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Hamilton on top amidst Mugello madness

NEWS STORY
13/09/2020

After Spa and Monza, if you thought things couldn't get any worse for Ferrari, you clearly didn't watch last night's official celebration of the Italian team's 1,000th race as part of the Formula One World Championship.

Even in his darkest hour, Mattia Binotto never looked as defeated and broken as he did last night, the TV cameras cruelly catching him as he bravely fought the urge to yawn, possibly scream in frustration.

In all honesty, the Pitpass team caught it by accident, and for the few minutes we managed to endure before switching channels we sat... jaws resting on our chests... even the Pitpass felines in obvious shock.

If there is a God, we pray that he offer the Maranello outfit some small crumb of comfort this afternoon to make up for the obvious pain all involved were put through last night.

If last night's celebration was painful to watch, up to now the Mugello weekend has been a joy.

After all, what's not to love, the sight of F1 cars averaging over 150 mph against the backdrop of the Tuscany countryside. For once, TV viewers might actually be encouraged to visit a host circuit, unlike Baku, Abu Dhabi or China.

Sadly, as is so often the case with races these days, from the outset we have been 'conditioned' to accept the fact that there are few overtaking opportunities, hence the race could prove to be processional.

However, they said that about Monza, and as Lewis Hamilton proved, 'where there's a will...'

Furthermore with two pit stops expected to be the norm, this should also add a little spice.

While he was off the pace in qualifying, Max Verstappen should take the fight to the Mercedes pair this afternoon, his long run pace on Friday every bit the match of the Black Arrows. Also good to see, cat-lover, Alex Albon in the mix. Hopefully, the Sky crew will ease off on the 'Albon out, Gasly in' agenda for a couple of hours.

Be it luck, judgement or an, ahem, engine upgrade, Charles Leclerc did well to qualify fifth, though he will be hard-pushed to remain in that position for long this afternoon. As for Seb, as if starting 14th wasn't enough, the poor devil had to sit through that debacle of a celebration last night when he could have been back in his motorhome watching his Monty Python DVDs.

The Points qualified sixth and seventh, but all too often we see the pink cars drop-off in performance come Sunday. Of course, Sergio Perez might feel he owes nothing to the Canadian team, and while a strong performance might impress potential employers, are there really any top-notch vacancies remaining?

Renault and McLaren are nicely mixed up, though the Woking outfit's performance has been somewhat erratic here thus far. On the other hand, Ricciardo continues to impress.

It was surprising to see neither AlphaTauri make it into Q3, or in Pierre Gasly's case, Q2. Nonetheless, the Faenza outfit is more than capable of adding a few more points this afternoon.

How great is it to see Kimi Raikkonen still enjoying his F1, and still showing some speed. Having made his debut here 20 years ago, and subsequently joining Sauber, a move that outraged (FIA president) Max Mosley, surely nobody would begrudge The Iceman a point or two this afternoon.

As for Haas and Williams, Antonio Giovinazzi and possibly Sebastian Vettel, it's likely to be a long afternoon, albeit in some beautiful countryside.

Which reminds us of the tagline from Steve McQueen's 1971 classic, Le Mans. "Steve McQueen takes you for a drive in the country," it read. "The country is France. The drive is at 200 MPH!" Indeed.

For Valtteri Bottas, once again the race will be won - or lost - in the first few moments, the Finn really must ensure there are no repeats of his diabolical Monza getaway... another Steve McQueen vehicle, if you get our drift.

With high speeds and close gaps, strategy is going to be all-important: especially as tyre wear and degradation is expected to be quite high. That degradation, on the softs in particular, will be key to the strategy.

Both a one and a two-stop strategy are possible, but as always, the teams will try to complete the race with just one stop: especially those in the top 10 of the grid who all start on the softs.

On paper, a two-stopper is actually slightly quicker. The fastest two-stopper consists of two stints of 19 laps on the softs plus a 21-lap stint on the mediums (perhaps in the middle stint). The second-fastest two-stopper uses just one stint on the softs of 16 laps, then two stints on the mediums of 21 and 22 laps respectively.

Based on the tyres that the drivers have available, the one-stopper is slightly slower but very marginal on wear: starting on the softs and then switching to the hards on lap 22. This is the strategy that the top ten on the grid seem likely to go for.

