Tantalisingly close at Tuscany

Well, well, well. Formula 1 has kept me on my toes for two weekends in a row and put Tuscany on my holiday wish list. 

Today we saw our favourite teams drive on a new track for F1, but yet watched a race as dramatic and messy as the first GP of 2020. We had some very cool imagery as the cars came aroundthe first two turns of Mugello; a sight which we had never seen before and felt very historic for the drivers as well I’m sure. Ferrari were definitely thinking about history, as it was their 1000th Grand Prix entry today. This was marked by a special livery and one-off helmets for Leclerc and Vettel.

There was barely enough time to be happy for Bottas as he nipped in front of Hamilton, before we saw our first (and definitely not last) incident of the day. There was quite a big and messy crash which involved a few drivers, and it’s still unclear to me who caused it even though the commentators tried their best to talk us through it with various camera feeds and viewpoints. The one thing I do know is that poor Max had to retire from the race for the second weekend in a row. He launched his steering wheel out of the car and looked understandably furious as the incident was not his fault, and prior to the crash he was losing power and dropping back into the rear of the grid. Pierre Gasly was also forced to retire because of the same incident. 

Queue safety car number 1. I never actually realised that the lap counter keeps ticking over while the safety car is out, but luckily the race was re-started again fairly quickly. But WAIT, as soon as the green light was shown for the rolling start to begin, there was a huge crash and pile up at the back of the grid which justified a red flag. For some time, it was unclear what had happened as Giovinazzi, Sainz, Magnussen (and another car which I couldn’t identify) were completely wiped out on the side of the track. Were the drivers actually going to drive today?

I really did feel sorry for Sainz watching him clutch his hand, which had obviously felt the force of the impact, and he seemed very shaken up in his post-incident interview. Grosjean was heard on his team radio exclaiming “are they trying to kill us? This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen” – which I thought was ironic considering the amount of crashes he’s had in the past. So now we had Sainz, Giovinazzi, Magnussen and Latifi out of the race plus Ocon who had issues with his brakes overheating.

As we kicked off the race again with a standing start into lap 9, there were only 14 cars remaining. A similar number to the Austrian GP, which is funny because I was thinking to myself that this race reminded me of that crazy season opener. Hamilton’s car was creating a cloud of smoke on the starting line and I have no idea why. For a moment, I thought we might have another race where Hamilton was out of the runnings, but he didn’t seem to have any problems with the car for the rest of the race.

Hamilton overtook Bottas and Leclerc was sitting in 3rd for a short time before slowly and painfully losing place after place, finishing in 8th. Ricciardo passed Perez to take 5th and I started to become very hopeful for a Riccy podium, although his last podium was back in 2018. While we were focused on another battle between Mercedes and the curbs on track, we heard that somebody had come off track but as viewers we didn’t actually see it happen because the gravel caused such a cloud of smoke. This is where the commentators are invaluable. Stroll had ploughed into the tyre wall at high speed and high impact but thankfully he was unharmed (unharmed enough to comically straddle the back of a marshal’s bike on his way back to the pits).

Queue safety car and red flag number 2. What a rarity to have two red flags in one race (apparently) and another chance for the drivers to get their cars sorted. It was a scorcher of a day at Mugello so the drivers needed cooling down as much as their engines. The marshals were screaming at each other while trying to remove Stroll’s car and it was still smoking while it was hung mid-air – what a drama. We were treated to some shots of the drivers in their garages and I have to say that they looked shattered, but they were back in their cars and ready to race again like the trained athletes they are. 

At the start of lap 46 Riccy managed to get into 2nd place out of 12 cars, and at this point I was fully prepared for a Riccypodium, “RICCIARDDDDOOOOOOOOO”. But alas, it was short lived and he was soon overtaken by Bottas and Albon. I can imagine it must have been quite nice for Albon to have all of the attention today whilst Redbull’s star runner was on the sidelines. 

In the end, it was a Hamilton win with Bottas in 2nd (yawn) and Albon in 3rd place – a great achievement for him. I cannot tell you how gutted I am that Ricciardo lost out on a podium today. Albon has been consistently mid-field for most of the season but yet, the one day where my hero is in 3rd place, he decides to up the stakes. Devastated.

All in all, Tuscany provided an exciting and dramatic race which was ALMOST the scene of Riccy’s first win in 2 years. 

I still love you Daniel.


Sophie Middleton @‪MotorsportSoph