Tuscan GP - Stat Wrap
By Sean Kelly
C4F1's Virtual Statman
Few F1 weekends could be more agreeable than a mild September in Tuscany, and Lewis Hamilton would surely concur after yet another afternoon of record-breaking while claiming victory in the first Grand Prix to be held at the Mugello Circuit.
At a venue that really allows F1 cars to show off their true speed (only Silverstone and Monza have produced a quicker average speed), it certainly wasn’t a routine victory for the Englishman on a day that saw three standing starts, something that has only happened twice before in championship history (at the 1987 Austrian and 1990 Belgian GPs).
Having lost the lead at the original start, Hamilton grabbed it back from Valtteri Bottas at the second attempt and held it to the end despite the various shenanigans behind him. He earned his 90th career victory while also establishing new all-time F1 records for points finishes (his 222nd moves him clear of Michael Schumacher) and consecutive classified finishes (42 in a row beats the previous mark held by Nick Heidfeld).
It was the 100th Grand Prix victory for Mercedes since they made their return as an F1 constructor at the start of the 2010 season, and they led a lap for the 32nd consecutive event, setting a new record and erasing one of the few remaining records that was held by Williams, who led 31 straight between Magny-Cours 1995 and Imola 1997.
Valtteri Bottas claimed 2nd place in what was surprisingly only Mercedes third 1-2 finish of an ostensibly dominant season, and thanks to Hamilton’s fastest lap bonus it was the first time in 2020 that Mercedes claimed a maximum score of 44 points.
While his contribution to the team is clear, Bottas will be frustrated to now be winless in the last 8 races while driving the best car, even if his 52nd podium finish today surpassed the total of his two-time world champion compatriot Mika Hakkinen.
As has become customary this year, the two Mercedes were trailed home by a solitary Red Bull, but in a change to the advertised programme it was piloted by Alexander Albon rather than Max Verstappen.
This was the first time anybody other than Verstappen finished on the podium for Red Bull since Daniel Ricciardo’s last victory at the 2018 Monaco GP, and coincidentally it was an on-track pass on Ricciardo that clinched Albon’s podium, the first ever for a Thai driver in F1.
Ricciardo must be getting annoyed with all these near misses. This was the fourth time that the Australian fan favourite has finished fourth in a Grand Prix since joining Renault, yet he has never been on the podium since that Monaco 2018 success. Sunday was the closest he has come to breaking that jinx as he spent 19 laps in a podium position, more than all of his other Renault starts combined.
Speaking of this statistical category, Ferrari had spent a grand total of 12 laps in a top three position this year up until Mugello, where you may have noticed that they were celebrating their 1,000th Grand Prix.
When we say “1,000th Grand Prix”, as always it isn’t quite that simple. For a start, not every world championship event has been for F1 cars, as the 1952 and 1953 seasons were run to Formula 2 regulations. Additionally, the Indianapolis 500 counted toward the championship on 11 occasions from 1950-60, a matter complicated further because Ferrari actually raced in the Indy 500 in 1952.
Therefore, the correct definition was that this was Ferrari’s 1,000th world championship event. Just trust us on this one….
In some rare good news of late, the Scuderia saw an uptick in their form at Mugello, with Charles Leclerc qualifying a surprise fifth, and running as high as third in the early skirmishes.
The car regressed toward the mean as the race developed, and late in the race Leclerc found himself fighting Kimi Raikkonen in the minor points positions. This provided a nice parallel with Ferrari’s first world championship start at Monaco in 1950, in which they finished one place behind an Alfa Romeo.
Sunday saw them finish ahead of Raikkonen’s Alfa, but only after the Finn was assessed a 5-second penalty for crossing the pit entry line. Leclerc’s eighth place wasn’t exactly headline news, but Sunday was the first time in the last five races that both Ferraris scored, as Sebastian Vettel finished tenth – a position in which he’d never finished prior to this year, but has now done so three times since the season began in July.
Higher up the order, Lance Stroll was a podium contender once again before his day ended against the barriers at Arrabbiata 2, prompting the second red flag of the day (the first race with multiple reds since Brazil 2016). The Racing Point cause was taken up by Sergio Perez, who in taking fifth place maintained his distinction of scoring in every race in which he has appeared in 2020.
It wasn’t a vintage day for McLaren – particularly in light of some of the giant-killing results this year – but Lando Norris finished in the top six for the fifth time this year, a consolation prize after Carlos Sainz was eliminated in the big Safety Car restart brouhaha.
The penalty assessed to Raikkonen would only cost him one position in the classification, but it was close as Vettel was within 0.213s of his former teammate once the time penalty was applied. It left George Russell as the odd man out of this points battle, with the Williams driver finishing a frustrated 11th, matching his career best but making it the 30th start of his career without ever scoring (he’s now 6th all-time in that unwanted category).
After the heroics of last weekend, Pierre Gasly came back to Earth with an almost literal bang at Mugello, being knocked out of the race on the opening lap in an accident only seven days after becoming the first French winner since 1996. In a remarkable coincidence, he suffered the same fate as did Olivier Panis 24 years ago, going from French race winner to out on the first lap of the very next race.
He was joined in first lap elimination by Max Verstappen, for whom Sunday was the fourth time the Dutchman failed to get beyond the opening lap of a race. Only 12 cars reached the flag, as Formula 1 suffered its most attritional race since Singapore 2017.
That race was also won by Lewis Hamilton….. but most races are these days.