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

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