Monday, September 7, 2020 in Piazza del Popolo 31 in Faenza, on the balcony of the City Hall, a blue banner with the profile of a bull says: “Thank you guys”. Next to the Italian flag, the banner of Europe and the blue-white flag of Faenza. Romagna wakes up waving its pride. There is not only Maranello. In the Motor Valley of Via Emilia there is also Alpha Tauri, which has resurrected the illustrious and silent past of this working-class land by winning with Pierre Gasly at Monza.
"Yesterday was a day of celebration for our city".
Proudly says the mayor, Giovanni Malpezzi, in the aftermath of the French driver's victory at Monza.
"This team represents the narration of the history and the actuality of our territory, it is one of the ten most important companies, born from the courage and foresight of Giancarlo Minardi who, having concluded his adventure in Formula 1, passing the baton has left it rooted to its origins. It is not the Ferrari that we all admire for its glorious history, it cannot be. AlphaTauri, whose new name we have yet to metabolize, works an entire year to produce five cars. But it employs our families and drives our industry to innovation. It's thanks to them that carbon has arrived here and that we have a master's degree in materials chemistry in collaboration with the University of Bologna that is cutting edge, and that many envy us. You won't see any Alpha Tauri fan club in town, but a lot of sympathy and affection".
Giancarlo Minardi himself, the founder of the Faenza-based team, interviewed following this extraordinary result obtained by Gasly, admits:
"Yesterday there were carousels around the factory by fans. The people of Romagna are fiery when they manage to raise their heads and there was certainly a hint of pride compared to Ferrari. It was a beautiful afternoon and we hope to see more of them".
It may happen starting on Sunday, September 13, 2020, the day in which Formula 1 will stop at Mugello for the first time in history, a special event for Ferrari, who will celebrate their race number 1000 in one of the most difficult periods in its history. Formula 1 has never held a Grand Prix on this track before. The circuit uses the same length of 5245 meters and the same number of curves, fifteen, used in the MotoGP, for the traditional motorcycle Grand Prix of Italy. Unlike this category, however, and as it is traditionally done for Formula 1 circuits, the track is divided into three sectors, instead of four. The first intermediate is located 60 meters before turn 6 (Casanova), the second intermediate 140 meters before turn 12 (Correntaio) and the third intermediate coincides with the finish line on the main straight. The speed trap, the point where the maximum speed is measured, is located 390 meters before the first curve (San Donato) as in MotoGP.
Initially the race was not scheduled in the calendar, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to the cancellation and postponement of many races, the FIA was forced to redraw the dates of the season. Only on July 10, 2020 it was announced that the Grand Prix would have been on the calendar for the first time in the world championship. Already in February, at the beginning of the outbreak of the pandemic, the circuit had been nominated as an alternative venue for Grand Prix that could have been cancelled. The race, unlike all the previous ones, is the first of the season to be attended by a paying audience. In fact, the organizers have put 2.880 tickets on sale. Initially the price of tickets ranged from 750 to 1.250 euros, but following criticism for the excessive prices, the organizers finally decided to cancel the coupons already sold and cut prices by fifty percent.
The race is held a week after the Italian Grand Prix, which is run in Monza. For the fourth time after 2018, between the French Grand Prix and the British Grand Prix, and also after what happened twice this season, for the first time in July, between the Austrian Grand Prix, the first race of the season, and the Hungarian Grand Prix, and for the second time in August, between the British Grand Prix and the Spanish Grand Prix, the championship includes three races in three weekends in a row. For the first time since 2006, when the Italian Grand Prix was held in Monza and the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola, Italy hosts more than one Grand Prix in its territory valid for the Formula 1 World Championship. If we also count the Grand Prix of Emilia-Romagna, scheduled for November 1 in Imola, the number of Grand Prix on the Italian territory is, for the first time ever, three.
The Mugello racetrack becomes the fourth Italian circuit to host a race valid for the Formula 1 World Championship, after Monza (traditional home of the Italian Grand Prix), the Pescara circuit (where the homonymous Grand Prix was held, which in 1957 was a titled race) and the Imola racetrack, home in the past of the San Marino Grand Prix and in this season, as mentioned, for the first time the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix. Between 1st and 3rd May 2012, the circuit hosted a collective test session of Formula 1; the majority of drivers praised the technical characteristics of the track.
Since it is forbidden to call different races with the same name in the same championship, and since the Italian Grand Prix is already present, the Federation calls the event Tuscany Grand Prix after the name of the Italian region. It is the first race to be named after an Italian region and a manufacturer, Ferrari, which celebrates, on its own track, its 1000th race valid for the Formula 1 World Championship. The Italian team (which will replace the chassis of Charles Leclerc's car, but not the engine, which was recovered after the crash during the Italian Grand Prix) celebrates the milestone with a special livery, which includes a darker shade of red than the one usually used, amaranth, which takes up the shade of the Ferrari 125 S, the first racing car to bear the Ferrari name. The race numbers are hand-painted and the drivers' overalls are also in the same shade. Mattia Binotto, on the sidelines of the presentation of the event that Ferrari will organize on Saturday, September 12, 2020 in Piazza della Signoria in Florence, does not hide after the bad results at Spa and Monza. In this regard, the former president of Ferrari, Luca Montezemolo, expresses his opinion:
"Mugello will be a special race, but honestly and unfortunately I think it will change little because if a car goes strong, it does so on any circuit whether it is a high or low speed track".
