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F1 Grand Prix of Tuscany at Mugello Autodrome; A mess of a race but it still is a Mercedes walkover

Formula 1 Pirelli Gran Premio Della Toscana Ferrari 1000 2020 at Mugello Autodrome
• What a race – Three safety cars, two red flags, 12 finishers, Hamilton wins again

Mugello, Italy, Sept 13/20 (GRW): Where to start? This week F1 went to a track they had never raced on before, the Ferrari-owned Mugello Autodrome in Tuscany. The race was called the ‘Ferrari 1000' to mark Ferrari’s 1000th start in F1; not every F1 race ever but close to it. The Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas started on the front row. Bottas led the first nine laps and Hamilton led all the rest making for a one-two Mercedes win.

Alexander Albon (Red Bull) finished third, Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) fourth and Sergio Perez (Racing Point) fifth. As for the Mercedes drivers, Charles Leclerc was eighth and Sebastian Vettel was tenth, a good result these days for this team which has fallen so far from its standing as recently as last year.

But what really happened?

On the start, Max Verstappen, whose car had had problems before the race, started in the second row and, after momentarily pulling up alongside Hamilton, his engine seemed to shut off and it slowed, setting off a huge mess of wrecking cars – and bringing out the first Safety Car session. Verstappen’s car was finished as was that of his semi-teammate (and last week’s race winner) Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri.

The cars trundled around behind the Mercedes Safety Car until, on lap 7, the green was shown again. Unfortunately, Bottas who had taken the lead on the first start, was going slowly until the last moment while the drivers at the back of the field, who could see the ‘green’ from their vantage point but not Bottas, jumped on the gas immediately. Soon there was chaos as the back of the field plowed into those ahead of them.

This brought out a second Safety Car episode – and the cars had yet to complete even one lap under green. Three more cars were now wreckage on the track across from the pits and shards of composite fibre were strewn everywhere. Race Control called for a red flag to give the track workers a chance to clean up this mess.

By the time this was done a total of five more cars (making for seven so far) had been had been knocked out of the race.

After this, the cars were brought back to the grid for a make-over standing start restart – all 13 of them. Bottas was still ahead of Hamilton and it took a lap before the Brit got past him. The lap chart tells the story. Hamilton is credited with leading every lap after that on his way to his 90th Grand Prix win.

Leclerc had taken this second standing restart in third place but he was unable to hold off challengers from behind and on lap 18 of the 59-lap race, he started to fall back. He pitted out of sequence and took on ‘hard’ tires and after that he made some progress but he never was scored higher that seventh, ending the race in ninth place. Vettel’s day was even worse.

Soon after the first red flag, one of the TV commentators said, “He (Verstappen) was the race today.” For sure, once the Dutchman had been eliminated on the first lap, we had little to look forward to but another Mercedes one-two procession.

Once Hamilton had reclaimed the race lead, the race order was Hamilton, Bottas, Leclerc, Stroll, and his teammate Perez. On lap 18, Stroll got past Leclerc into third place and Canadians were starting to fantasize about seeing their boy on the podium again.

Stroll continued to run in third place as first Ricciardo and then Albon fell into line behind him. This period saw most of the cars cycle into the pits for a change of tires – mostly to ‘hard’s. Ricciardo came out of the pits in third, ahead of Stroll.

A couple of laps later, Stroll’s car went out of control and he slammed hard into the barriers. The car was a total wreck and it was smoking with a fire that refused to go out. The Safety Car – and then the red flag – was put out as a result. Stroll hopes of a podium finish – or any kind of finish for that matter – were over. Despite the severe damage to his car, Stroll seemed to be unhurt.

On this, the third restart, Ricciardo slipped ahead of Bottas for a couple of laps before Bottas got going properly and got back up into second place. Three laps later, Albon went past him to take up third and that was the way the race finished. Only 12 cars were running at the end.

Afterwards, Hamilton said, “Today was one of the most challenging days, physically and mentally, I’ve experienced. I’m pretty exhausted to be honest, but it feels fantastic to win such a crazy race. It’s all a bit of a daze and felt like three races in one day. It was incredibly tough out there, this track is phenomenal and Valtteri was pushing me hard, so it wasn’t easy at all. With all the restarts and the focus that was required, it was really hard. The first start wasn’t great and I lost the place to Valtteri, but then the second start was better and I got the place back. I had a comfortable advantage after that point but then there was another red flag. Anything could have happened on those restarts but fortunately on the last one, I got my best start of the day and was able to maintain my position. Valtteri was always right there with me and I couldn’t make a single mistake, otherwise he’d be right there to pass me on the straight.”

• Click HERE for the race results + the points standings
• Click HERE for the race’s lap chart
• Click HERE for the ‘tire history’

• The next F1 Grand Prix will take place at Sochi, Russia on Sunday, September 27

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