Monday, September 28, 2020

Valuable Victory for Valtteri Bottas in Russian Grand Prix

Photo Credit: Steve Etherington/Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix

The tenth round of the 2020 Formula 1 championship, the 53-lap Russian Grand Prix is effectively the first race in the second half of the improvised season created due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A 5.848-kilometer race course assembled within a complex where the 2014 Winter Olympic games were held, the Sochi Autodrom was the second Formula 1 race to take place with spectators present. 

Winner of four of the past six events on the Russian course, Lewis Hamilton earned pole for the event but the honours for his Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One team was tarnished slightly by the end of a 2020 streak. The Mercedes-AMG team’s front row ownership after qualifying concludes after nine rounds thanks to Max Verstappen driving his Red Bull RB16 to second place on the grid. Valtteri Bottas would start third for Mercedes-AMG F1 in an event where the organization has been historically strong in.

Photo Credit: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Images/Pirelli

Lewis Hamilton was potentially setting the stage for a race victory that would tie him with Michael Schumacher as the most winningest Formula 1 driver. However, the Mercedes driver complicated his quest for his 91st win before the start by engaging in two practice starts as he left the pits to position his Mercedes-AMG race car on the grid during pre-race. Under investigation when the race commenced, race stewards issued Hamilton two five-second penalties in the early laps in Russia.

One race following the Tuscan Grand Prix that was remembered for crash-filled early laps, the start of the Russian Grand Prix presented two retirements due to collisions in the first session of the first lap. As the field entered through turn two, the #55 McLaren of Carlos Sainz Jr. went wide and misjudged his return to the track clipping the wall with the left front of his race car. The second casualty of the Russian Grand Prix was Lance Stroll. After a strong start where the Canadian moved from his 13th place starting spot to 7th, the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc impacted the side of Stroll’s Racing Point through the fourth turn. During the first lap that concluded with the appearance of a safety car (the fourth consecutive race where a Mercedes-AMG GT R was used while track crew removed debris after a race crash), Valtteri Bottas had been able to manoeuver his way around the Red Bull Racing to second place.  

Photo Credit: Andy Hone/LAT Images/Pirelli

In all the chaos of the opening lap, the two Haas F1 Team cars are able to work their way into the top 10 runners. Unfortunately for the American Formula 1 team, momentum of the early race surge didn’t last over the course of the 53-lap event. Both drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean have been vocal about the team’s struggle during the race weekend in Russia.

On lap 16, Lewis Hamilton relinquished the lead of the Russian Grand Prix when he pitted for tires. During the pit stop for the #44 car, Hamilton and Mercedes-AMG chose to serve the time penalty. The car would return to the track behind Bottas and Verstappen where it will remain out of contention for victory prolonging the six-time Formula 1 World Driving Champion’s pursuit tying Michael Schumacher’s win record.  

Pitting on once on lap 26, Valtteri Bottas would go on to win the Russian Grand Prix crossing the finish line 7.729 seconds ahead of Max Verstappen. Although Bottas has secured his spot with the Mercedes-AMG group for 2021, the Finnish driver was seeking a performance to quiet his critics. The pilot of the #77 car relished this triumph on the Sochi circuit. “Now I need to keep this momentum up. There are quite a few races to go and you just never know, so I’ll keep pushing, I won’t give up and we’ll see how it turns out in the end.” said Bottas in post-race comments issued by his race team. Valtteri Bottas’ victory maintains the Mercedes-AMG F1 team’s streak at the Russian Grand Prix. Since the Sochi race was added to the Formula 1 calendar in 2014, the German factory squad has won all seven annual events. Bottas have previous won the 2017 event that was also his first-career Formula 1 victory.

Photo Credit: Steve Etherington/Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix

After two races that ended in retirements, Max Verstappen took his Honda-powered Red Bull Racing machine to his seventh podium result for 2020. With Valtteri Bottas scoring first place points as well as the fastest lap in the Russian Grand Prix, Verstappen unfortunately lost some ground in this year’s drivers’ championship to the second-place position. The first and second place finishers of the 2020 Russian Grand Prix both started the event on medium compound Pirelli tires.

Photo Credit: Yuri Kochetkov/Getty Images for Red Bull Content Pool

While a third place finish isn’t the performance typical of Hamilton, it’s decent compared to the challenges presented to the championship contender throughout the 2020 Russian Grand Prix weekend. His pole qualifying performance followed a nervous Q2 where the driver of the #44 Mercedes-AMG succeeded to lock in a time with seconds remaining in the session after his initial lap time was disallowed due to exceeding track limits. Lewis Hamilton still holds a big lead in the drivers’ championship but the gasp is dropped to 44 points.

Following Lance Stroll’s second-consecutive race retirement, Racing Point’s dedication was to the #11 car of Sergio Perez. Fighting for a new ride for 2021, Mexico’s Perez scored a stellar fourth place serving as his best finish this season.

Daniel Ricciardo finished fifth with Renault but the effort for the French team in Russia is also marked by a poorly-executed strategy when the team cars were running together. Spotting that Ricciardo was faster, a team order was issued to Esteban Ocon to swap positions on track. However, as Esteban Ocon slowed to allow Daniel Ricciardo to pass entering turn 2, the #3 Renault braked heavily into the corner and overshot the track limits. The mistake resulted in five-second penalty being levied against Ricciardo and cost Ocon time on track that allowed Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc to emerge from a pit stop between the two Renault F1 Team cars. Leclerc would finish the race in sixth place with Estaban Ocon taking seventh.

Competing in front of spectators in his home country, Daniil Kvyat drove a quiet yet productive race finishing in eighth place. Until this race, Kvyat had only scored points once in the Russian Grand Prix when he finished in fifth place driving for Red Bull Racing back in 2015.

Photo Credit: Dan Mullan/Getty Images for Red Bull Content Pool

The final two point-paying positions in the late laps of the Russian Grand Prix featured a strong three-way fight between McLaren’s Lando Norris, Red Bull Racing’s Alexander Albon and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly. Pitting on the first lap for hard compound Pirelli slicks, Norris attempted to fend off Albon and Gasly (the latter driver pitted on lap 42 for new soft compound tires). After first battling and prevailing over the Red Bull Racing car, Gasly charged on Norris’ McLaren that was holding ninth place on lap 48. With his tires losing an effective life, Lando Norris fell prey to Pierre Gasly and Alexander Albon on the same lap surrendering tenth place. Pitting at the end of the lap, Norris finished 15th after battle to stay in the points. The race ended as the first in the season where McLaren Racing failed to score constructors’ points.

Following a one week break, Formula 1 action will return with the Eifel Grand Prix taking place on Germany’s famous Nurburgring race track. 

2020 Formula 1 
Russian Grand Prix
Race Results

Lucky Lewis: Hamilton Barely Escapes Q2 to Take Russian Grand Prix Pole

Photo Credit: Mark Sutton/LAT Images/Pirelli

Understanding that the word ‘chaotic’ could be used to describe many aspects of the 2020 Formula 1 season, qualifying in the series in the first nine races had concluded in a generally humdrum manner due to the talent and execution of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team. As the series arrives in Sochi for this year’s Russian Grand Prix, there has not been a qualifying session in 2020 that did not result in an all-Mercedes front row on race day. 

One-half of the Mercedes-AMG F1 team’s routine of qualifying dominance came with Lewis Hamilton’s 96th Formula 1 pole position. Lapping the 5.848-kilometer race course in a time of 1-minute, 31.304 seconds in Q3 (a new track record in Russia), Hamilton is still seeking his 91st career victory in Formula 1 that will tie seven-time champion Michael Schumacher in the all-time ranking. 