And on the current state of Ferrari, he replies:
"I love Ferrari, better to keep quiet".
It seems instead more optimistic the team principal of Ferrari, Mattia Binotto, who confesses to the newspapers:
"Regardless of the difficult moments, we always feel the support of our fans. I hope they also understand the situation in which we find ourselves. It's a special race, but when you're competing in a championship, every race is important, so the level of attention and concentration is always very high. The pressure is exclusively positive".
But Vettel and Leclerc's double retirement at Monza has not been forgotten, and there doesn't seem to be much of positive expectations on the horizon:
"Certainly this track has different characteristics from those on which we have just raced and for this reason we hope to do better than we did previously. We know Mugello very well because we have done a lot of testing there. With Michael Schumacher we used to come here very often to test. It's a beautiful track, very challenging and fast and the drivers who have raced there like it a lot, just think that a Formula 1 car would lap a MotoGP car in about three laps".
The real consolation for Ferrari in this difficult moment is the presence of the public, as Binotto admits:
"The Tuscan Grand Prix this weekend is the first international event open to the public in Italy after the Covid-19 problem. So for us this event in general is also a general signal that we want to give of restart for the whole country because everything coincides with a public event at the international world level open to the public for the first time. An effort has been made and an exception has been granted by the Region of Tuscany in order to allow the entry of 3,000 spectators, which I understand are few compared to 100.000, but it is an absolutely important first signal for the whole Formula 1 world".
The team principal, finally, confirms that next weekend at the Mugello circuit, alongside the Scuderia Ferrari, there will be President John Elkhann, Vice President Piero Ferrari, CEO Louis Carey Camilleri, and many former Ferrari drivers, as well as Chase Carey, President of Formula 1, and Jean Todt for the FIA.
So the countdown for the Ferrari event in Piazza Signoria in Florence begins. Saturday night at 9:00 pm the show organized by the car manufacturer will be held. Maxi screens and a surprise show whose details Ferrari still does not reveal. It’s been a couple of days that the preparations for what will be a weekend of celebration have begun. In front of Palazzo Vecchio the impressive stages reserved for the 250 guests of Ferrari are mounted. Specifically, there will be 500 standing places and another 400 seats in the tables of bars and restaurants. The square will not be closed, however, but it will be accessible even during the event. The City Council reassures that it will employ a deployment of law enforcement, plus members of civil protection and stewards. Everything necessary to control the evening event, given the health situation in the country, which is still fragile. And that will have the flavour of return to the past, as before the pandemic. As admitted by the mayor, Dario Nardella:
"It will be the first public event in the presence of people in Florence after the covid emergency. An important and challenging test".
At the entrance of the square, the accesses will be counted (people will enter by simple order of arrival, without any reservation) and it is not possible to exceed the maximum capacity. For the city this is an important signal, a moral charge, but also an economic one. For this weekend, the hotels have already booked more than 3,000 rooms and some hotels are even calling their employees from the redundancy fund to make them work.
"This appointment on Saturday night together with the Mugello Grand Prix gives a boost of extraordinary confidence for the economic recovery of the city. We will bring thousands of people to the metropolitan area. About 400 workers and dozens of companies are involved, including technical and artistic support, almost all of our territory. And we still haven't calculated the commercial impact".
In short, there is a lot of satisfaction for Ferrari with its 1000 Grand Prix, and also for the Municipality, which is once again hosting high-profile events. For the usage of Palazzo Vecchio, where a private dinner will be organized in the Salone dei Cinquecento after the show, Ferrari will pay over 200.000 euros, plus the price for the occupation of public land. In addition, Ferrari has created a special show-car with the commemorative livery of 1000 Grand Prix that will be auctioned, and whose proceeds will go to the Region and the city of Florence for charity. Sunday, September 13, 2020 in the square an exhibition will then be open to all with some of the most famous and historic cars of the brand, as well as the models of the range 2020. At the same time, a few kilometres away, the race will be run in Mugello. It is the first facility this year to open its doors to the public for a championship race. The capacity will be reduced to 2880 seats and tickets will have a price reduced from 375 to 600 euros.
The Tuscan Grand Prix, sponsored by Pirelli, represents the first race in which the founding family of the Williams team does not play any management role, following the sale of the team to the American investment fund Dorilton Capital prior to the Belgian Grand Prix. In this regard, already on Tuesday 8 September 2020, Mike O'Driscoll, outgoing CEO of the team, announced his intention to retire from Formula 1 after the sale of the team. The next day Simon Robert, formerly at McLaren and Force India, would become the new team principal. While all preparations are carried out for this special occasion, on Wednesday September 9, 2020, the organizers of the first edition of the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, scheduled for November 1, 2020 at the Imola racetrack, despite the problems dictated by the Covid-19 pandemic, plan to sell 13.000 tickets for the Grand Prix, which marks its debut for the first time on the Formula 1 World Championship calendar, as confirmed by Uberto Selvatico Estense, owner of the Imola circuit:
"This will be a legendary event for those who love Formula 1. We will propose different parking solutions to organize in a different way the access to the stands. We will use all the grandstands of the circuit. We are planning to use three empty seats between groups of people to maintain social distance. Considering that the spectators will be in the outdoor grandstands, it will be really safe for everyone. So we're working on blocks of 1,000 people each, and each block will have its own parking lot. That way we think we can control and secure everything from a health standpoint".
