Hamilton on top amidst Mugello madness

13/09/2020
NEWS STORY

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.

Russell reports that Ocon's rear brakes are "on fire".

Replay shows Gasly hit Raikkonen, was launched into the air and then hit Verstappen for good measure, just moments after The Iceman also hit the Red Bull.

"I got crashed into," reports Grosjean, the Frenchman adding a few well-chosen expletives for good measure.

"I had a good launch, got round Lewis and then it didn't accelerate," says Verstappen. "I would probably have retired anyway."

The incident involving Raikkonen, Grosjean, Gasly and Verstappen is under investigation, while no investigation is needed of the Stroll/Sainz clash.

As the field follows the safety car, after 5 laps, Hamilton asks if his temperatures are OK.

The safety car is withdrawn at the end of lap 6.

Bottas holds off Hamilton, who is all over the back of his teammate's car, but further back it's carnage. Sainz, Giovinazzi, Latifi and Magnussen are all out.

The safety car leads the field through the pits as Grosjean complains about the latest incident. "Are they trying to kill us," he screams, "that's the worst..."

The race is red-flagged, understandably when you consider that there are four cars littered on the pit straight along with the resultant debris. After 7 laps, we haven't had a single full lap and there are only 14 drivers still in the race.

It appears that at the re-start, a number of drivers at the back anticipated the start and were simply too quick for the cars ahead. Indeed, the cars at the rear were 'on it' before Bottas had actually got the race back underway.

Replay shows Sainz at high-speed suddenly being confronted by the incident involving Magnussen Giovinazzi and Latifi. It was a nasty incident.

It appears - appears! - that Magnussen was the innocent victim, The Dane holding off at the re-start while those behind him were racing having seen the green light, even though, at the front, Bottas had not officially got the race underway again.

The Renault crew takes the opportunity to work on Ocon's rear brakes, which were indeed on fire.

On a day we member Michael Schumacher, Ferrari's most winningest driver, it's worth noting that the German was no fan of rolling restarts for this very reason.

The order is: Bottas, Hamilton, Leclerc, Albon, Stroll, Ricciardo, Perez, Norris, Kvyat and Ocon. Russell is eleventh, ahead of Raikkonen, Vettel and Grosjean.

However, Renault reveals that Ocon is out of the race, due to his overheating brakes issue which has proven terminal.

The cars head out for a second install lap. The drivers have taken advantage of the free pit stop and taken on new rubber, while several have also changed various components. The Mercedes pair are now on mediums, as are Russell and Raikkonen, while the rest are on softs.

The depleted grid forms.

They're away... again.

Despite heavily smoking brakes, Hamilton takes the lead, seeming to catch Bottas napping. Leclerc tucks in behind the second Mercedes, and Stroll behind the Ferrari. Ricciardo is ahead of Albon who has a poor start.

Indeed as the round Turn 1, The Thai driver has been passed by the second Racing Point and Kvyat's Alpha Tauri.

Somehow, Albon gets back ahead of Kvyat on the run to Turn 2, and while Perez has passed Ricciardo, the Thai now closes on the Renault.

At the end of the opening lap Hamilton already has a 1.13s lead, with Bottas 2.8s clear of Leclerc.

In his pursuit of his teammate, Bottas posts a new fastest lap (22.435), as replay shows Grosjean almost losing it at the start and collecting Vettel.

Behind the leading three it's the Points of Stroll and Perez, with Ricciardo sixth, ahead of Albon.

As the Black Arrows pull away, Leclerc heads a train of cars. Courtesy of DRS, Ricciardo sweeps past Perez to split the Points.

Stroll is all over Leclerc as Albon sizes up Perez. The Canadian, of course, has the benefit of a number of aero updates which weren't available to his teammate.

"The rear is a problem," reports Kvyat.

"We need more power," warns Albon.

At the start of lap 18, Stroll finally nails Leclerc in Turn 1, as Ricciardo also closes on the Ferrari.