Spoiling the Mercedes-AMG F1 team’s ownership of the front row for the first time in 2020, Max Verstappen posted a 1-minute, 31.867-second lap time in his Honda-powered Red Bull Racing car. Verstappen effectively split the two Mercedes drivers by being 0.089 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas who was able to mount a last-minute lap to better an earlier time. Starting alongside Bottas in Russia will be the Racing Point of Sergio Perez. Perez’s teammate Lance Stroll didn’t advance into Q3 due to concerns of power unit temperatures in Q2 settling for a 13th place starting spot.

Although the final Q3 session that locks in a race grid is often granted the most attention on Saturday, time trials for the Russian Grand Prix contained some of the highest suspense in the earlier sessions. Q1 and Q2 sessions of Saturday qualifying at Sochi involved several drivers having times disallowed for exceeding track limits including the eventual pole winner. With roughly two and a half minutes left in Q2, the attempts to secure a spot in the top-10 fastest cars were hindered when the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel crashed in turn 4 of the Sochi Autodrom. Vettel’s wrecked vehicle required the qualifying session to be red-flagged setting up a mad rush by many drivers and teams when Q2 would be restarted. The time remaining in the session was just enough for some drivers to complete a warm-up lap ahead of a timed lap. Lewis Hamilton lost his earlier Q2 lap time but was narrowly able to post a fourth fastest time before the session ended. In fact, Hamilton crossed the start/finish line with only seconds to spare in his Mercedes AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance race car. 

The seventh Russian Grand Prix in the modern Formula 1 era will be a 53-lap affair on Sunday.

2020 Formula 1
Russian Grand Prix
Starting Lineup

Sunday, September 27, 2020

1 Racing Mind’s 2020 Formula 1 Mid-Season Team Report Card Roundup

Photo Credit: Steven Tee LAT Images/Pirelli

The year of 2020 has been one that has a period where almost everyone on Earth has been forced to make adjustments to accept duty of fending off a dangerous health threat. In battling COVID-19, measures to minimize the spread managed effectively by individuals and groups have given us some abilities to enjoy some a few indulgences. Along with a good part of the sporting world operating under strict health and safety guidelines, Formula 1 was finally able line up for their first event in Austria at the beginning of July. 

Eventually assembling a 17-race calendar consisting mostly of European tracks, the 70th Formula 1 season has completed their first nine races. With eight races occurring without spectators, the open wheel racing tour has put on some very entertaining events. Though the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team has shown the same strong form as seen in previous seasons, the 2020 season already contained some of the most intense and surprising Formula 1 action we haven’t seen for a long time. We’ve been treated some memorable wins that included a wild British Grand Prix finish where Lewis Hamilton limped his Mercedes to victory on only three inflated tires, Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing triumphant in the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix as well as the underdog win of Pierre Gasly at the Italian Grand Prix. The 2020 Formula 1 championship season has also consisted of a fierce battle in the top 10 with McLaren, Renault and Racing Point in a tight constructors’ championship fight for third place. 

Celebrating 70 years as a world-leading auto racing spectacle, Formula 1 has faced trouble in honouring the milestone without the usual parties and fanfare they would have obviously wanted to generate. Mugello was the first time spectators were allowed to experience this year’s on-track suspense during the same race where Ferrari commemorated their 1,000th grand prix entry. 

Crossing the halfway for the 2020 season, all 10 Formula 1 teams have been able to clearly establish their performance potential in what is a very strange year overall. As the tour sets course towards some interesting grand prix such as a race in Turkey, Portugal and the Nurburgring not initially part of the 2020 schedule, let’s take a look at the season so-far from the perspective of the teams making up this year’s grid. 

Please click below on the Formula 1 team's name to view their 2020 Mid-Season Report Card: 


Red Bull Racing

McLaren Racing

Racing Point

Renault F1 Team

Scuderia Ferrari

Scuderia AlphaTauri

Alfa Romeo Racing

Haas F1 Team

Williams Racing 

1 Racing Mind’s 2020 Formula 1 Mid-Season Team Report Card: Mercedes-AMG


Photo Credit: LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix

Team Grade: A

Driver’s Grade:

Lewis Hamilton: A+

Valtteri Bottas: B+

Summary of First Nine Races:

Despite the delay in the 2020 season, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team appeared in Austria ready to dominant in the same fashion as previous years  maintaining its edge over the competition. A top driver lineup consisting of six-time and reigning Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton paired with Finland’s Valtteri Bottas, the superiorly-engineered Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance race car as well as a strong support crew at the race track and at headquarters has proven to be the combination cementing an ongoing dynasty. In the first nine races of the 2020 Formula 1 season, Mercedes-AMG group has won seven grand prix events and has taken pole after every qualifying session. Lewis Hamilton has won six races already in 2020 and left the Tuscan Grand Prix with a commanding 45-point lead over teammate Bottas. The only major change within the team compared to previous years is the primarily black colour scheme adopted to support social equality. 

Innovating to stay ahead, this year’s car caught the ire of competitors by deploying a Dual Axis Steering (DAS) system that allows Mercedes drivers to adjust the front toe of the vehicle. DAS was permitted to operate on this year’s Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance car but will be banned for 2021. Competitors also attempted to negate Mercedes’ perceived edge in qualifying by eliminating a special engine setting. So-called ‘Party Mode’, the Mercedes-Benz power unit could run at an especially high performance level for a brief time. During the Italian Grand Prix round, a single engine mode was mandated for qualifying and the race. The notion that the special engine setting with the Mercedes-Benz power units was a key advantage over the competition appears to be little more than a red herring.

The reason for the ‘A’ grade rather an ‘A+’ was due to two instances. This year’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone, while ultimately a victorious outing for the Mercedes-AMG team, was also a minor embarrassment as both vehicles suffered late-race tire failures. Though many teams were left concerned with their tires throughout the race, the Mercedes-AMG cars endured the most dramatic instances of wear perhaps contributed to their reliably quick pace. Lewis Hamilton crossing the line on only three inflated tires could be one of the team’s chaotic wins. The second mishap for the Mercedes-AMG team was at Monza where Hamilton’s car came to pit road when they were closed costing the Brit the Italian Grand Prix victory. In the week following the unusual event in Italy, the team has explained and acknowledged the mistake learning how to avoid it in the future. 


Prediction for Rest of the 2020 Season:

Heading into Russia with a 152-point lead in the Formula 1 Constructors Championship, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team on the path to easily ride to a seventh-consecutive team title. Lewis Hamilton is also in prime position to clinch his seventh Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship currently leading in the season-long standings by 55 points over teammate Valtteri Bottas. For Bottas, Mercedes-AMG has been impressed enough with his performance this season to lock him into a contract for 2021. 

The addition of new race tracks to the 2020 Formula 1 schedule may serve as a wild card to the German factory team. However, the Mercedes-AMG F1 team’s ability to spoil Ferrari’s party at Mugello only goes to show the organization’s adaptiveness as another one of the squad’s high-ranking qualities.