As for the price of tickets, Selvatico Estense states:
"We are thinking of proposing the same price that Monza had in the past. This will be our strategy. We want to give the local public a special lot to give them the opportunity to see the race. We're working for the area and we're working for the people here. Obviously we want to maintain a standard for the show, so tickets won't be as cheap. But I think people will understand".
Selvatico Estense also says that proceeds from ticket sales will be split with the Formula 1 organization. Traditionally, the proceeds would be kept by the event venue and used to pay the race's hospitality fees, but in 2020 that model is being abandoned.
"We will partner with Formula 1 and share the fee. I think for us this partnership is very important".
Meanwhile, Sergio Pérez announces that at the end of the season he will leave the British team, with which he raced for seven seasons, first under the name of Force India and then Racing Point.
"Everything in life always has a beginning and an end, and after seven years together, my time with the team will end at the conclusion of this season. It hurts me a bit, because together we have managed to overcome many obstacles and I am very proud to have saved the jobs of several members of my team. I will cherish the memories of the great times we had together, the friendships and the knowledge that we always gave it our all. I will always be grateful for the opportunity I was given by Vijay Mallya, who believed in me in 2014 and allowed me to continue my Formula 1 career with Force India. To the current administration, led by Lawrence Stroll, I wish nothing but the best for the future, especially with the upcoming Aston Martin project".
His place will be occupied by Sebastian Vettel, after the German had announced in the previous months his farewell to Ferrari. The announcement comes Thursday, September 10, 2020, close to the celebration of the 1000th Grand Prix run by Ferrari in Formula 1. The German driver will continue his career in the team of the Canadian tycoon Lawrence Stroll, which will be called Aston Martin, with which he could continue in the coming seasons even if the details on the duration of the relationship have not been specified. An expected announcement, almost taken for granted after Sergio Perez had greeted the team and its fans explaining that his story with the British team would end at the end of 2020. Vettel will have as teammate Lance Stroll, the owner's son, back from the third place in Monza: the Racing Point proves to be very competitive and aims to climb the top of the grid.
"I am very happy to finally be able to share this great news for my future. It is with great pride that I announce that I will be linked to Aston Martin starting from next season. It's a new adventure for a decidedly prestigious brand, I'm impressed with the results they have captured this year and the future promises to be even better. Lawrence Stroll has great commitment and energy in Formula 1 and I believe that together we can build something important. I'm still a big fan of Formula 1 and my goal is to race for the top positions. To do this together with Aston Martin is a privilege".
Future Aston Martin team principal Otmar Szafnauer adds:
"At Silverstone, no one is getting excited about 2021. On Saturday and Sunday afternoons Sebastian Vettel is one of the best drivers in the world and together with him we can take the final step to consistently fighting for top positions in Formula 1".
And about the relationship with Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel underlines:
"My relationship with Scuderia Ferrari will end at the end of 2020. In this sport to be able to get the best you have to be in perfect harmony and the team and I have realized that there is no longer a common desire to continue together beyond the end of this championship. There are no economic aspects involved in this common decision: it is not my way of thinking when making certain choices and it never will be. What has happened in recent months has led many of us to reflect on what our priorities in life really are: we need imagination and a new approach to a situation that has changed. I myself will take the time to reflect on what is really essential for my future. Scuderia Ferrari has a special place in Formula 1 and I wish it all the success it deserves. Finally, I want to thank the entire Ferrari family and, above all, its fans all over the world for the support they have given me over the years. When I joined Ferrari it wasn't just to be there and win races, but to win World Championships, and in this sense we failed. But I have no regrets, I grew up watching Michael and Ferrari. Now for both of us it's time to move on. My immediate goal will be to close in the best possible way this long story with Ferrari trying to share together some good moments, like the many already lived in the past".
Words also confirmed by the Ferrari team principal, Mattia Binotto:
"We have taken this decision together with Sebastian and we believe that it is the best solution for both parties. It was not an easy step to take, considering Sebastian's value as a driver and as a person. There has not been a specific reason that has determined this decision but rather the common and friendly realization that the time has come to continue our journey on different paths to pursue our respective goals".
And finally, the German driver underlines that he was very close to the thought of retiring, but that the new project convinced him to continue:
"I want to race for the top positions and not at the bottom, this is a team that wants to grow and I think it will give me the chance. I was very close to retirement, but this is the best solution for me, because I always wanted to continue racing. Racing Point's performance is encouraging and the new regulations, with the expense cap, will bring the teams closer to the track. I can't wait to get started, the project excites me".
