Lewis Hamilton collected his 90th career win at the hectic twice red-flagged 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix Ferrari 1000 at Mugello, finishing 4.8 seconds clear of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.
The 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix Ferrari 1000 was the occasion of F1’s first Grand Prix at the Mugello Circuit and also a celebration of Ferrari’s 1,000th F1 race. It was the perfect pairing. The track is a throw-back to the challenging race tracks of the late ’70s and ’80s, while the Scuderia is the embodiment of F1 history.
Mugello’s sweeping high-speed turns and chicanes are unlike any other circuit on the current F1 calendar and proved to be an ultimate test for both a 2020 Grand Prix car and pilot. More than a few of those teams and drivers came away with failing grades.
Lewis Hamilton may have been physically exhausted after those 59 laps of Mugello, but that’s the level of effort it took to hold off the determined Bottas. It looked to be the Finn’s day, but the twin red-flag periods conspired to put Bottas on his back foot just as he put himself in contention.
London-born Thai Alexander Albon finally overcame his string of bad luck to claim his first podium for third place. Hamilton also secured a bonus point for the race’s fastest lap, increasing his World Championship standings lead over Bottas to 55 points.
Through no fault of the circuit, the first-ever Formula 1 Grand Prix at Mugello will be remembered for its twin red-flag periods.
The Tuscan Grand Prix was stopped first on Lap 9 after a violent four-car pile-up. The race stopped a second time after Lance Stroll lost control of his Racing Point through the second Arrabbiata, violently crashing into the tyre wall.
Expectations were that the Mugello Circuit’s sweeping up-and-down flow and its series of relentless high-g direction changes would challenge drivers to nail the lap consistently. Without any prior Grands Prix to supply data, Mugello would the perfect test to see which driver/team could muscle a super-quick, ultra-high downforce car atop the leader board in qualifying trim.
In the end, it was no surprise that Mercedes locked out the front row, with Lewis Hamilton pipping Valtteri Bottas by under a tenth.
Bottas was hindered in his last runs in Q3 by the yellow flags brought out by a spinning Esteban Ocon. Hamilton was unable to improve which would have given the Finn an opportunity, but having to slow down ruined any chance he had of taking advantage of it.
Close behind, Red Bull locked out the second row with Max Verstappen his usual three tenths back with Alexander Albon his usual half-second slower than his team-mate.
Any surprises? Yes, Pierre Gasly, last week’s winner, was eliminated in Q1 and Charles Leclerc reached down deep and found enough speed to put Ferrari on the third row for its 1,000th Grand Prix.
While drivers tightened their belts on the grid, Max Verstappen’s Red Bull mechanics were feverishly thrashing under his engine’s cover, as they tracked down a software issue. Satisfied they solved the glitch, 20 cars would take the start.
At lights out, Hamilton bogged as Bottas exploded into the lead as Leclerc vaulted up into third from fifth, but it was not long before his car’s chronic speed and handling deficiencies overpowered the Monegasques’ skill and he fell back down the order.
At the same moment, Verstappen’s engine slipped into harvest mode – leaving the once again powerless Red Bull dropping down the order.
With Verstappen just a passenger, the Dutchman gets punted from behind by Kimi Raikkonen just before Turn 2 and flies into the gravel. He’s out on the spot, with last week’s Monza winner Pierre Gasly, also tagged by Raikkonen, joining him in retirement.
Following the moderate Safety Car period, race leader Bottas controlled the pack’s pace before the restart on Lap 7 to prevent Hamilton, who he had beaten off the start-line, from using the slipstream to pass him into Turn 1. The order was Bottas, Hamilton, Leclerc, Albon, Stroll and Ricciardo.
However, as Bottas neared the start/finish line to restart, some of the following drivers deep in the rear were too eager to accelerate, and a few resumed “racing” thinking that the race had restarted. They were wrong – Bottas hadn’t even reached the start/finish line. The result – another series of collisions between cars in the middle of the pack.
A concertina effect followed with Antonio Giovinazzi slamming into the back of the Nicolas Latifi. McLaren’s Carlos Sainz had nowhere to go and hit Giovinazzi with the Italian driver sent airborne. Haas driver Kevin Magnussen also exited dramatically as all four cars ending up in the barriers bordering the pit straight.
Just the first eight laps completed and only three corners taken at racing speed.
For the second time in consecutive Sundays, a Grand Prix was red-flagged to deal with the debris, causing a 26-minute delay.
When racing resumed Mercedes chose medium tyres as did Russell and Raikkonen. Everyone else was on softs.
At the standing start on Lap 10, Hamilton took Bottas around the outside at Turn 1 despite a relatively slow getaway from the line. Leclerc held third, 2.1s off Bottas, but Albon dropped to seventh behind the Racing Points and Ricciardo.
Out front on Lap 20, both Mercedes left the field behind with Hamilton 1.6sec over Bottas. Leclerc slid back to sixth place.
By Lap 42, Hamilton remained on course for an easy win built up a seven-second lead over Bottas – but on Lap 46 the race was stopped for a second time.
On Lap 43, Lance Stroll’s Racing Point, running fourth, suffered a left-front tyre puncture in the second Arrabbiata. The Canadian crashed violently into the tyre wall but emerged unscathed. Bottas pitted, while Hamilton stayed out until Lap 45 before pitting for mediums just before the red flag on Lap 46.
Racing resumed 23 minutes later for Lap 47 with the day’s third standing start. Hamilton again retained his lead, but Bottas slipped behind Daniel Ricciardo. The Finn made it back past the Aussie on the next lap. However, his best chance of beating Hamilton to the flag was over.
Albon then battled his way past Ricciardo at Turn 1 with eight laps remaining to claim his first top-three finish in his 30th attempt.
Ricciardo stayed fourth ahead of Sergio Perez, and Lando Norris’ McLaren in sixth, followed by Kvyat.
Leclerc and Vettel finished ninth and tenth among the 12 classified runners. Leclerc was bumped up to eighth after Raikkonen received a five-second penalty for illegally crossing pit entrance limits.