1 Racing Mind’s 2020 Formula 1 Mid-Season Team Report Card: Red Bull Racing

Photo Credit Bryn Lennon/Getty Images through Red Bull Content Pool


Team Grade: B

Driver’s Grade:

Max Verstappen: A

Alexander Albon: B-

Summary of First Nine Races:

Since the Formula 1 series adopted the current turbo/hybrid power unit layout in 2014, Red Bull Racing has been fighting to regain its dominance that made the team an imposing threat to win everything during the early 2010s. With the super-talented Max Verstappen and dependable power from Honda, Red Bull Racing reached the point last year where it could easily threatened for podium as well as the odd race win against the Mercedes-AMG F1 team. That being said, the Austrian-based race team has been missing key elements in recent years to mount a full charge against the Silver Arrows (or Black Arrows in 2020).

Competing with Mercedes once again in 2020, Red Bull Racing also faced a new threat from Racing Point through much of the grand prix this season. With a driver lineup consisting of Max Verstappen and Thailand’s Alexander Albon, Verstappen has been the leading source of performance with the squad. The highlight in the first nine races for the 2020 season was winning the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix held on the Silverstone Circuit. Taking advantage of the Mercedes-AMG F1 team’s tire wear issues at the Silverstone race course, Red Bull and Max Verstappen may have arguably had an opportunity to win the British Grand Prix under similar circumstances. At one point second in the drivers’ championship, Verstappen’s more recent races have resulted in him being overtaken by Valtteri Bottas. 

Installed in the second Red Bull Racing car last year at the Belgian Grand Prix, Alexander Albon has been under great pressure to perform in 2020 especially after Max Verstappen’s win at Silverstone. Albon has almost scored a podium finish on two occasions in his career with one of the closest and most crushing failed attempts being the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix. Running second with two laps remaining, Alexander Albon was knocked out of a podium position due to an aggressive, mistimed pass attempt by Lewis Hamilton. 

With a fourth place finish at the Styrian Grand Prix and two additional fifth place results over the course of eight races in the 2020 Formula 1 season, Alexander Albon scored his first podium finish at the Tuscan Grand Prix behind the two Mercedes-AMG team cars. The third place result for Albon appears to have provided some relief to the Thai driver. Prior to the podium, parallels could have been drawn between Albon’s 2020 performance with Red Bull Racing and Pierre Gasly’s 2019 efforts ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix. 

Considered the best non-Mercedes powered race car for 2020, Red Bull Racing’s RB 16 has been a consistent performer in qualifying and race scenarios. In five races, Max Verstappen qualified third behind the Mercedes machines of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. Along with the Red Bull Racing team’s victory at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, the RB16's engineering also contributed to AlphaTauri’s AT01 that won the Italian Grand Prix. Only three vehicle-related retirements can be linked to the RB16 with electronic issue leading to both cars retiring at the Austrian Grand Prix and a power unit failure for Verstappen at Monza.


Prediction for Rest of the 2020 Season:

Competing against the Mercedes-AMG F1 team that has demonstrated outright superiority in the series since 2014, Red Bull Racing has proven itself capable of breathing on the neck of the German squad on occasions this season. A well-built race car with decent Honda power and a competent driver lineup may be able to steal a few more race victories from the Mercedes when given a chance. 

Red Bull Racing will have to overcome some recent bad lack heading into the second half of the 2020 Formula 1 season. Prior to the podium at Mugello, Alexander Albon finished 15th sustaining damage after an early race collision. Max Verstappen is arriving in Russia with two consecutive retirements causing him to lose ground to the Mercedes drivers in the season standings.

1 Racing Mind’s 2020 Formula 1 Mid-Season Team Report Card: McLaren Racing


Photo Credit: Andy Hone LAT Images/Pirelli

Team Grade: A-

Driver’s Grade:

Carlos Sainz Jr.: B+

Lando Norris: A-

Summary of First Nine Races:

During the 1980s and a portion of the 1990s, McLaren and Williams were among two of the top teams in Formula 1. In the modern auto racing world championship, both constructors have been striding for more modest goals in recent years. Because of the massive global pause caused by the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, Williams as well as McLaren reportedly faced great battles off the track. Prior to the cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix due to the surging spread of COVID-19, McLaren had withdrawn from the weekend when a member of their crew tested positive for the virus. Later, as the financial burden of a delayed Formula 1 season weighed on McLaren, a partial sale of the Formula 1 team was considered to raise extra capital. A combination of a bank loan and new sponsorship partners including Gulf oil lubricants has given the organization a lifeline. 

The McLaren Racing team’s survival of a potential financial crunch was quickly rewarded. In the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix, the driver of the #4 McLaren Lando Norris posted a podium result of third place as well as the fastest lap of the race. After nine races, Norris scored points in all events except the Hungarian Grand Prix with his consistency placing him currently in fourth among drivers in the 2020 Drivers’ Championship. 

McLaren Racing’s Carlos Sainz Jr. has endured more of a roller coaster year than his teammate but has also been involved in some big moments. Although Sainz has qualified third on two occasions and posted the fastest lap at the Styrian Grand Prix, finishes have been less consistent for the Spaniard. In 2020, Sainz also delivered his career-best race performance at the Italian Grand Prix with a runner-up finish and narrowly missed scoring McLaren its first victory since 2012. 

Competing with the MCL35 chassis with Renault power units, McLaren Racing is regularly running alongside or in front of the factory Renault F1 Team. Only one retirement due to a mechanical issue has been recorded by the 2020 car caused at the Belgian Grand Prix where an exhaust problem prevented Carlos Sainz Jr.’s vehicle from starting ahead of Sunday’s race.

Prediction for Rest of the 2020 Season:

This year’s McLaren Racing team has been a regular contender for the top five in the running order. Under the right racing conditions (specifically with some faltering of Mercedes and Red Bull Racing team cars), Lando Norris and/or Carlos Sainz Jr. may likely be a podium challenger within at least one of the remaining events.

1 Racing Mind’s 2020 Formula 1 Mid-Season Team Report Card: Racing Point

Photo Credit: Mark Sutton LAT Images/Pirelli

Team Grade: A-

Driver’s Grade:

Lance Stroll: B+ 

Sergio Perez: B-

Summary of First Nine Races:

Following a mediocre first full season last year, Racing Point has picked up the pace drastically for 2020. With Mercedes-Benz power, a driving lineup consisting of the young Canadian Lance Stroll and dependable Mexican driver Sergio Perez, the team has been a regular mainstay in the top-10 of the running order. The 2020 Italian Grand Prix marked the Racing Point organization’s first podium. However, the on-track success for Racing Point has also been accompanied with a sense of mockery.

At the start of this year, many observers quickly took note of Racing Point’s RP20 race car design attempting to draw comparisons to the Mercedes-AMG team’s 2019 machine (the Mercedes AMG F1 W10 EQ Power+). The similarities between the two cars have even resulted to the Racing Point entry being deemed a ‘Pink Mercedes’. While speculation on the appearance of the RP20 in pre-season testing was largely dealt with as comical, Renault’s protest of the cars’ rear brake ducts after the Styrian Grand Prix was no laughing matter. Racing Point was docked 15 constructors’ points and received a monetary fine of 400,000 euros from Formula 1's sanctioning body the FIA. The team sits in fourth place in the 2020 Formula 1 Constructors Championship following nine races.     

The 2020 success of Racing Point has started to mute the outspoken critics of Lance Stroll. Although the 21-year-old Canadian has won championships in Italian F4, the Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand and the FIA European F3 series, his career in Formula 1 has involved a sizable amount of social media detraction. Since Lawrence Stroll (Lance Stroll’s father) is part of the current ownership group behind Racing Point, some insist his place in the sport is due to nepotism and not merit. A competent racer on Sunday, Lance Stroll’s Achilles’ heel has been qualifying on Saturday. This year, his performance in qualifying is vastly improved missing out on Q3 only once in the first nine races.