One of the few joys for Ferrari will therefore be represented by the performance of Mick Schumacher, German driver of the Formula 2 championship at the wheel of the Prema Racing team from 2019, member since the same year of the Ferrari Driver Academy and son of the seven-time Formula 1 world champion Michael Schumacher, who will perform on Sunday 13 September 2020 at the wheel of the Ferrari F2004, the car with which his father won the last world title, the seventh in his career, the fifth with Ferrari.
Initially there is even speculation that the driver, fighting for the Formula 2 drivers' championship, may take part in the first Friday free practice session, at the wheel of the Haas or Alfa Romeo Racing. The news, however, will not be confirmed because the driver, being in full fight for the title of his category, will prefer to make his debut in a Formula 1 free practice session in a weekend where the latter is not accompanied by the minor category. For this race, Pirelli, sole supplier of tires, brings C1, C2 and C3 compound tires, the hardest in the range among those available. The circuit is judged similar to Silverstone by the tire supplier, in aspects such as lateral forces and tire stress. However, the abrasiveness of the asphalt is considered to be higher than that of the British track: this advises Pirelli to define minimum inflation pressures of 25 psi on the front wheels and 20.5 psi on the rear wheels.
The International Automobile Federation establishes the main starting straight as the only area for the use of the Drag Reduction System. The detection point, that is the point where the gap between the drivers is detected, is established at the beginning of turn 15 (Bucine). In addition, the Federation designates former Formula 1 driver Mika Salo as assistant steward for the race. The Finn has already performed this function in the past, most recently at the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix. Charles Leclerc, victim of a heavy accident during the Italian Grand Prix, is regularly present at this Grand Prix, after the green light was given following a medical check-up. The Monegasque driver is wearing a special helmet depicting the most iconic Ferraris in the history of the Maranello-based team, which is celebrating its 1,000th race in Formula 1 at this Grand Prix.
Despite his imminent farewell to Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel also pays homage to the Maranello team, wearing a helmet divided into two parts. The German driver creates a parallelism between the past and the present, showing on one side the aged design of the very first Ferrari in 1950, the Ferrari 125 F1, and on the other side the design of a modern single-seater. The Australian Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo wears a special helmet with a leopard design dedicated to MotoGP driver Valentino Rossi. In addition, on the occasion of the 1000th race in Formula 1, Acqua Lete becomes the event partner for Ferrari. The Italian brand thus makes its debut in the world of motorsport, after many experiences in other sports.
Friday 11th September 2020 Valtteri Bottas is the fastest driver of the first practice session. The Finnish Mercedes driver even manages to beat the track record, which belonged to Rubens Barrichello, obtained during tests with Ferrari, in 2004. Bottas laps in 1'17"879, using the Soft compound provided by Pirelli. The other Mercedes driver, Lewis Hamilton, sets the fourth fastest time, focusing more on the set up for the race. Between the two drivers of the Anglo-German team are Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc. The fifth fastest time was set by Pierre Gasly, winner of the Italian Grand Prix. Between the first and second practice sessions, Williams and Racing Point are fined 800 and 200 Euros respectively by the FIA as both Canadian drivers, Nicholas Latifi and Lance Stroll, exceed the speed limit in the pit lane.
Bottas confirmed himself as the fastest driver also in the afternoon session, lowering the track limit again. In this case, the Mercedes driver is two tenths ahead of his teammate Hamilton and Max Verstappen again. The fourth place is taken by the second Red Bull driver, Alexander Albon. Bottas is the only driver to break through the wall of one minute and seventeen seconds, always using soft tires, with a time of 1'16"989. The FP2 are interrupted with a red flag when Sergio Pérez, coming out of the pits, hits the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Räikkönen, sending it into a spin. For this reason, at the end of the session the stewards decide to penalize Sergio Pérez by one position on the grid and one point on the Superlicence for the collision he caused, coming out of the pits, to Kimi Räikkönen.
"We considered that there were reasons to lighten the penalty, which is usually three positions in cases like this. However, we believe that a grid penalty was still appropriate for car number 11, which exited the pit lane hindering car number 7, which was on a fast lap. Therefore, Perez is totally responsible for the incident".
This is the comment of the stewards, while Perez defends himself talking about the dangerousness of the pit exit, considering it as the main cause for the accident with Raikkonen:
"I think the white line comes too far back and there is not enough steering angle for the cars coming out. Obviously it's a new circuit, we've never raced here. I knew there was Kimi behind me but I didn't think he was so close, unfortunately I couldn't avoid him. I think we will have to talk about it again in the briefing to figure out what is the best thing to do".
Raikkonen, who actually closed the trajectory convinced that Perez would have lifted his foot, explains the incident this way:
"I saw him coming out of the pits and at a certain point I lost control of the car. I thought I was in front, I don't really know what happened".
On the other Racing Point car driven by Lance Stroll, who closes with the eleventh time, new side pods are tested, similar to those used by Williams; apart from that, the two cars with pink livery impress in the race simulation. The session had been previously suspended due to Lando Norris going off the track after the Poggio Secco corner. His McLaren crashed at 227 km/h against the barriers. Ferrari does not confirm the good performance of the morning: both Leclerc and Vettel are authors of spins in their best lap. The Monegasque spins at the Correntaio, annoyed by an Alfa Romeo Racing, while the German makes the mistake at the Biondetti.
