It’s always exciting when F1 races occur at a new track for the first time. Mugello is a fast paced flowing track in Northern Italy–a staple of the bike race calendar–which, astonishingly, has never held a Formula One race. Until now. So, was it worth the wait? It certainly was, as we were treated to a race beset with incidents, safety cars, crashes and restarts at the Tuscan Grand Prix.
Off the grid Hamilton gets a poor start, allowing Bottas to surge past into the lead. A good start from Leclerc saw him storm from fifth to third. At turn two, Stroll and Sainz clip wheels, sending the latter into a spin. Almost everyone avoids the stricken Mclaren apart from Vettel, who clips the car and damages his own front wing. Further down the pack three into two won’t go as Gasly is squeezed between Grosjean and Raikkonen. The three cars come together and consequently, the Alfa rear-ends an out of place Max Verstappen in front of them. After an initially good get away, the Dutch man lost power, with Red Bull sending the car down the order and well out of place in what would be a very short race for him. A safety car is called to clear the debris as well as the two beached cars of Verstappen and Gasly. It is one extreme to the other for last weeks winner: the highs and lows of Formula One racing. After six laps under the safety car we’re racing again–for a few seconds anyway.
When the safety car pulls into the pit lane it’s then down to the lead car to set the pace until they cross the line, which is when the racing restarts: there is no overtaking until then. The lead driver wants to catch those behind off guard, getting a drop on them to maintain a lead. Cars behind anticipate the lead car’s move, wanting to capitalise on getting up to speed before them and affecting an overtake when the racing begins again. So when will Bottas go? Very late. The whole pack are concertinaed and Bottas maintains a slow pace, presumably not wanting to give Hamilton behind him a tow. Further down the field, drivers anticipate the leader has accelerated— as would normally have been the case–and put their foot down, unable to react quickly enough when they come across the slower cars in front. We then see a massive multi car crash towards the back of the pack.
It sounds bizarre that some of the best drivers in the world could simply smash into the back of one another, but when it comes to visibility, the drivers are sat so close to the ground they simply can’t see that far ahead. For this incident, Giovinazzi in the Alfa Romeo can only see the car ahead of him–Latifi–therefore, when this car accelerates, Gionvinazzi assumes the race is back on and accelerates too. However, that is not the case. Latifii takes avoiding action and suddenly swerves, revealing a slow Haas, and leaving no time for the Alfa to react. Consiquently, Giovinazzi ploughs into the back of Magnussen. Sainz, behind Giovinnazi, also has no time to react and the resulting carnage brings out a red flag and the session is stopped. Thankfully everyone walks away unharmed from a dramatic looking smash
Eight laps in and we’ve had two restarts, seven retirements, and a red flag already!
The debris is cleared and we see another restart: third time lucky. This time Hamilton gets a flyer – passing Bottas for the lead around the outside of turn one. Albon gets a poor start, dropping him from fourth to seventh. Here the race really gets into its rhythm and we are seeing familiar patterns, paces, and battles take shape. The Mercedes take their lead and leave the others trailing, Bottas keeping Hamilton honest but ultimately never really challenging for the lead. Third place man Leclerc slowly drops down the field as the poor pace of the Ferrari is highlighted yet again. The car lacks power, is slow in a straight line, and has high drag. At one point Leclerc loses four places in four laps as the faster Racing Points, Renault and Red Bull cars sail past one after the other. On their 1000th Grand Prix, Ferrari do score points, however, I feel that has less to do with their actual pace and more to do with the eight non-finishers, many of whom would of undoubtedly finished ahead of the prancing horses. Vettel finishes with a single point in tenth after a race languishing around the back of the pack, and Leclerc finishes eighth after Raikkonen–who was in front of him on track–has five second penalty added to his race time.
This part of the race also sees a tasty battle for third establish itself as Ricciardo–who has kept pace with Stroll ahead of him–leapfrogs the Canadian in the pit stops, and fifth place man Albon chases down the pair of them. Lap forty three sees Stroll suffer a tyre failure at a high speed area of the track, which sends him into the barriers and calls out another safety car, a flurry of pit stops for new tyres, and eventually the second red flag of the race.
With the tyre barriers repaired and the circuit safe again, we have yet another restart and a twelve lap dash to the line. Hamilton again gets a great start, as does Ricciardo, who sails past Bottas into second, but the Mercedes driver uses his superior speed to regain the position in the following lap. Again, Hamilton and Bottas sail off and with Stroll out of the mix, the third place race is now on between Ricciardo and Albon. With eight laps to go, the Red Bull driver pulls a fantastic move round outside of turn one on Ricciardo, who is one of the hardest racers out there. He is set for his first podium and thankfully running nowhere near Hamilton.
The chequered flag falls on an incident-filled race: a race unlike others, yet still with many familiar patterns. Hamilton takes the win from Bottas, and Albon gets his well overdue debut podium in F1. This is the first ever podium for a Thai driver in F1 and a great response from Albon to those who have been questioning his position within the Red Bull team.
Perez, Norris and Kyvat came in fifth, sixth and seventh: all having relatively quiet races and managing–somehow–to avoid the various comings together. A late entry into the pit lane during the race for Raikkonen resulted in a five second penalty, demoting him to ninth. This was still a good points score for the Alfa Romeo team, however, and the Finn displayed some great driving within the race. Russell was unlucky in the Williams to finish last. Having run in the points for a considerable amount of the race, the last re-start saw the Brit drop to the back of the field. A shame for him and the team where races like this–with so few finishers–are the perfect opportunity to pick up points.
So what have we learnt from Mugello? It is fast! If you crash here, it’s going to be big and it is going to impact on the race. Once again the real tension was in the mid-pack, this time in the battle for third between between Racing point, Renault and Red Bull. Depending on conditions, circuits, and situations, the Mclarens and Alpha Tarui’s come to play as well and–for me–this is where we are seeing the best racing of this year coming from.
One more note from me about the weekend, but not the racing as such. I feel I can’t write a report on the race without mentioning Hamilton’s poignant and important statement: taking to both post-race interviews and the podium with a t-shirt emblazoned with “ARREST THE COPS WHO KILLED BREONNA TAYLOR” on live TV. Some say that politics and sport should not mix, but I think when we have inherent and systematic injustices and prejudices within society, we need to voice and highlight them as loudly and clearly as possible, to as many people as possible. This is what Hamilton is doing: understanding he can’t be silenced live on air and can’t be ignored standing on the top step of a podium. For me, that earns him just as much respect as his world championships and record-breaking driving talent.
Driver of the day: Alexander Albon
Honourable mentions: Daniel Ricciardo.
Tuscan Grand Prix Race Results
- Hamilton (Fastest Lap)
Next time we’re off to Sochi for the Russian Grand prix in two weeks time.
Where to watch
USA: Sunday 27th September Live on ESPN race start at 8:10am EST
UK: Sunday 27th September Live on Sky Sports F1 race start at 12:10pm GMT
Highlights on Sky Sports one (time TBC) and Channel Four at 5:30pm Sunday 27th September.