With ten seasons in Formula 1, Sergio Perez has been effectively in the same ride since 2014 when Racing Point operated as Sahara Force India. Perez has performed an impressive feat of finishing in the points for every race he has started in 2020 season. Contracting COVID-19 ahead of the British Grand Prix, the Mexican missed both races at Silverstone. Nico Hulkenberg was called in to substitute for the British Grand Prix and the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix scoring a seventh place result in the latter event.

Prediction for Rest of the 2020 Season:

Racing Point has gained many of the important ingredients to become not only a regular top-10 runner but ideally a podium contender. In fact, it is a surprise or the team’s infancy that they have only captured one podium this season. A race victory for Racing Point may not be completely out of the question but is somewhat a long-odd gamble. Announced to be leaving Racing Point, Sergio Perez could be a very popular race winner if presented with an opportunity similar to that granted to Pierre Gasly at Monza. The Mexican’s attention-grabbing second-place finish in the 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix for Sauber remains his best Formula 1 outing.   

Undergoing a massive transition over the course of two years, Racing Point is preparing for more changes coming in 2021. Along with renaming the team Aston Martin, the squad’s driver lineup will pair Sebastian Vettel with Lance Stroll next season. 

1 Racing Mind’s 2020 Formula 1 Mid-Season Team Report Card: Renault F1 Team

Photo Credit: Mark Sutton LAT Images/Pirelli

Team Grade: B

Driver’s Grade: 

Daniel Ricciardo: B

Esteban Ocon: C+

Summary of First Nine Races:

Since reacquiring their team from Lotus GP in 2016, the Renault factory Formula 1 team has been mired deep in the middle of the racing pack leading up to the 2020 season. Aspiring to be among at least the top-five in the open wheel racing tour and potentially a podium-contending make this season, the Renault F1 Team appears to have made several steps in the right direction. 

For 2020, the Renault F1 Team welcomed Frenchman Esteban Ocon as a teammate to Australian Daniel Ricciardo. The more experienced Ricciardo has been the leader for the squad posting three fourth place finishes as well as the fastest lap of the race in the Belgian Grand Prix. His recent run at the Tuscan Grand Prix almost netted the organization its first podium result since Renault’s returning stint as a Formula 1 constructor. Renault’s R.S. 20 race car has shown itself to be a formidable competitor on the grid for 2020. The vehicle apparently excels on tracks with higher overall speeds showing up strong at Silverstone, Spa-Francorchamps as well as Monza. 

One of only two driver changes to occur throughout the Formula 1 grid over the off-season, Esteban Ocon’s move to join Renault in this unusual season may be hampering the progress of the Frenchman. Being a reserve driver for the Mercedes-AMG F1 team last year, Ocon’s 2020 campaign started with the competitor making up for a one-year absence from grand prix action. Esteban Ocon has finished in the two-10 for five of the nine races so-far on this year’s calendar posting a career-tying fifth place at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Prediction for Rest of the 2020 Season:

The Renault F1 Team remains in striking distance of third place in the constructors championship after nine events in 2020 sitting 23 points away from the spot currently held by McLaren Racing. At least one podium result for the Renault F1 Team is very possible in the remaining races of the 2020 season. Daniel Ricciardo, set to leave the Renault squad for a seat at McLaren for 2021, appears very committed to departing his current team on a high note.

The remainder of the 2020 Formula 1 calendar will serve as the late opportunity to see the Renault brand’s greatness in the sport. In early September, Groupe Renault announced the organization will be rebranded as the Alpine F1 Team. Additional planning ahead for the 2021 season also has two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso reuniting his association with the team. 

1 Racing Mind’s 2020 Formula 1 Mid-Season Team Report Card: Scuderia Ferrari


Photo Credit: Ferrari S.p.A.

Team Grade: D+

Driver’s Grade:

Charles Leclerc: B+

Sebastian Vettel: C-

Summary of First Nine Races:

After the 2019 Formula 1 season, Scuderia Ferrari had a decent sense of optimism. Asserting itself as a stable podium-contending team and securing the young, talented Charles Leclerc as a teammate to Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari also faced scrutiny as allegations were made that the Italian team found a power unit exploit.  

For Scuderia Ferrari, the ongoing 2020 Formula 1 season has been a combination of disaster and drama. A less-than competitor car, race incidents as well as an emotional team culture that has not gone unnoticed by outsiders have plagued the organization. 

One of the major targets cited for Ferrari’s difficult 2020 season is the SF1000 race car. According to a BBC Sport article by Andrew Benson, the team realized flaws with the SF1000 after February’s pre-season testing and instituted an upgrade to the vehicle following the first race of the season. Said to have been an uneasy car to drive by both Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc at the early part of the season, the Ferrari SF1000's performance lagging has brought last year’s power unit issue into the conversation for their recent competitive problems.

Charles Leclerc securing a runner-up spot at the Austrian Grand Prix but flaws in the team showed up quickly. In the Styrian Grand Prix, running at the same Red Bull Ring as the Austrian Grand Prix one week later, the Ferraris qualified in a timid 10th and 11th place due in part of it being a wet time trial session. On the opening lap of the grand prix, Leclerc and Vettel collided leading to the eventual retirement of both competitors. The second and so-far final podium scored by Ferrari was at what was a bizarre British Grand Prix where Charles Leclerc took third aided by tire degradation issues of Mercedes that caused Valtteri Bottas to give up his second place late in the Silverstone event. 

Before the 2020 Formula 1 season was launched after it extended break caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ferrari announced that Sebastian Vettel would not be returning to the team after this year. It’s debatable to judge how much of an impact that the planned parting is having in regards to the on-track performance this year. At the Spanish Grand Prix, Ferrari’s plan for a single pit stop strategy was accompanied by a radio communication from a frustrated Vettel who was not provided with adequate clarity on their race plans.

Prediction for Rest of the 2020 Season:

During season where the historic race team was ready to commemorate their 1000th grand prix start, Ferrari has little to celebrate as of September. After nine races, many Formula 1 fans and analysts would come to the conclusion that the 2020 season might go down as the worst for the Ferrari team. Scuderia Ferrari has admitted they’re not foreseeing a return to front-running competitiveness until the 2022 season.  

Proving itself still capable of competing for top-10 finishes in 2020, the Italian motorsport icon may fall into a position to gain another podium result. With Sebastian Vettel set to leave the team for Aston Martin next year, Ferrari is likely to put most greater focus around Charles Leclerc.

1 Racing Mind’s 2020 Formula 1 Mid-Season Team Report Card: Scuderia AlphaTauri

Photo Credit: Mark Sutton LAT Images/Pirelli

 Team Grade: A-

Driver’s Grade: 

Pierre Gasly: A

Daniil Kvyat: C+ 

Summary of First Nine Races:

Dropping the Toro Rosso branding for the 2020 Formula 1 season and assuming a new team name associated with a fashion/clothing line linked to energy drink company Red Bull, Scuderia AlphaTauri’s fresh image has been well-profiled during its initial outing. In fact, thanks to one well-played and fortunate Italian Grand Prix, the new name in the series stood high within the entire motorsport world.