Vettel is unable to resume the session due to a technical problem with the power unit. Moreover, the Italian cars do not seem competitive even on the race pace. Even at the end of the second session, the stewards are forced to impose fines of 300 and 200 Euros respectively on Ferrari and AlphaTauri, as Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly exceed the speed limit in the pit lane. Having concluded the tests, Valtteri Bottas comments on the performance achieved and the current state of work ahead of the Grand Prix:
"Today was a lot of fun, I enjoyed every lap. The whole first sector, with the fast chicanes and the second one are fantastic and the car behaved well. I struggled with a bit of understeer in the first session and again in the second, although it got a bit better. There is still room for improvement, both in terms of the car and the driver. This track, physically, is definitely one of the most challenging. We'll really see the effects of it over the race distance, but I've already heard today that it will be tough for everyone on Sunday. It's also unforgiving, there are few margins for error as it should be".
The teammate of the Finnish driver, Lewis Hamilton, despite being momentarily second, is not discouraged, and indeed speaks enthusiastically both of the circuit, both of the work done so far:
"I have to say that this track is really intense, fast and challenging, really great to drive on. I love it. There's no time to relax and it's one of the most physically demanding tracks I've ridden lately. I tried to push it to the limit today but I think there are points where I can still improve. In the last sector I'm almost ok, but in the first and in the second there is still something to do because Valtteri and Max were faster. We have some changes to make and we will have to study them tonight. I hope we can improve tomorrow. The tires were strong and behaved well, but it will be difficult not to wear them out in the fast spots, especially in turns 6 to 9".
And Charles Leclerc is of the same idea, as he enthusiastically comments:
"Driving a Formula 1 car on this circuit is incredible. It's pretty impressive in all the fast sections. I think the race will be pretty tough physically, as it was in the long runs already and in the second session today the neck was starting tohurt! It will also be complicated by the fact that the runways here are made of gravel, but after all that's what we like. The first session went well but maybe the results of the second are more realistic, when we struggled a bit with the hard tires. There is also work to do on the balance, as we are not there yet. The times are very close to each other but I think we can make a good step forward tomorrow. I am optimistic".
And despite the fact that the first results are not exceptional, Sebastian Vettel confessed himself confident:
"It was an interesting day. Mugello is really a wonderful track, on which it is great for us drivers to drive even if it is definitely severe with the tires. I am not yet satisfied with the balance of the car but I would say that we are working on it and that there is still a lot to do. After all, it's only Friday and Fridays are made for testing. I am convinced that there is potential to find a set-up that I am more satisfied with. I think we will be able to improve the car in view of the qualifying".
In any case, more generally all the drivers appreciate Liberty Media's decision to run a Grand Prix on the Mugello circuit, as Mario Isola, Head of Motorsport for Pirelli, also confirms:
"All the drivers enjoyed a first taste of Mugello, whose unofficial track record dating back to 2004 has already been widely beaten in FP1 and then further improved in FP2, on both occasions on Red soft. We expected that the tire wear would be quite high in the long run, with a significant degradation even on soft and the data we collected in free practice confirmed it. Talking about the performance, we noticed a slightly wider gap than expected between medium and soft. This will obviously be a crucial factor in terms of strategy for qualifying and the race, along with the data that will be collected tomorrow in FP3. The initially green track we found today then saw an improvement that should continue tomorrow".
The one who’s hoping to regain competitiveness, to get closer to Mercedes and hopefully get back in the running for the World Championship, is Max Verstappen, who at the end of practice stated:
"We can be quite satisfied with how the car behaved and I think it was a good first day at Mugello. We are not too far away from the Mercedes, which is good, and from a balance point of view, there are always things that can be improved, however I am quite satisfied. It's a nice circuit to drive a Formula 1 on, with these fast corners and to be able to take Arrabbiata 1 and 2 at full speed with ease is incredible and enjoyable. It's physically demanding and I felt good, but fifty-nine laps in a row in the heat is not going to be easy. I like a bit of a challenge and we shouldn't complain as we train to be in these cars and should enjoy them more. From a tire standpoint, I was expecting worse, but we'll see how they hold up for the rest of the weekend. The circuit is just my type of track, with no slow corners, so I'm looking forward to more laps on it".
Also on Saturday morning, at the end of FP3, Bottas confirms himself as the driver most at ease on the Tuscan track. The Finnish driver again lowers the track record, preceding Max Verstappen by only 0.017 seconds. A few thousandths from Bottas closes also the other Mercedes driver, Hamilton. At half a second from Bottas is Lance Stroll, who precedes Pierre Gasly, also author of a track excursion at Scarperia. Charles Leclerc closes with the seventh time, almost one second behind the first.
A few hours later, at 15:00, qualifying for the Tuscan Grand Prix gets underway. The first driver to complete a lap is George Russell, in 1'18"024. After the times of the slowest cars on the grid, Valtteri Bottas closes a lap in 1'15"749, 29 thousandths better than Lewis Hamilton. Max Verstappen, another protagonist of the free practice, is half a second behind. The Dutchman is followed by the two Racing Points, while the McLarens, which are close to the Alfa Romeo Racing times, are further back. The Ferraris are also in trouble, with Vettel tenth, while Leclerc climbs up to provisional seventh place.
