F1 – Tuscan GP – Race

Ciao, MiniFans! Today, we are celebrating Ferrari’s 1000th Grand Prix in literally their home soil. Mugello, property of Ferrari, welcomes the Formula 1 cars for the first time to celebrate a race, but it’s far from the first time that red cars have taken to the tarmac. Despite being a very common circuit for those following MotoGP, as they come here every year, not very many drivers have experienced it before, and no one has in a race setting at this level. Racing in an “unknown” circuit has its perks for the viewers. The best lines have to be found out, as do the places to overtake slower cars without losing time or how much you can push the pedal on certain corners. There’s also the downside of not having much data about it, but it’s been proven before that this tends to provide a more entertaining race.

Verstappen had a little scare before the race had even started and Red Bull became the centre of attention on the grid, as his car was stripped in order to check something in its guts. Fixed with enough time to spare, it left us wondering whether it’d even have any effect on a race marked in red for the Dutch driver, after retiring in the previous one due to engine problems. What started off as a very exciting start, with Hamilton not doing too well and Bottas taking the lead, came to an early end with collisions in the middle of the pack: After what looked like a good start by Verstappen, he lost many places due to loss of power from his engine and got caught up in an incident with Grosjean, Raikkonen and Gasly, all while Sainz spun in a way smaller incident with Stroll and got slightly nicked by Vettel. The Red Bull contracted drivers, Verstappen and Gasly, were forced to retire and the safety car was deployed so that all the cars stuck in the gravel could be recovered.

The safety car deployment allowed for a bit of pause in order to check on the race order. Russell’s magnificent start and avoidance of all the debris and crashes granted him an 11th place, closely followed by Magnussen and Latifi. Leclerc had managed to make it up to third place, earning two places from his former fifth place on the grid. The restart brought another big crash at the back due to the safety car’s lateness in turning off its lights in the last corner instead of a few corners earlier. Bottas wasn’t able to open up a gap with the safety car due to how late it was notified to him via the lights and that, mixed with the change in rules for the restart after a safety car (cars can only overtake after the finish line, not the safety car line as it used to be), caused a domino effect with the cars that couldn’t see either the safety car’s lights going off too late or the cars in front not accelerating due to that. It would eventually be red flagged in order to clean all the debris from the main straight. Same as last weekend’s race, a standing start was decreed for the remaining thirteen cars after just nine laps, as Ocon retired as well. Both Mercedes cars changed to medium tyres, as did Russell and Raikkkonen, with everyone else still choosing softs.

The second start gave Hamilton his first place back and, while Leclerc managed to keep his third place, Albon dropped back to seventh. Only three teams that had both drivers on track and only three drivers would be left without points, were no one else to retire. The battle for the last step of the podium spanned from Leclerc to Albon, a neat group of five cars which were likely to become the main entertainers of the race. Ricciardo showed the importance of DRS in the main straight and settled himself in between the Racing Point cars. Vettel, who had found his way to last, slowly started climbing up as his teammate did the same but in the opposite direction. In a desperate action, Leclerc boxed for hards to try and go against the current while Vettel was clearly stuck in eleventh place. The only Williams car left, Russell, was grasping onto tenth for the last point as if he was fighting for his life.

The most attractive fight was that for third place. About halfway through the race, it seemed as if it would be between Stroll and Ricciardo, as they were leaving everyone else behind bit by bit. A quick pit stop by the Australian would prove very fruitful to him, as he was painting the timing sheets in purple, which would eventually make Stroll come out behind him once he boxed. Meanwhile, Hamilton was complaining about tyres just as usual but went back on his words as soon as Bottas stopped to change his own set, because it would mean he’d be stopped too to avoid an almost non-existent possibility of an undercut. The last step of the podium was still the most exciting fight, as Ricciardo, Stroll and Albon were getting close and tyre management would prove key in the battle.

Yet another satefy car was called onto the track as Stroll lost the car in between both Arrabbiata corners due to a rear tyre puncture and the incident called for the second red flag of the race so that the Racing Point car could be recovered and the barriers fixed. When it was still a race under safety car conditions, Bottas tried to get one up on Hamilton and decided to pit for mediums, but his bet was soon rendered useless, as the red flag allowed for everyone to change tyres without losing any time. The standing start was chosen as the restart method just as it had been the previous time and everyone mounted softs, primarily to have the best chance at kick-off.

In the third start of the race, Ricciardo overtook Bottas in a brilliant start for a second place that he’d lose in San Donato in the following lap. Behind him, Albon came out on top of the other contenders for the third podium step. His pace was better than Ricciardo’s and he easily overtook him once he was in DRS range. At the back, both Ferraris were in the points, but Russell had dropped out and was trying to hunt down Vettel. Hamilton was insatiable and won the Tuscan GP in front of Bottas and Albon in what should have been a Ferrari celebration. Despite all the mayhem, Ferrari kept itself mostly in the clear and managed to get both cars in the points in their own circuit.

We experienced the second weekend in a row where the excitement came in the shape of safety car messes. The first nine laps were mayhem, with the first lap crashes, the two safety cars and the consequent red flag after the main straight crash. A race that started off with twenty cars on the grid soon became one with a mere thirteen not even ten laps into it. Verstappen, one to never back out of fun races, missed out again due to engine problems, and Ferrari couldn’t shine in its 1000th GP, Leclerc being a bit of the exception in some very specific instances, such as his start to place himself in third place. Albon finally earned his first podium in F1 in the best battle of a race whose entertainment came from being stopped and restarted twice.