Next time around Ricciardo nails the Ferrari which clearly hasn't got the pace.

Meanwhile, having passed Perez, Albon closes on Leclerc. Indeed, for the third successive lap the Ferrari is left for dead going into Turn 1, this time falling prey to Albon.

Oh dear, like shooting fish in a barrel, Perez is next to pick off Leclerc.

Out front, Hamilton, unable to shake off his teammate, wants to know where Bottas is quicker.

Leclerc pits at the end of lap 21, the Ferrari driver switching to hards, which should take him to the end but cost him pace.

"What do you think about Plan C?" Leclerc is asked. "We are so slow," he wearily replies.

"How much are we lacking on the front wing, because it's ******* awful," enquires Raikkonen. He is told that nothing can be done.

Ricciardo closes in on Stroll.

"This tyre doesn't feel great," reports Hamilton, "rear sliding." A worrying call when you consider that his mediums are only 16 laps old.

"I can see Perez is strolling," says Norris, who is told that his team is looking to undercut the Mexican. "Do it!" shouts the Briton.

At the end of lap 27, Ricciardo pits, while Norris, rather than following his example, passes Perez for 5th. Ricciardo, now on mediums, rejoins in 8th as Raikkonen pits. It's a dreadful stop for the Finn, who rejoins in last (13th).

Next time around Vettel, Perez and Grosjean all pit, while, having been told to stop, Stroll is subsequently told to stay out.

Norris pits at the end of lap 29, as do Kvyat and Russell.

Out front, Bottas is now 5.4s down on his teammate.

Stroll pits at the end of lap 30, as Bottas is told to "box, box... box, box," next time around.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Mugello, here.

As Perez goes quickest (22.111), Bottas pits, Hamilton advised that this is for "safety reasons". The Finn rejoins in third, 5s down on Albon.

Hamilton pits at the end of lap 32, like his teammate he switches to hards. Albon also pits.

After the latest round of stops, it's: Hamilton, Bottas, Ricciardo, Stroll, Albon, Perez, Norris, Leclerc, Kvyat and Russell. Vettel is eleventh, ahead of Grosjean and Raikkonen.

On fresh rubber, Bottas posts a new fastest lap (21.874).

"They've got so much more grip," says Leclerc of... just about everyone.

Elsewhere, Raikkonen literally barges his way past Grosjean for 12th.

Norris is told to "hunt down" Perez as the Mexican has been suffering significant degradation.

On fresh mediums, Albon is setting a strong pace.

Kvyat is all over Leclerc as the pair battle for 8th. The Monegasque subsequently pits - for mediums - and rejoins in 11th behind his teammate.

"We could do with another safety car," says Bottas as he is warned on tyre wear and to avoid the kerbs. "Which kerbs," asks the Briton. "As many as you can, all of them," comes the response from 'Bono'.

Meanwhile, Albon posts a new fastest lap (21.756) as he closes to within 1.1s of Stroll.

In his efforts to get away from, cat lover, Albon, Stroll posts a PB (22.176).

"This is good stuff," Albon is told, "you can overtake these two."

Stroll is off and in the gravel, indeed he has hit the barriers at Turn 9, and as the safety car is deployed Bottas pits. As Ricciardo and Albon follow his example, Hamilton, who had passed the pits, has missed his chance.

As more drivers pit, Stroll climbs from the Racing Point which has incurred a lot of damage. "I got a puncture," reports the Canadian.

Hamilton pits - at the end of lap 44 - and rejoins still leading. Bottas is second, ahead of Ricciardo, Albon, Perez, Norris, Kvyat, Leclerc, Russell, Vettel, Raikkonen and Grosjean.

The race is subsequently red-flagged in order that the barrier be rebuilt.

Replay shows Raikkonen leaving it very, very, very, very late before hitting the pit limiter.

After the madness of Monza, there really must be something in the water in Italy, for Mugello is proving to be another crazy day... and we've still got Imola.