Five minutes from the end of the first phase Pierre Gasly is among the eliminated, while both Lando Norris and Sebastian Vettel have not reassuring times. However, the ranking remains very short, so much so that there are only three tenths of difference between the sixth time and sixteenth. Sergio Pérez takes fourth place, while Russell makes a comeback to twelfth place, despite a high-speed track excursion. Räikkönen, Ocon, Giovinazzi and also Grosjean improve, while Gasly does not go beyond the thirteenth time. Daniel Ricciardo gets the seventh time, while the two Williams do not lower their times enough. Norris, instead, improves to eighth, while Vettel takes the fourteenth time. Gasly, Antonio Giovinazzi, Russell, Latifi and Kevin Magnussen are eliminated.
In Q2 Hamilton sets a time of 1'15"309, 0.013 better than Bottas. Verstappen is one tenth slower, while the other Red Bull Racing, the one driven by Alexander Albon, closes at six tenths. Ricciardo's Renault closes fifth, but the Australian on the radio expresses all his tiredness for the physical effort. Lance Stroll gets the sixth time, ahead of Leclerc, much faster than his teammate Vettel. Ocon, Pérez and Norris complete the top ten.
Pérez is the first to go out for a second attempt, but remains ninth, at risk of elimination. Vettel improves his time, but remains thirteenth and does not make the cut. Carlos Sainz Jr. moves into the top ten, eliminating his teammate Norris, while Romain Grosjean does not go beyond's fifteenth time. Kimi Räikkönen also improves his time, beating that of Vettel, but without entering Q3. The last one eliminated is Daniil Kvyat.
In the decisive phase, Lewis Hamilton closes the first lap in 1'15"144, beating Valtteri Bottas by 0.059; the provisional second line is conquered by the Red Bull Racing duo, while Stroll is fifth at one second and two tenths. Pérez and Esteban Ocon, for their part, opt for a single fast attempt. The Mexican climbs to fifth, just ahead of his teammate. The second attempt of many drivers is ruined by the yellow flags in the first sector, due to an excursion of the track by Ocon. The only one to pass unscathed is Leclerc, who climbs up to fifth. Lewis Hamilton takes his 95th pole position in the world championship, the tenth consecutive for Mercedes. At the end of the qualifying Lewis Hamilton comments on the pole he just obtained with his amazing Mercedes, underlining how difficult it was to get it:
"I'm so happy to be on pole here. It's been a tough weekend, to be honest. This is a phenomenal track and it's very challenging. You go into turns 6, 7, 8 and 9 at about 275, 285km/h and the G-forces we feel are hallucinating. Valtteri was faster than me from the beginning, so I worked hard to improve my lines and setup. In the end I managed to get the lap I needed in Q3. The wind bothered me a little bit in the second lap and that's the reason why I couldn't improve, but the first lap was enough. Valtteri did a great job and pushed me to go really hard, so I'm happy that I was able to step up for qualifying. I'm looking forward to tomorrow, it will be difficult to race on a track with these speeds but it will be interesting at the same time".
Valtteri Bottas, on the other hand, points out how the display of the yellow flag damaged him during his fast lap:
"Yellow flag? Yes, it damaged me. I could definitely do better. The first attempt was good but not perfect. I was hoping to improve in the second one but I didn't have the opportunity. This is disappointing. I had been doing well all weekend. Turn 1? We also thought that overtaking here was impossible, but we've seen that some rare points where you can overtake on this track are there. We'll see, I hope so at least. There is a lot of road before Turn 1, I hope there can be this wind in the race too because it can make things interesting".
And finally Max Verstappen also speaks, admitting that he can't believe he managed to put the two Mercedes drivers in trouble:
"As a team, I think we did a great job all weekend, and from the beginning the single-seater worked in a good window, so it was just a matter of adjusting little things. We have never been so close to the Mercedes in qualifying, so we have to be happy about that, and the gap to the other rivals has also increased. I have good hopes for the race and it's always difficult to predict if we'll fight for the win, but I'm a bit more confident than on other weekends. We have a pretty good top speed, which is good considering where we are, and although it won't be easy to overtake, at least the last corners are quite wide and long, so you can take different trajectories. From a strategy point of view it's a new track, so we'll know a lot more during the race, especially about the tires, as the temperatures will be quite high tomorrow. It's never easy to overtake a Mercedes, but we will give everything we have, I can't wait to race here, I really love this track".
Charles Leclerc is also really pleased, as he can't believe he was able to push his car all the way to fifth place on the grid:
"We definitely pulled out all the stops today. We come back from two very difficult weekends for the whole team. Before qualifying I thought we'd have a shot at Q3, but I definitely didn't think I'd be fifth at the start tomorrow. I'm delighted and I don't think there was much more to do today. We went from a low load track to a high load track and what we had in Monza and Spa was honestly really difficult to drive. I went from having understeer to oversteer very quickly and the balance with put us in a position to have confidence in the car. This weekend, however, the set-up was better. I was happy with the car, in qualifying I really liked the balance we found. Now we have to find that pure performance that we are missing. In view of the race, the pace was not too bad. Three or four cars behind us were going faster in the long runs, but my job is to try to leave them behind. It will be difficult but I will give my best".
