Mugello Circuit in Tuscany, Italy, hosted its first Formula One race this weekend, and what a race it was. The race was exciting with two red flag periods and many multi-car pile ups but the Mercedes dominated again.
This weekend was Ferrari’s 1000th Grand Prix and they celebrated by changing their livery to a deep burgundy, the colour of the first Ferrari F1 car.
Also this week, Perez announced he would be leaving Racing Point (rebranding as Aston Martin next year) at the end of the season and Vettel would take his place after losing his seat at Ferrari to Sainz.
Having not raced here before, drivers and teams wanted as much time on track in Free Practice to master tyre choices and strategies ahead of the 59-lap race. The circuit is fairly narrow at some corners, probably due to hosting motorbike racing more than cars. There are also a lot of gravel traps which means any mistake could result in retirement from the race. The tight 5G corners are straining on the driver’s necks so many of them will be aching on Monday.
There were a few incidents in Free Practice. Latifi spun into the gravel in FP1 but sustained no damage whilst Norris’ spin in FP2 brought out the red flag. Perez and Räikkönen later collided bringing out another red flag and resulted in Perez being handed a 1-place grid penalty.
Russell ran wide into the gravel on his flying lap in Q3 but still managed to improve on his first run time, somehow, and out qualify his teammate, making the tally 30-0.
Last week’s race winner, Gasly, only managed to qualify 16th and Norris didn’t get through to Q1 for the first time this season, starting 11th.
Hamilton secured his 95th pole position, with his teammate in second. The two Red Bulls started 3rd and 4th. Bottas got an amazing start off the line to jump Hamilton, as did Verstappen until something went wrong and he dropped like a stone. The mechanics clearly hadn’t fixed the issue. Leclerc managed to gain places from 5th to 3rd.
After the long straight came turn 1, a hairpin which does not support three abreast racing. Two separate incidents occurred here resulting in the first safety car of the race. Sainz was pinned by Stroll and spun across the track, taking the front wing of Vettel with him. Further back, Gasly tried to make a move happen and ended up colliding into and on top of Räikkönen, who hit Verstappen and Grosjean. Grosjean managed to get out of the gravel trap but Verstappen and Gasly did not; the first two retirees of the race. This safety car period ended at the end of lap 6 but the restart was ugly.
Normally, the driver in first hangs back from the safety car and accelerates away suddenly towards the safety car line (where overtaking can occur from) to try and keep his lead but Mugello is different. The straight is 1km long, meaning if Bottas had hung back and accelerated, he would have been swamped into turn 1 so instead he weaved up to the line then pulled away; however, those at the back of the pack did not know this. The lights went green when the safety car pulled off, so the drivers at the back of the pack assumed the race is up to speed and wanted to hit the power. Only when Giovinazzi closed in on Magnussen at an alarming rate did he realise others had not accelerated yet. Giovinazzi ploughed into the back of Magnussen and Latifi, then Sainz hit the mess of carbon fibre. Grosjean and Vettel behind narrowly avoided the pile-up. The red flag is immediately brought out. All the drivers emerged from the wreckage but went to get checked over by the medics. In an interview after the race, Sainz says by the time he realised the pack had not pulled away he was going 290 km/hour and there was no time to do anything to avoid it.
“Everyone is okay which is the main thing because that crash was very scary. It looked like we were racing, then we were not racing and all braking again.”
During the red flag period, Ocon’s brake ducts overheated so he was forced to retire, leaving only 13 cars for the standing restart.
The second standing start of the race was much cleaner than the first. Hamilton got back past Bottas for the lead of the race, Leclerc maintained 3rd, while Albon slipped down to 7th.
Leclerc’s underpowered Ferrari soon started showing as he lost places to Stroll, Ricciardo, Albon and Perez before pitting onto hard tyres on lap 22.
Bottas tried to play the strategy card over a radio call for this pit stop saying he wanted ‘the opposite of Lewis’ to try and catch up on the next stint of the race. This tactic didn’t play out for Bottas as his tyres drop off a cliff and so he needed to pit before Hamilton. Both Mercedes are changed onto hard tyres.
Ricciardo successfully undercut Stroll with his pit stop, taking 3rd place behind the two Mercedes. Leclerc had to pit again only 17 laps later onto the mediums having shredded the more durable hard tyres much quicker than they’d thought.
Bottas pitted, but Hamilton didn’t, meaning the safety car picked up Bottas from the pit exit by mistake. Hamilton was then free to lap slightly quicker than the safety car and build a lead meaning when he pitted at the end of that lap and the safety car picked him up, he was still the race leader. The red flag is then waved once again as the Racing Point is pluming smoke and flames.
With 12 cars left, read the ending to the race here.