Lewis Hamilton did not get flustered, or penalized, by a few lengthy stoppages in the F1 Tuscan Grand Prix at Mugello, Italy, on Sunday.
In fact, Hamilton aced both restarts following red-flag periods on his way to his 90th career victory.
Red flags are rare in Formula 1, yet the series has had three over the past two race weekends. Prior to last week’s red flag at Monza, one has to go all the way back to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix at Baku in 2017 for the previous one.
Sunday’s race in Mugello marked the first time two red flags came out in the same race since the 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix. Both red flags in Brazil were the result of torrential rain. Lewis Hamilton won that race, as well.
Four of Hamilton’s 90 career wins have come in red-flagged races.
“Hectic! Such a rollercoaster ride, I think, mentally and emotionally,” Hamilton said after his win in Mugello. “Emotionally and physically, sorry. All these guys have done an amazing job. Valtteri (Bottas) was so quick all weekend, so keeping him behind in the starts and stops we had, I wouldn’t say it was easy to stay in the zone.
“But really, really grateful to the team for running up and down the pit lane, I think we had the furthest to go. For their composure, I think they did an amazing job. Really proud to be a part of it. Ultimately really proud of my performance today because it was not easy keeping these guys behind.”
FIRST PODIUM FOR RED BULL’S ALBON
Red Bull’s Alex Albon scored his first career podium finish on Sunday in his 30th career start. Albon has finished fourth twice, including the second race in Austria this year and at Suzuka last season.
Sure, eight of the 20 cars in the field were long gone when the checkered flag flew and traffic was at a minimum most of the afternoon in Mugello. But Albon did a masterful job in hanging around the leaders and ultimately passing Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo late in the race.
“The Renaults are quick down the straights so I didn’t catch him as quick as I thought I would, and it was kind of like a last-minute dive on the outside,” Albon said. “Of course, I was a little worried, but I left enough space and Daniel gave me enough room and I went past.”
The podium finish should keep the critics—at least those who think it’s time for AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly to be back in the Red Bull machine after Gasly’s win at Monza—quiet for at least the two weeks until the series returns to action Sept. 25-27 in Sochi, Russia.
Gasly, meanwhile, was collected in a first-lap incident and failed to complete a lap.
“I was fired up as I wasn’t going to let the opportunity of a podium go by so I pushed hard to get third and I’m over the moon with today’s result,” Albon said.
Team principal Christian Horner said that Albon has done a great job of focusing on things he can control and not letting the critics get to him.
“He’s done a great job all weekend and he had to pass some tough competitors to fight his way back through the field after a couple of difficult starts,” Horner said. “All credit to him because he hasn’t let the negativity or external criticism get him down, he’s picked himself up and put in a first-class performance.”
VERSTAPPEN FALLS OUT OF TITLE CONTENTION
For the second straight weekend, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen failed to score a point. He completed just 30 of 53 laps at Monza before exiting with engine issues.
At Mugello, Verstappen didn’t make it to the third turn before a crash ended his day. Verstappen, who started third was falling quickly back into the pack with an apparent power unit problem when he was hit from behind and sent to a gravel area that gobbled up his Red Bull machine like quicksand.
“I am of course very disappointed as I know this could have been a really good race for us,” Verstappen said. “I had a good launch at the start of the race and went around Lewis (Hamilton), but then the car just didn’t accelerate, so I lost a lot of speed and had no power.
“I then dropped back into the midfield and got hit from behind. When you drop into the middle of the pack in the first few corners like that, it’s quite easy to get involved in a crash so I’m not disappointed about that. We shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place.”
Verstappen fell to third place, 85 points behind Hamilton, with eight races to go in the season.
GASLY’S 15 MINUTES OF FAME APPARENTLY ARE UP
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly went from the F1 penthouse at Monza to, well, the outhouse in Mugello.
After shocking the F1 world with is win a week earlier in Monza, Gasly had nothing but bad luck in Mugello. First, he failed to get out of Q1 on Saturday, qualifying 16th. And then on race day, his car was unable to survive first-lap contact and it meant an early retirement. Gasly was officially shown in 20th with a DNF on Sunday.