And there's more excitement... as the Racing Point is lifted from the gravel, there is smoke billowing from under the engine housing and the marshal scram for the car to be put back down.

At the start, Bottas really must do to Hamilton what the Briton previously did to him.

So, as we await the third re-start of the afternoon, it's: Hamilton, Bottas, Ricciardo, Albon, Perez, Norris, Kvyat, Leclerc, Russell, Vettel, Raikkonen and Grosjean.

Kimi is under investigation for his erratic pitlane entrance earlier.

The drivers head out for the third standing start of the afternoon.

"This is going to be a race of attrition to the end," Norris is warned.

As they head out, everyone, understandably, is on softs.

"Let's finish what we started," urges Ricciardo.

The grid forms. Again.

They're away. Again.

Hamilton leads, as Ricciardo gets ahead of Bottas on the run to Turn 1, as the Finn is seemingly caught napping again. Albon is all over the back of Perez, with Norris in hot pursuit. The Thai rivers barges his way past the Racing Point exiting Turn 3 to take 4th.

Meanwhile, Kimi gets a 5s penalty for crossing the line at the pit entry.

Man on a mission, Bottas nails Ricciardo in Turn 1 at the start of lap 48, while there's disappointment for Russell who has slipped out of the points to 12th.

As the Black Arrows trade fastest sectors, Albon too is on the pace.

Bottas posts 19.752 as Albon goes quickest in S3.

After 50 laps, it's: Hamilton, Bottas, Ricciardo, Albon, Perez, Norris, Kvyat, Raikkonen, Leclerc, Grosjean, Vettel and Russell.

A brilliant move by Albon, sees the, cat loving, Thai sweep by Ricciardo around the outside in Turn, to take third. Could this finally be his podium day?

Out front, Hamilton is setting a blistering pace. The Briton posts a new fastest lap (19.647).

Told he has a 5s penalty, Kimi takes the news with understandable finesse.

Losing ground to his teammate, Bottas is under threat from Albon.

The Finn responds with a new fastest lap (19.432).

"Stunning opening lap," Grosjean is told, "with so much damage, you're doing brilliantly."

Russell is all over the rear of Vettel, who is 2.4s down on Leclerc.

"I'm driving my ******* nut's off," says the Briton, "Leave me alone."

Other than passing Vettel, Russell also needs to make up the deficit to Raikkonen.

As Albon loses ground to Bottas, Ricciardo is under 2s behind. This is not over.

Hamilton goes quickest in S1, and again in S2, the Briton seemingly playing with the opposition. Indeed, he crosses the line at 18.833.

Raikkonen and Russell trade PBs, but it appears the Finn will hold on to the last point-scoring position.

Hamilton takes the flag, ahead of Bottas, Albon, Ricciardo, Perez, Norris, Kvyat, Raikkonen, Leclerc, Vettel, Russell and Grosjean. However, with that 5s penalty, Raikkonen finishes ninth, ahead of his former teammate.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Mugello, here.

"Arghhh," sighs Russell. Guys, f... I don't want to say it. But for that red flag, I would have been in the points. I was driving as fast as I could."

Congratulated by his team, Albon replies: "Thanks for sticking with me."

So, while Lewis takes yet another win, and Valtteri once again fails to take the fight to him, we get, cat-lover, Albon on the podium for the first time, both Ferraris in the point and Kimi also, back where it all began for the Finn.

Wasn't it Kiss that sung about Crazy, Crazy Nights? Well, this was one crazy afternoon.

Phew.

There could well be more controversy to come, for on the podium Hamilton sports what can only be termed a political statement on a black T-Shirt. If you recall the inaugural Turkish Grand P:rix you'll remember that politics on the podium is a no-no.

That aside, another race that we'll be talking about for some time, if only for the safety implication of that rolling start.

We now have a weekend off before Russia... we think everyone needs it.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Mugello, here.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 13/09/2020
Copyright © Pitpass 2002 - 2021. All rights reserved.