The new black and white coloured AT01 race cars remains tightly associated by Red Rull Racing (who now sees Scuderia AlphaTauri as a sister team rather than a feeder), the Italian-based group uses suspension and transmission technology from its partner team as well as Honda engines. The 2020 season’s driver lineup featured two former Red Bull Racing pilots. Russia’s Daniil Kvyat and France’s Pierre Gasly both entered the year with a lot to prove. 

Out of the nine events, AlphaTauri left with at least one manufacturers’ point in eight. The Italian Grand Prix was the first and only race for the team so far where both cars finished in the top-10. Performing fairly as a mid-marker in Formula 1 throughout much of the tour, Scuderia AlphaTauri’s season highlight for 2020 is Pierre Gasly’s incredible victory in Italy. Aided by several factors including a well-placed pit stop, a strong standing restart after a red flag and a penalty issued to Lewis Hamilton, Gasly nonetheless drove the race of his career with the AT01 vehicle. Prior to the win on the Monza circuit, the Frenchman’s best finishes were a pair of seventh place results. 

Overshadowed by his teammate’s emotional Italian Grand Prix victory, Daniil Kvyat crossed the line in the top-10 four times during the first nine races of 2020. The Tuscan Grand Prix was the Russian best result of the season crossing the line at Mugello in seventh place.  

Becoming a race winning vehicle, Scuderia AlphaTauri’s AT01 chassis has spent most of the season as a stable, reliable car. In addition to point-scoring finishes in 2020, the AlphaTauri has made several appearance in the Q3 qualifying session. The best starting position for the team was seventh place obtained by Pierre Gasly at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.

Prediction for Rest of the 2020 Season:

Scuderia AlphaTauri has already exceeded expectations for the 2020 season. Excluding the Italian Grand Prix, the team has shown itself to be a consistent top-10 cracking organization. Currently seventh in the constructors’ championship, AlphaTauri is 13 points behind the struggling Ferrari factory team after the Tuscan Grand Prix. 

With the drivers’ rating, the score for Gasly wasn’t only reflective of his surprise victory at Monza but rather a fairly decent season as a whole for the Frenchman. 

1 Racing Mind’s 2020 Formula 1 Mid-Season Team Report Card: Alfa Romeo Racing

Photo Credit: Mark Sutton LAT Images/Pirelli

Team Grade: C-

Driver’s Grade:

Kimi Raikkonen: C

Antonio Giovinazzi: C

Summary of First Nine Races:

The second year of competition for the organization formerly known as the Sauber F1 Team has been a less than fruitful venture. Alfa Romeo Racing debuted in 2019 as a consistent mid-field Formula 1 team equating to a reasonable level of success. 

In the first nine races last year, Alfa Romeo Racing’s two drivers scored a total of seven point finishes. Returning with Kimi Raikkonen (competing in his 20th full season in Formula 1) and 2016 GP2 championship runner-up Antonio Giovinazzi, the race team’s 2020 season was not initially viewed as a regression. The combined performance of the seasoned Finnish driver and younger Italian pilot has netted just four points so far in 2020 with the Alfa Romeo team. Both Alfa Romeo Racing drivers have posted a season-best finish of ninth place.

A large part of the speculation of Alfa Romeo Racing’s weaker performance in 2020 ties to the struggling Ferrari Formula 1 team. Alfa Romeo Racing receives engines, gearboxes and several other components from the major Italian sports car builder that serves to propel this year’s C39 race car. The Alfa Romeo C39 has not been a particularly fast machine reflected by season-long struggles in qualifying. During the first nine grand prix events, the team was only able to escape the initial Q1 qualifying session three times. 

Although both Alfa Romeo Racing drivers have posted an equal of points for the 2020 season, Kimi Raikkonen has been a stronger performer through most events. The Finnish competitor was responsible for all three Q2 appearances in qualifying and has finished ahead of his teammate Antonio Giovinazzi in seven of the nine Formula 1 rounds. Two of the past three grand prix events have ended in crash-related retirements for Giovinazzi including a dramatic accident in the Belgian Grand Prix.  

Prediction for Rest of the 2020 Season:

The Alfa Romeo Racing team has spent most of the 2020 Formula 1 season battling amongst the bottom three organizations. With a massive point gap between Alfa Romeo and Scuderia AlphaTauri, it’s unlikely that the team will climb any higher than eighth place in the constructors’ championship. However, recent races at Monza and Mugello have shown better performance signifying the potential for more top-10 finishes during the remaining eight races of 2020.

Both Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi are on the hot seat with the team for the remainder of the 2020 races. Sergio Perez, Nico Hulkenberg and current F2 driver Mick Schumacher have been rumoured as possible pilots for the 2021 Alfa Romeo Racing team. 

1 Racing Mind’s 2020 Formula 1 Mid-Season Team Report Card: Haas F1 Team


Photo Credit: Mark Sutton LAT Images/Pirelli

Team Grade: D+

Driver’s Grade:

Romain Grosjean: C

Kevin Magnussen: C

Summary of First Nine Races:

Scoring championship points in their first-ever Formula 1 race in 2016, Haas F1 Team’s ability to find a fast-track into one of the valuable top-10 finishing positions of a grand prix was seen as a massive triumph. The American-based, Ferrari-affiliated Formula 1 team experienced a strong 2017 and 2018 season cementing the group as a solid mid-field competitor knocking on the door of podium contenders. Last year was somewhat of a regression for the Haas F1 Team as points-paying positions were harder to come by. The team’s tumultuous relationship with title sponsor Rich Energy compounded a 2019 season Haas F1 Team would have wanted to move forward from. 

Unfortunately for the squad and its returning driver lineup of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, the start of the 2020 season could be experiencing one of its worst in the team’s young history. After nine races, the team has only collected a single championship point when Magnussen crossed the finish line of the Hungarian Grand Prix in 10th place. Although scoring the Haas F1 Team’s only top-10 for 2020, the Danish driver has more often been found in the garage at the end of grand prix events. Kevin Magnussen has failed to complete five races with mechanical problems being the culprit in all-but two occasions. The 2020 Formula 1 season for Romain Grosjean has so far not resulted in a point-scoring position at the end of a grand prix with best efforts being a pair of 12th place finishes. Grosjean has been luckier when it comes to completing races compared to his teammate in the Haas VF-20 race car. The Frenchman’s only retirement this year occurred at the Austrian Grand Prix caused as a result of brake problems.

Perhaps Haas F1 Team’s best showing this season, the 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix involved a risky yet effective strategy to place Grosjean and Magnussen on slick tires at the beginning of the race while other entrants started on intermediate tires. Starting the race from pit road, the Haas F1 Team cars were at the rear of the field for the first lap but climbed the running order as other competitors pitted. After 6 laps at the Hungaroring, Kevin Magnussen was in third place with Romain Grosjean behind him in fourth. Losing this position over the course of the race, the strategy allowed the team to overcome the deficits of this year’s car. 

Using power units and other components from Ferrari, the VF-20 appears to be struggling for performance along with the entry from competitor Alfa Romeo Racing. Besides the pace on the track, Haas F1 Team’s VF-20 race car is experiencing higher than average reliability problems than other entrants on the 2020 Formula 1 grid.


Prediction for Rest of the 2020 Season:

Since its inception, the Haas F1 Team has proven itself to be able to achieve a lot with a lower budget. The American team’s ability to over-achieve in grand prix events have generally been supported by acquiring components from a stronger Ferrari team. Using Hungary as an example, the Haas F1 Team will need to utilize more gambles to position their cars up into the top-10 for the remaining races. It’s reasonable to predict a least one or two more showings in point-paying spots for the Haas drivers.

