THE announcement that F1 would race at Mugello, better known for motorcycle racing, was met with excitement. But not in our wildest dreams could we have predicted the utter madness that Mugello delivered.
On Sunday, the racing pack had barely managed three corners before chaos descended. Three cars next to each other on the narrow Mugello circuit just don’t go as Pierre Gasly, Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen found out. For Verstappen and Gasly it was the end of the race while Raikkonen escaped albeit with damage to the front wing, bargeboard, and floor.
Verstappen initially roared off the starting line and looked for a moment to be challenging Lewis Hamilton for second. But the Red Bull suddenly lost power and was swallowed by the pack.
The safety car was deployed while stricken cars were recovered.
The Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas led the pack as the safety car pulled in, but mere seconds later, utter chaos erupted on the start/finish strait. Several drivers had misjudged the restart.
It meant that they had to slam on the brakes but those following behind had zero time to react. It resulted in a scary pile up which involved Kevin Magnussen, Nicholas Latifi, Antonio Giovinazzi and Carlos Sainz. Thankfully, all drivers escaped without injury.
Renault’s Esteban Ocon would retire from the race during the red flag period with rear brake failure.
The cars lined up on the grid for the restart. The drag down to the first corner meant that Bottas was always at a detriment and it proved to be exactly so, as Hamilton leapt into the lead of the race as soon as the lights went out.
Charles Leclerc valiantly held onto third place for several laps but was unable to hold off Lance Stroll who took third place on lap 18. Daniel Ricciardo, Sergio Perez, and Lando Norris also easily overtook Leclerc.
The race seemed to settle for a spell with Hamilton in the lead. Bottas kept his teammate mostly in sight until running into trouble with his tyres.
Meanwhile, Renault brought Ricciardo into the pits before the Racing Point. It worked a treat as the Australian secured third place over Stroll.
There was another lull in the race during which Stroll, now in fourth, and Albon, in fifth, were beginning to close the gap to Ricciardo. But just as Stroll was beginning to exert pressure, he appeared to suffer a tyre failure and crashed hard into the barriers, prompting the second red flag.
At the second restart, the roles were reversed and Bottas was in prime position to pick up Hamilton’s slipstream. However, he just couldn’t seize the opportunity and even briefly dropped behind Ricciardo. Albon, too, had a poor getaway but recovered brilliantly with a move around the outside of Perez for fourth. Next the Thai driver pulled off a brave move around the outside of turn 1 on Ricciardo to slot his Red Bull into third.
Ricciardo eventually finished an impressive fourth, ahead of Perez in fifth, Norris in a solid sixth and Daniil Kvyat in seventh for Alpha Tauri. On the track Kimi Raikkonen finished eighth ahead of Leclerc in ninth. However, these positions were reversed on the timing sheets due to a five-second penalty for Raikkonen, for cutting across the pit entry line.
Seb Vettel, who has announced that he would be an Aston Martin driver in 2021, finished 10th. George Russell was achingly close to scoring his first point in F1 but didn’t have enough pace to overtake the Ferrari.
There was great uncertainty as to what modern F1 would produce at Mugello. It’s an old school circuit with no asphalt run-off areas, which is a great test of driver and car. It’s a track layout that surely deserves a spot on the F1 calendar.
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