On the other hand, Sebastian Vettel is understandably disappointed with the modest performance of his SF1000:
"If getting into Q3 was difficult? Yes, it was. But the first attempt in Q1 was quite good. And also the second one, considering the mistake I made at the beginning of the lap, was. But then I couldn't progress anymore and we have to figure out why. So far I'm not managing to drive the car well. We are trying to take it one step at a time. Today we made another step, tomorrow there will be a difficult Grand Prix, we will try to have a good race pace and do everything we can. As for Sunday, it's difficult to make predictions. We have never raced here, so we don't know how the race will go. We have to wait for tomorrow to see if the race will become a long line of cars".
Once qualifying is over, the attention of the drivers and the Ferrari team principal move to Piazza della Signoria, where during the evening the party inherent to the Grand Prix number 1000 will be held on Sunday 13 September 2020 at the Mugello circuit. The square is packed with the single-seaters that have won, over the years, Formula 1 World Championships, including the F2008, the F2002, the F1-2000, the 312 T4 and the 500 F2, as well as some road cars including the SF90 Stradale, the F8 Tributo Spider, the 812 GTS, the Portofino and the Roma. In the middle of the square there will also be an example of the SF1000 in the amaranth color that characterizes the single-seaters employed in the Mugello circuit. Shortly after 9:00 pm, the façades of Palazzo Vecchio and the Loggia dei Lanzi are illuminated by some of the most iconic images of the Scuderia Ferrari in the 999 Grands Prix joined so far, accompanied by the notes of the flutist Andrea Griminelli. At the end of the show, the guests continue the evening inside Palazzo Vecchio, where a dinner is held in the Salone dei Cinquecento. Ferrari President John Elkann will declare:
"We celebrate an exceptional number that brings with it many others. We are the only team that has taken part in all the Formula 1 World Championships, since 1950, and we have no equal in terms of victories with 16 constructors' titles, 15 drivers' titles and 238 race successes, almost one in every four participations, and we are lucky enough to be able to do so at Mugello, our track, which makes its debut in Formula 1. I would like to take this opportunity to underline the merit of all the people, the mechanics, the engineers and even those who don't come to the track, but who work every day with equal passion in the design, production of the car, logistics, safety and every other sector of the Scuderia Ferrari. As we celebrate our first thousand races, we are already looking ahead, we are already thinking about the next thousand. We are proud to be part of this new Formula 1, a decision confirmed a few days ago with the signing of the Concorde Agreement, because we believe in the will of those who manage our sport and want to make it ever greater and more spectacular, keeping its DNA intact".
The president concluded by talking about the many fans that Ferrari can boast in the world:
"We are the only team that can boast of them around the world. Of course, now they are disappointed, and they don't fail to make their voices heard. But it is first and foremost them that we think about when we take to the track, because, as our founder said, Ferrari is made up first and foremost of this, of people, and the fans are an integral part of the team. This has been a difficult season so far, but I know that we have the right people, in terms of ability, competence and passion, who will enable us to get back to winning ways. I have one certainty: in the thousand Grands Prix to come, the victories will be more than those obtained so far".
Sunday, September 13, 2020, at 15:10, drivers and mechanics are ready to give life to the ninth race of the Formula 1 World Championship, in this anomalous version revised in relation to the evolution of the expansion of the pandemic of Covid-19. At the start Valtteri Bottas takes the lead, while Lewis Hamilton is less fast and has to defend himself from the attack of Charles Leclerc, who started fifth. Also Max Verstappen is the author of a bad start, which brings him in the middle of the group. At the second corner the Dutch Red Bull Racing driver is hit by Kimi Räikkönen, who is squeezed between Pierre Gasly and Romain Grosjean. Carlos Sainz Jr. also spins, and hits Sebastian Vettel's car. Verstappen and Gasly are forced to retire, while the race direction sends the safety car on track.
The classification sees Bottas in the lead, ahead of Hamilton, Leclerc, Alexander Albon, Lance Stroll, Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Pérez. The safety car remains on track for eight laps: at the restart, however, there is a new crash. In the middle of the group there is a noticeable slowdown, just while the row of single-seaters proceeds on the pit straight. Antonio Giovinazzi hits Kevin Magnussen from behind, ending up against Nicholas Latifi's car. The McLaren of Carlos Sainz Jr. is also involved in the accident. The four drivers have to retire, but they get out of their cars unharmed. In this case the race direction decides to interrupt the race by showing the red flag. Carlos Sainz Jr. will say shortly afterwards:
"Well, first of all I'm happy that everyone is okay after such a dangerous accident. That's the main thing. We really need to look at what happened and understand what triggered the whole situation to make sure it never happens again. It's not the first time these restarts have become dangerous especially from the middle of the grid on and we need to take action. On the positive side, I had a good start. We knew that we could take some risks trying to recover some positions because the pace has not been the best during the whole weekend. Unfortunately, I had a slight contact with a Racing Point car fighting for fifth position at turn three, which sent me into a spin. We still had the whole race ahead of us and I could have fought for the points zone by climbing from fifteenth position at the restart. Unfortunately, we had to retire. I want to thank the mechanics and the entire team for all the hard work they put in with nine races in eleven weekends. Let's keep it up".