Into the final eight races for the 2020 Formula 1 season, Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean are also under pressure to earn a place in the series for next season. Haas F1 Team is rumoured to be considering options to breaking up the four-year driver pairing selecting to replace one or both drivers. 

1 Racing Mind’s 2020 Formula 1 Mid-Season Team Report Card: Williams Racing

Photo Credit: Mark Sutton LAT Images/Pirelli

Team Grade: C

Driver’s Grade 

George Russell: B-

Nicholas Latifi: C

Summary of First Nine Races:

An organization who has won nine Formula 1 Constructors Championship titles and crossed the line first in 114 grand prix races since 1977, Williams Racing Formula 1 team’s performance in recent years has been far detached from its glorious history. The once-dominant team has been regularly spotted at the rear of the running order for grand prix events in 2019 due to many factors including a lower operating budget compared to teams at the front of the grid as well as bumbled development of the FW42 race car. As the on-track product suffered, the delay of the 2020 season caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic magnified off-track woes for Williams Racing. In addition to splitting from team title sponsor ROKiT, the organization posted a large financial loss in May of this year. To was at that point mention of partnership or even total sale of the Williams Racing team was first floated.

Despite operational challenges, Williams Racing arrived for the season opening Formula 1 race in Austria with British pilot George Russell and rookie Canadian driver Nicholas Latifi. Although Williams Racing had scored a point in the constructors’ championship by this time last year, the 2020 on-track performance for the team has been mildly better. Russell’s pace in qualifying for several early events in the season showed the Mercedes-Benz powered FW43 was able to potentially enter the Q2 session. The Styrian Grand Prix and the Hungarian Grand Prix were season-best qualifying outings for George Russell after nine races starting 12th on both occasions. 

Nicholas Latifi’s first season in Formula 1 has involved a great deal of time in the back of the field. The Canadian has been outpaced by his more experienced teammate in all nine qualifying events this season. Finishing 11th on two occasions (largely due to running in events with high attrition), Latifi had been recorded as finishing all races this season until his first retirement being caught up in the multi-car wreck at the Tuscan Grand Prix.

Prediction for Rest of the 2020 Season:

Taking to the grid for the 2020 Formula 1 season was a challenge itself for the Williams Racing team. A sale to US-based Dorilton Capital announced in late August allowed the organization to obtain its most important goal; the team’s survival. 

While the new owners are committed to retaining the team’s name and other heritage features including the ‘FW’ designation in their chassis, the race group is moving on without team founder Sir Frank Williams or its Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams. With the Tuscan Grand Prix being the start of establishing a new era for a new Williams Racing, it’s difficult to imagine any major improvements will be made throughout the remainder of 2020 to left the team up the grid. Running powerful Mercedes-Benz power is not a guarantee for success for the team as it is for the factory Mercedes AMG or even Racing Point. Williams Racing’s best chance at a championship point for the 2020 season may come in events where a high level of race retirements will occur.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Lewis Hamilton Wins Inaugural Tuscan Grand Prix

Photo Credit: Wolfgang Wilhelm/Mercedes AMG 

With the initial 2020 Formula 1 schedule, there was going to be two new race courses added to the tour. A visit to the Hanoi Street Circuit for the inaugural Vietnamese Grand Prix as well as the series’ return to the Circuit Zandvoort for a new Dutch Grand Prix were ultimately scrubbed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Introducing a modified 2020 calender, Formula 1 has still able to infuse some fresh flavour to race audiences and teams through the addition of several new venues. A visit back to Portugal racing for the first time at the Portimão Circuit and a return to Intercity Istanbul Park for the Turkish Grand Prix are among tracks newly included on this year’s revised schedule. Serving as the first special track appearing for the 2020 Formula 1 season is the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello.  

Hosting the first-ever Tuscan Grand Prix in a famed Italian region, the Ferrari-owned race course functioned as the second Formula 1 event commemorating a milestone for the motorsport series’ 70th year. While the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix (the second race at Silverstone in July) celebrated seven decades of Formula 1, the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello marked the 1,000th grand prix entry for the storied Ferrari marque. In addition to Ferrari running special commemorative colours on their race cars for the Tuscan Grand Prix, the brand’s celebration in Formula 1 at Mugello was marked as the first race in the 2020 Formula 1 season to be run with fans in attendance. 

Though the second Italian race for the 2020 Formula 1 season was billed as a celebration for Ferrari’s milestone event, the continuing dominance of the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team spoiled the party for the Prancing Horse. The 20-car field for the inaugural Tuscan Grand Prix started with Lewis Hamilton on pole with teammate Valtteri Bottas locking up the front row. While the Mercedes at the front of the grid at a new Formula 1 track brought concerns of a potential dull outing, Sunday’s 59-lap race on the 5.245-kilometer course was anything but a timid event.

In less than a minute after the start of the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix, a multi-car incident occurred heading into turn two. Jockeying for positions in the first lap, Romain Grosjean, Pierre Gasly and Kimi Raikkonen headed three-wide towards the Luco corner until the wheels of Gasly’s AlphaTauri and Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo touched. As the field slowed down for turn two, the AlphaTauri race car collided with the rear of the Red Bull Racing entry of Max Verstappen. The Honda-powered Red Bull was pushed off track and came to rest in sand trap where the Dutch driver was unable gain traction to rejoin the race. The Tuscan Grand Prix was the second consecutive DNF result for Verstappen who had been second in the Formula 1 drivers’ championship a few races prior to the tour’s trip to Italy. A race after an upset win at Monza, Pierre Gasly and his AlphaTauri car were relegated to early retirement. Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo and Romain Grosjean’s Haas F1 car were able to continue running. Carlos Sainz Jr. and Sebastian Vettel were also involved in a separate turn two mishap. Though the cars of Sainz and Vettel suffered damage, both competitors were able to be quickly repaired.  

Photo Credit: LAT Images/Mercedes AMG

The opening lap incident immediately drew the safety car that lasted until the end of lap six. An action that escaped attention due to the first lap accident was that Valtteri Bottas successfully beat Lewis Hamilton off the starting grid. Bottas led the field as the safety car returned to pit road taking the field across the start/finish line in a strategically slow manner. The #77 Mercedes AMG driver’s restart caused a bottleneck deeper through the race field resulting in another multi-car collision. The Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi and the Ferrari-powered Haas VF-20 of Kevin Magnussen collided within the accordion effect.  McLaren of Carlos Sainz Jr. as well as Nicholas Latifi’s Williams were also casualties of the front stretch accident having to ultimately retire their vehicles. This time, the major incident required a full race stoppage. For the second consecutive Formula 1 grand prix, a red flag put a stop to race action and brought cars to pit road. 

After a roughly 30-minute delay, the Tuscan Grand Prix was sent back to green with a standing start for lap nine. This second standing start for the event fell into the favour of the #44 Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton rushing past his teammate at the entry of the first corner. Following two multi-vehicle incidents, the race at Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello was finally able to proceed beyond a single lap without interruption. 