The slowest - but more flexible - one-stopper will be a medium-hard strategy, switching tyres on lap 26. As always, these strategies can all use the tyres in a different order, depending on individual race circumstances.

Another factor to watch out for is the physical impact of the circuit, with some corners witnessing the drivers' necks having to withstand 5g. Make no mistake, these guys are super-fit, but the twists and turns and undulations over the course of this afternoon's 59 laps are going to be particularly demanding.

In many ways, Mugello is self-policing in terms of track limits, anyone straying too far off the black stuff taking a long and timely trip through the gravel. Nonetheless, drivers will be penalised should they attempt to straight-line the chicane.

We've said it before and we'll say it again - and with absolutely no offence intended - but if there has been one tiny little good thing to come out of this wretched pandemic, it is the sport visiting a track like this for the first time, while returning to the likes of Istanbul and Imola.

The pitlane opens and one by one the drivers head out.

A rousing rendition of Fratelli d'Italia by Andrea Bocelli, sets us up nicely for the race.

However, there is a lot of activity on the rear-right corner of Verstappen's Red Bull. Shades of Hungary? The problem is seemingly software related.

Ahead of the install lap the air temperature is 30 degrees C, while the track temperature is 44.8 degrees C. The sun is shining, it is a glorious day in Chiantishire.

Bottas is advised to pay attention to the wind sock. There's a headwind into Turn 1.

Other than the top ten, Norris, Vettel, Gasly, Giovinazzi and Magnussen start on softs, the rest on mediums.

As the field heads off on the install lap, Verstappen's late scare appears to be over.

The grid forms.

They're away!

Dreadful start for Verstappen. Verstappen is out he's off and in the gravel. As is Gasly.

There are two separate incidents in Turn 2. Further up, Sainz spins following contact with Stroll and is subsequently hit by Vettel, while, following his poor start, Verstappen is hit by Raikkonen and Gasly.

The safety car is deployed and Vettel pits for a new nose, as does Raikkonen.

It appears Verstappen suffered a loss of power prior to the clash, hence his rapid drop through the field.

Behind the safety car, it's: Bottas, Hamilton, Leclerc, Albon, Stroll, Ricciardo, Perez, Norris, Kvyat and Ocon.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Mugello, here.

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1. Posted by kenji, 14/09/2020 2:05

"I can imagine how difficult it is to put all the action into one report but you've done well Pitpass. I was totally disgusted at the ceremony display where blatant political statements are continuing to be allowed...It detracts from the racing and the efforts of the drivers and should not be allowed to continue. Catering to Hamilton's every whim debases the sport. The actual racing was wild at times and when it really got under way it was quite exciting. What it did, once again, was put the lie to Wolff's statement 'it's all about meritocracy' What a joke. 2000 staff and half a billion dollars? Sounds more like a dictatorship with no opposition to me!! Now that the Concorde has been signed Wolff's wings have been trimmed marginally in the case of changes requiring only a majority. He is panicking over the reverse grids as anything that puts his precious team under pressure to perform over the 'also rans' might just upset his plans!! I will endorse anything that breaks his hegemony. I'm so over them.

Lovely to see Albon get a reward for all his efforts. He drove well and this result will do wonders for his future performances...or it should. My grandson is part Thai exactly the same as Albon and they both have two things in common...very cool guys and being 'cat lovers'. As for the rest of the day..Well i absolutely loved Ricciardo's drive. Very impressive and a pity that he couldn't hold the Red Bull back as Abiteboul would ,by now, be wearing something rather permanent somewhere on his body as a reminder of what happened one auspicious day, a tattoo in Tuscany. The Mercedes were very boring as usual..nothing to see there. Looking forward to the rest of the season as it does look as though the midfield will give us something to enjoy. Just to finish i must say i was thrilled to see Daniel's lightning start at the last red flag where he split the Mercs. Absolutely brilliant. Driver of the day is a no brainer."

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2. Posted by Chris Roper, 13/09/2020 21:06

"At least last night's official celebration was "Subliminally Honest" about this years performance as they depicted management climbing the walls whilst the Pit Crew were have a Fit."

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