Analysis of a hectic Tuscan Grand Prix, brought to you by Bahrain International Circuit
Casanova, Savelli and Arrabbiata. No, this is not a list of new Italian restaurants coming to Bahrain, rather a magical series of corners on the latest circuit to host its first Formula 1 race. Mugello, located amongst the beauty of the Tuscan hills, was the venue for F1’s second trip to Italy this year. It’s a circuit which has garnered much praise from drivers, having hosted in-season testing as recently as 2012. However, it was largely a step into the unknown with many drivers’ experience of the layout limited to time in simulators.
It also marked Ferrari’s 1,000 Grand Prix in its home country at its home track. With its recent struggles, hopes were not high for the Prancing Horses coming into the race, although there were glimmers of hope for some level of respectability as Leclerc qualified fifth. Ahead of him, Hamilton narrowly beat his team mate in qualifying first, with Verstappen in third.
What materialised over 3.5 hours of stop-start racing was a combination of absolute carnage, two red flags, some incredible overtaking, a masterful driving display from Hamilton and a first-time podium for Alex Albon. Remarkably, it took almost an hour for the drivers to complete a first full lap under green flag conditions. Verstappen barely made it into turn one as a lack of engine power and a very narrow circuit led to a coming together between him, Gasly and Raikkonen, knocking him and the Frenchman out of the race. The safety car enabled the marshals to clear up that mess, only for a multi-car pile-up to materialise on the main straight immediately after the restart. That incident ended the afternoon for Sainz, Giovinazzi, Magnussen and Latifi. An immediate red flag stopped the race, as the marshals dealt with the huge amount of resulting debris on the track. On the restart, Hamilton managed to get ahead of Bottas and despite Mugello throwing surprise after surprise, including another red flag on lap 44 as tyre problems for Stroll put him into the barriers, he kept his cool for an incredible 90th career win and his sixth win of the season.
It was a case of so near yet so far further down the grid, as George Russell in the Williams missed out on his first ever points score by one place and Daniel Ricciardo was pipped close to the end of the race in what would have been his first podium at Renault. He was overtaken by Alex Albon who achieved his much-deserved first top three finish in F1, becoming the first Thai driver to achieve that feat in the sport. Elsewhere, perhaps fortunately for Ferrari, both cars managed to finish in the points with Leclerc sixth and Vettel 10th.
F1 fans can be thankful for consecutive weekends of contrasting yet hugely exciting racing. So, whilst Hamilton continues his dominance in the points table, we can look forward to a second half of the season with much anticipation.
Prior to the race, it had been another big week in F1 news, with Sergio Perez confirming his departure from Racing Point next season, with Vettel announced as his replacement at what will be known as Aston Martin from next year. The team said it was “a clear statement of the team’s ambition” by signing the four-time world champion. It’s hard to argue with that and you would expect that, at least for next year with similar car development rules in place, Vettel should be much further up the grid than his current run of form.
F1 now takes a well-earned week off before a return to Russia, which will be the first event of the season with plans to have a meaningful sized crowd permitted at the event.
* Laurence Jones is head of Marketing and Communications, Bahrain International Circuit