insanely satisfying. From turn six, Casanova to turn nine, Arrbbiatta 2, is completely flat-out in today's F1 machinery and watching the drivers taking these couple of corners absolutely on the limit is astonishing. I also love the idea of race control imposing no track limits this weekend, with the idea that if a driver goes off, they are going to be trialled by either a gravel trap or some grass. So stay off it. Simple.
Mugello is a throwback to the circuits of old, the circuits that were once good but have been butchered by extremely long run-offs and tweaked corners, where drivers know they can escape if they get it wrong. Mugello demands full physicality and concentration from drivers and I am sure we could see an odd slip-up or two this afternoon.
As a circuit for F1, I have fallen in love with Mugello and I honestly believe it has earned its place on the calendar. Beautiful scenery in the Tuscan hills, a hard, punishing layout, fantastically quick and demanding corners and that super-long straight for good effect. F1 needs the Tuscan Grand Prix as a permanent fixture. If the circuit can handle full MotoGP capacity, then surely F1 can too?
My only worry is that if it does become a permanent fixture, the FIA and Mr Tilke will try to butcher it also, but I sincerely hope they don't. I've always said one day, I want to go to Spa for the Belgian Grand Prix, but if Mugello becomes an addition to the calendar, I could see a trip to Tuscany shortly after.
Mugello has the ultimate combination for F1. A demanding, punishing circuit that requires your full respect and concentration. A circuit that dares you to overtake at turn one and then pulls you into a sector-long battle and the iconic countryside views and soaring heat to boot. It's F1 in a nutshell for me, and it's why Mugello has earned its place on the F1 calendar.