Though the Mercedes AMG team cars gained a healthy advantage over the rest of the competitors, there would be a heated battle for third place. Charles Leclerc held the spot until lap 18 as the Racing Point of Lance Stroll was able to pass his Ferrari. Running with new aerodynamic upgrades, Stroll fought from a sixth place starting spot to third place in the early stage of the race at Mugello. Returning to the race track in fourth place following a lap 31 pit stop, the Canadian driver and his #18 Racing Point car began to chase down the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo. Leaving the pits nearly three seconds behind Ricciardo, Stroll closed to within 1.1 seconds by lap 43 just before the day turned bad for the Racing Point driver. Believed to be caused by a sudden tire puncture, the pink Racing Point lost control and flew through the sand trap in Mugello’s turn nine colliding hard with a section of the track’s retaining barrier. The Stroll was able to leave his wrecked Racing Point machine without injury but the incident forced a safety car that evolved into a second red flag for the Tuscan Grand Prix. 

Following the third standing start of the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix, the race concluded with the Mercedes AMG team showing the way in Italy. Crossing the line first was Lewis Hamilton who won his 90th career grand prix by 4.88 seconds over his teammate Valtteri Bottas. In addition to the winning the inaugural Formula 1 event on the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello, Hamilton also locked up the fastest lap of Sunday’s Tuscan Grand Prix registered at 1-minute, 18.833 seconds. Finishing in second place, Bottas attempted to find an edge over his teammate by requesting an alternative pit stop strategy from the Mercedes AMG crew. However, since the Finnish driver pitted prior to the leading #44 machine, Lewis Hamilton was able to simply counter by opting for the same tires one lap after what was the one and only competitive tire change during the race.   

Photo Credit: LAT Images/Mercedes AMG

Joining the two Mercedes AMG drivers on the podium was Thailand’s Alexander Albon. The result for Albon is his first career Formula 1 podium a little more than a full year after being called to drive for the Red Bull Racing team. 

Once again this season, Daniel Ricciardo showed some promising pace with the Renault F1 Team climbing from an eighth place qualifying position in a quest for the pairing’s first podium. Ricciardo finished just short of the hotly-contested third place spot at the Tuscan Grand Prix taking fourth. Finishing fifth, Sergio Perez salvaged Racing Point’s race after his teammate dropped out in spectacular fashion. Perez was also racing in Mugello with the public knowledge that the Mexican will not be returning to the ride he raced with since 2014. Overshadowed by their teammates’ performance in Monza, Lando Norris and Daniil Kvyat posted solid point-paying positions at Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello finishing sixth place and seventh place respectively. 

Photo Credit: Pirelli & C. S.p.A.

Although this season continues to be a struggle for Scuderia Ferrari, the combination of their 1,000th race and running on their home turf may have presented a moment of minor fortune for the team. For only the third place in 2020, both Ferrari race drivers finished in the top-10 of a grand prix’s running order. Starting strong in fifth place, Charles Leclerc rose to third place in the early stage of the Tuscan Grand Prix. However, tire degradation on the #16 Ferrari ultimately led to Leclerc settling for an eighth place result after 59 laps. Sebastian Vettel recovered from minor damage suffered early in the grand prix to take tenth. Between the two Ferrari cars, former long-time driver for the Italian team Kimi Raikkonen finished ninth place. The event on the Ferrari-owned race track was the 2007 Formula 1 World Champion’s first points during what has been a difficult 2020 season with Alfa Romeo Racing.

Photo Credit: Ferrari S.p.A.

George Russell came just short of a scoring a championship point with Williams Racing operating through its first event under new team management. The #63 Mercedes-Benz powered Williams finished in 11th place roughly 2.4 seconds behind Sebastian Vettel. 

Two multi-car accidents and several additional retirements in the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix concluded with just 12 cars crossing the finish line. Romain Grosjean’s Haas F1 Team car being the last to take the chequered flag. Ferrari and Mercedes AMG were the only teams to have both cars survive 59 laps at Mugello on Sunday.

The next race for the 2020 Formula 1 tour is the Russian Grand Prix set for September 27th. 

2020 Formula 1
Tuscan Grand Prix
Race Results

Mercedes Masters Mugello: Hamilton Starts On Pole For Tuscan Grand Prix

Photo Credit: Pirelli & C. S.p.A.

Qualifying for the 2020 Formula 1 continues to be a time that the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One team has embraced as a personal playground. For all but two grand prix events, Lewis Hamilton has been the dominant driver in the dominant organization claiming  pole position at the end of the traditional Saturday time trial session. Adding to impressive career statistics at well-known, historic Formula 1 tracks such as Spa-Francorchamps and Silverstone in 2020, Hamilton faced a unique challenge as the tour arrived at the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello for the first-ever Tuscan Grand Prix.

Despite the 5.245-kilometer Ferrari-owned circuit being a personal testing course for the Prancing Horse, the Mercedes AMG team held ownership of the three practice sessions ahead of Saturday’s qualifying with Valtteri Bottas leading in all three prep periods. However, Lewis Hamilton emerged supreme at the end of qualifying for the Tuscan Grand Prix taking pole with a top Q3 time of 1-minute, 15.144 seconds. The 95th career pole position for the British driver is the fastest competitive lap set on the Mugello track. 

Lewis Hamilton narrowly beat teammate Valtteri Bottas for the top spot in the inaugural Tuscan Grand Prix by a margin of just 0.059 seconds. Fastest in practice sessions, Bottas missed out on a last minute opportunity to outdo Hamilton’s when the Renault of Esteban Ocon spun on track causing a local yellow. 

Directly behind the Mercedes AMG team that occupies the front row for the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix is the two cars of Red Bull Racing. Max Verstappen has shown promising pace against the Mercedes throughout the race weekend and mustered a third-fastest time in Q3 a little more than 0.3 seconds slower than Bottas. Verstappen expresses optimism in ahead of the Tuscan Grand Prix in a post-qualifying press release stating, “A Mercedes is never easy to overtake but we will give it all we have and I love this track so I'm really looking forward to the race." Recording the fourth-quickest effort for Sunday’s main event, Alexander Albon posted his most impressive qualifying results in his young Formula 1 career. 

The Tucsan Grand Prix holds a great deal of importance to the Ferrari team. Not only a race being held on their own testing track, the Mugello Circuit’s 2020 race serves as the 1,000th Formula 1 appearance for the Italian auto brand. Wearing special commemorative colours for the occasion, Charles Leclerc gave Scuderia Ferrari it’s best showing in Saturday qualifying with a fifth-fastest lap time. Leclerc will be the only Ferrari-powered entrant among the top 12 cars on the grid. Kimi Raikkonen driving a Ferrari-propelled Alfa Romeo grabbed 13th one spot ahead of the second Scuderia Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel. 

Photo Credit: Pirelli & C. S.p.A.

With an uncertain Formula 1 career for 2021 after Racing Point (set to become Aston Martin next year) selecting Sebastian Vettel to pair with Lance Stroll next season, Mexican driver Sergio Perez was sixth-fastest in qualifying beating his teammate by 0.045 seconds. Perez and Stroll will effectively switch grid positions due to a one-grid place penalty assessed after an incident in the second Friday practice session. Race stewards ruled Perez was at-fault for contact with Kimi Raikkonen during the second practice when the Racing Point joined the race circuit from pit road. 

From 8th through 11th place starters for the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix are Renault-powered race cars. Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault F1 Team entry will start alongside Sergio Perez. The fifth grid row will have the McLaren driven by last week’s runner-up finisher at Monza Carlos Sainz Jr on the same row as Esteban Ocon. Lando Norris in the second McLaren is starting Sunday’s race in 11th place.

The Tuscan Grand Prix is the first race in the 2020 Formula 1 season that will run with fans in attendance.