“It was a very exciting race with a lot of entertainment, which is what the fans like so they must be happy today,” AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost said. “Two red flags are very rare in Formula 1 and, unfortunately, we were involved in the first of the incidents, when Pierre was caught in a sandwich between Grosjean and (Kimi) Raikkonen. Because of this, the car was quite heavily damaged, and he wasn’t able to continue.
“However, Pierre was OK after the crash, and that’s the most important thing. Following the victory in Monza, luck wasn’t on Pierre’s side this weekend in Mugello, neither in qualifying nor the race. We know how good Pierre is, and I’m convinced at the next race in Russia he will start from zero and bounce back.”
HAAS’ GROSJEAN FALLS TO F1 BASEMENT
First the good news. Romain Grosjean tied his season-best finish with a second consecutive 12th-place finish for the Haas F1 Team.
Now the not-so good news. Only 12 drivers were even racing at the end, so finishing 12 just means that Grosjean stayed out of trouble (well, he did have a short stint in the gravel trap on the opening lap) and his car stayed in one piece.
Now the bad news. Williams F1 driver George Russell finished 11th. And, with highest finish being the tie-breaker, Russell leap-frogged Grosjean for 19th place (out of 20) in the F1 Drivers’ Championship Standings. Both drivers are scoreless in 2020.
“It’s one of the strengths of Haas—we never give up,” Grosjean said.. “I had a big hit at Turn 2 on the first lap. The car was switched off, I was ready to retire, then I saw I had two wheels on the grass so I restarted the engine to see if I could get out of the gravel.
“I was able to get going and the suspension was OK, so we thought–let’s keep going. At the first red flag I saw the state of the car, I didn’t know how we were going to keep racing, half of the left-hand side was missing. The guys said to hang in and we did our best. The last restart was fun, I managed to get up the order a bit. But when you’re missing about two seconds a lap, which we had calculated in aero damage, there’s not much you can do. That said, I’m very happy that we didn’t give up. Nobody can take that from us.”
ANOTHER SCHUMACHER KNOCKING ON THE DOOR
In some respects, it seems almost fitting that while Lewis Hamilton is on the doorstep to F1 history—he’s one victory shy of Michael Schumacher’s all-time record 91 series wins—another Schumacher is knocking on the door to Formula 1.
Mick Schumacher scored a pair of top-five finishes at Mugello over the weekend to take over the points lead in the F2 series with just three race weekends remaining. He has 161 points through 18 of 24 races, while runner-up Callum Ilott has 153 and Christian Lundgaard is third with 145.
Schumacher and Ilott are both Ferrari Academy drivers, which makes them candidates for F1 next year with the Ferrari-connected Haas F1 Team or Alfa Romeo. Schumacher, who tested for Alfa Romeo last year, turns 22 old on March 22.
Interestingly, his racing champion father Michael began his F1 career at the age of 22. Hmmm.
MORE DRIVERS TO PUT ON THE F1 RADAR SCREEN
Formula 3 crowned 19-year-old Oscar Piastri of the Prema team as its season champion in Mugello. A seventh-place finish in the season finale was worth enough points to give Piastri, a Renault Academy driver, the title over 19-year-old Frenchman Theo Pourchaire.
Third in Formula 3 was 19-year-old American and Piastri teammate Logan Sargeant. Sargeant, who finished 19th in the F3 standings in 2019, is from Boca Raton, Fla.
We did it. F3 champion! What a mental year, absolutely crazy. I hope everyone enjoyed that, because I think I need a heart transplant 😂
AND THEN THERE’S THE POINTS
OK, this is ultimately why we race. Here’s the current Formula 1 leaderboard with eight races to go:
F1 Drivers’ Standings
1, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 190 points
2, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, 135
3, Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 110
4, Lando Norris, McLaren, 65
5, Alex Albon, Red Bull, 63
6, Lance Stroll, Racing Point, 57
7, Daniel Ricciardo, Renault, 53
8, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, 49
9, Sergio Perez, Racing Point, 44
10, Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri, 43
F1 Constructors’ Standings
1, Mercedes, 325
2, Red Bull, 173
3, McLaren, 106
4, Racing Point, 92
5, Renault, 83
6, Ferrari, 66
7, AlphaTauri, 53
8, Alfa Romeo, 4
9, Haas, 1
10, Williams, 0
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