2020 Formula 1
Tuscan Grand Prix
Starting Grid

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Grand Day for Gasly: AlphaTauri Driver Wins Memorable Italian GP

Luca Bruno - Red Bull Content Pool/Getty Images

A race course celebrated for its age and speed, the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza is now known for a surreal 2020 Italian Grand Prix. After 53 laps, series of misadventures by Formula 1's currently established front-runners and some opportune placement by other entrants led to a very different podium topped by a surprising yet popular victor. 

The grid for the Italian Grand Prix assembled somewhat routinely for a 2020 Formula 1 with Lewis Hamilton on pole and Mercedes AMG teammate Valtteri Bottas starting beside him. Without any awareness for what will occur in this year’s Monza event, the race started with Hamilton shooting out to a major advantage. Bottas, on the other hand, struggled immediately on the opening lap of the Italian Grand Prix falling to sixth place by the time the black Mercedes completed a full circuit around the track. The weak start by the #77 Mercedes AMG allowed the two McLaren cars of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Lando Norris, Racing Point’s Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo driving for Renault to make early gains. 

Photo Credit: LAT Images/Mercedes AMG

On lap 19, the race was slowed by a safety car period when the #20 Haas F1 Team machine driven by Kevin Magnussen stopped along the edge of the track ahead of the pit road. A power unit issue was cited as a reason for Ferrari-powered race car. Initially appearing as a simple recovery of a stopped vehicle, the safety car appearance ultimately reshaped the entire race. Entering the Parabolica turn just as the Mercedes-AMG GT R safety car was being deployed, leader Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes AMG team attempted to use the more than 14-second gap to make a pit stop. However, due to the full-course caution period, pit road was closed meaning Hamilton’s stop was against the rules. Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi was also caught pitting as the start of the safety car period. Both drivers were given a 10-second stop-and-go penalties in their pit stalls eventually being served on lap 30. 

Viewed as a home race for Scuderia Ferrari F1 team, the Monza, Italy circuit is seen as a venue of heightened pride where the squad has an additional incentive to perform. Unfortunately, this year’s grand prix performance for Ferrari was another situation compounding what has been an overall dreadful 2020 season; in fact, it required a very short time for the afternoon to go badly for the Ferrari team. After just six laps, the #5 car of Sebastian Vettel encountered massive brake system failure on track requiring to German to make an uneasy trip to pit road and retirement from the Italian Grand Prix one lap later. Charles Leclerc’s Monza race also came to a premature end only in more dramatic fashion than his teammate. Shortly after the race resumed under green after the safety car period to retrieve Kevin Magnussen’s car, the #16 Ferrari lost control through the turn 11 Parabolica corner and slammed hard into the barriers on lap 25. Escaping major injury, Leclerc was unable to defend his 2019 win at the grand prix.

Photo Credit: Ferrari S.p.A.

The recovery of the crashed Ferrari and the repair to the track’s safety barrier required a red flag on the Monza track that span almost 30 minutes. A second standing start would be employed on lap 28 in order to send the race back to green with all teams were allowed to place new tires on their cars prior to the event’s resumption. Well-timed early pit stops by Pierre Gasly and Kimi Raikkonen elevated them up the racing order. Having not pitted in the Italian Grand Prix up to the second safety car period, Lance Stroll and the #18 Racing Point was granted the enviable grid position of starting alongside the Mercedes AMG of Lewis Hamilton who had yet to serve his penalty. Similar to Valtteri Bottas’ start in the second grid spot, Stroll has a terrible launch dropping from second to fifth place near the end of lap 28. 

From third place on the grid, the AlphaTauri in the hands of Pierre Gasly obtained second place just prior to Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes attending pit road to serve his stop-and-go penalty. As Gasly maintained the lead of the Italian Grand Prix, Carlos Sainz Jr. would eventually pass Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo for second place. Although the Alfa Romeo Racing team was able to place Raikkonen in a runner-up position for lap 30, the red and white #7 car slid down the standings and would finish the race in the 13th place spot. 

Into the final laps, Sainz began to close on the leading AlphaTauri closing within a one-second on lap 52. With a gap of 0.415 seconds, Pierre Gasly held off the McLaren driver to win the 2020 Italian Grand Prix. 

Photo Credit: Pirelli & C. S.p.A.

The first-ever Formula 1 win for the 24-year-old Frenchman, Pierre Gasly comes in his third full season in the sport that included last year split between Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso (now known as AlphaTauri). Ecstatically taking his first podium at the Brazilian Grand Prix last season, Gasly was on top of the world. The French driver was equally as emotional celebrating victory in the 2020 Italian Grand Prix. Immediately following Pierre Gasly’s win, the news was greeted with resounding positivity from his fellow drivers and other teams. Rebranded from Toro Rosso this year to advertise energy drink company Red Bull’s fashion line, the AlphaTauri is now the third team that has found victory in the 2020 season in addition to Mercedes AMG and Red Bull Racing.  

Photo Credit: Pirelli & C. S.p.A.

One week after a Belgian Grand Prix where he wasn’t even able to start the main event due to an exhaust issue, Carlos Sainz Jr. narrowly missed scoring his first Formula 1 victory in Monza. “It’s obviously impossible to be too disappointed with P2, but I wanted that win!” Sainz stated in a post-race release from McLaren. Both McLaren drivers managed to complete the 53-lap race high in the finishing order as Lando Norris crossed the line in fourth place. McLaren believed a certain win may have existed for their team if not for the second safety car and red flag period that would have broke a winless streak stretching back to 2012.

Crossing the line in third place, Lance Stroll and Racing Point captured his second career podium finish in Formula 1 at the Italian Grand Prix while some analysts believe a higher position or perhaps a win would have been possible on the day. The 21-year-old Canadian cited considerable wheel spin on the second standing start as hindering a better result. The finish by Stroll is the first podium for the Racing Point team since the ownership consortium led by Lawrence Stroll purchased the operation from Force India in the middle of 2018.

Photo Credit: Pirelli & C. S.p.A.

Unable to improve his position while in traffic, Valtteri Bottas settled for fifth place in the Italian Grand Prix. Used to leading, the usually dominant Mercedes AMG race cars appeared humbled. Dropped to the back of the running order after attending to his stop-and-go penalty, Lewis Hamilton would put on a worthwhile show as he charged back into the top 10. By the end of lap 53, the Brit was able to salvage a seventh place result. Hamilton still holds a commanding 47-point lead in the 2020 drivers’ standings after eight races. Bottas is now second place in the overall standings aided by Max Verstappen dropping out of the race after lap 30 when his Red Bull Racing car suffered a power unit problem. 

Renault F1 Team drivers finished favourably in Italy with Daniel Ricciardo taking sixth while Esteban Ocon took the chequered flag in eighth place. The final two top 10 spots in the Italian Grand Prix were claimed by AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat and Racing Point’s Sergio Perez. 

Finishing outside of the points, the Williams Racing team’s showing at Monza carried weight for being the final event that the organization would have found Sir Frank Williams as well as deputy team principal Claire Williams serving in an official capacity. Sold to an American-based investment firm, Williams Racing will continue to feature the team’s past glory including the name of its founder. Canadian Nicholas Latifi crossed the finish line at the Italian Grand Prix in 11th place while George Russell achieved a 14th place run. 

For what will be the third weekend in a row where Formula 1 cars will compete, the Tuscan Grand Prix on Italy’s Mugello Circuit will provide a unique, new competitive venue for the tour with a race scheduled on September 13th. 

2020 Formula 1
Italian Grand Prix
Race Results