And Antonio Giovinazzi, who was involved in the incident as well, added:
"It's really frustrating to end a race like that, without even having done a single lap, although I'm very happy for the team that scored points. I had another good start, moving up to fourteenth position: I felt comfortable in the car and who knows how the race could have gone. There is not much I can say about the accident, except that it was a very dangerous situation. Everyone around me was already at full speed, but suddenly Kevin Magnussen practically stopped in the middle of the track. Nicholas Latifi avoided him, but I didn't have the time. I tried, but I caught the left rear tire. Thank goodness nobody was hurt, but it was a very dangerous accident. With such a long straight, it's always going to be a problem and we need to think about how to prevent this situation from happening again in the future".
The race restarts from standstill and no longer behind the safety car. Esteban Ocon does not start, due to a brake overheating problem. Bottas, who started from the pole position, is passed at San Donato corner by Hamilton, while Leclerc keeps the third place, ahead of the two Racing Points.
On lap 15 Daniel Ricciardo passes Pérez for fifth place. In the following laps Charles Leclerc gives up several positions, being overtaken by Stroll, Ricciardo and Albon. The Monegasque driver pits for hard tires on lap 22. On lap twenty-seven Ricciardo stops to change tires, opting for the Medium, while Lando Norris takes the fifth place from Pérez. On the next lap Kimi Räikkönen's pit stop is very slow, due to a technical problem.
In the following laps all the drivers of the first positions stop: the classification sees Lewis Hamilton always in the lead, with almost six seconds of advantage on Bottas; then follow Ricciardo, Stroll, Albon, Pérez and Norris. At lap 43 Lance Stroll loses control of his car due to a puncture at the second turn Arrabbiata, crashing violently against the barriers. The Canadian driver is however unharmed. The race direction suspends the race for the second time. The last time a race was suspended twice was in the 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix. In the aftermath of the race, Lance Stroll, who emerged unscathed from the accident, reassured the fans about his health:
"First of all I am fine, although the impact was very strong. We are still investigating the cause of the accident. It all happened very quickly, but it looked like a tire puncture. However, we need to analyze the data before we can confirm the cause. There were a lot of points at stake and we were closing the gap on Ricciardo for third place on the podium before the accident. It looked like there could be an exciting finish. However, I'm very pleased with the package of updates brought in this weekend, it gives us a good outlook for the upcoming races. We had a good start at the beginning and we stayed out of trouble in the restart as well. It's a shame about the final result, it's like a cookie crumbling, but I focus on the positives".
Also in this case the race does not restart behind the safety car, but from the starting grid. Lewis Hamilton remains first, while Bottas is second. Alexander Albon overtakes Ricciardo for third place. Albon seems to be able to get close to Bottas as well, but he increases his pace, and places himself closer to Hamilton. In the meantime, the race direction penalizes Kimi Räikkönen by five seconds, on the race time, for crossing the white line before entering the pit lane.
In the final part of the race Hamilton easily controls, conquering his ninetieth victory and his seventeenth hat trick (victory, pole position and fastest lap). The podium is completed by Valtteri Bottas and Alexander Albon, who gets his first career podium. Albon is also the first Thai driver to reach the podium in a world race, and the first Asian to do so since Japanese Kamui Kobayashi's third place in the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix. Hamilton finishes in the points-granting positions for the 22nd time, setting a new world record. A week after the last Grand Prix in Monza, the race is characterized by at least one red flag: the last time two Grands Prix had at least one suspension within seven days, it happened between Monaco and Canadian Grands Prix of the 2011 season.
At the end of the race Racing Point does not receive any reprimand from the stewards, as it happened in the six previous Grands Prix, for having used on its cars the same brake air intakes used in the last seven races, since all the appeals presented by the teams against the British team, including those of Renault, Racing Point itself and Ferrari, have been withdrawn in the previous weeks. The commissioners are therefore following the ruling issued by the Federation before the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, in which it was made clear that the contested parts are regular for technical regulations and illegal for sporting ones.
Kevin Magnussen, Nicholas Latifi and Daniil Kvyat are summoned by the stewards for the havoc created at the restart after the first safety car period, which led to several collisions between different drivers, on the starting grid. All three drivers, along with Alexander Albon, Lance Stroll, Daniel Ricciardo, Sergio Pérez, Lando Norris, Esteban Ocon, George Russell, Antonio Giovinazzi and Carlos Sainz Jr. receive a warning. On the other hand, no action is taken for the incident that occurred on the first lap at turn two, where several drivers were involved, including Kimi Räikkönen, Romain Grosjean, Pierre Gasly and Max Verstappen. Meanwhile, the winner of the race, Lewis Hamilton, commented enthusiastically on another victory in his career, moving closer to his seventh World Championship title:
"Today was one of the most challenging days I've ever had, both physically and mentally. I'm pretty exhausted to be honest, but it's great to win such a crazy race. It's all so dizzying and it feels like three races in one day. It was incredibly tough out there, this track is phenomenal and Valtteri was pushing a lot, so it wasn't easy at all. With all the restarts and the concentration required, it was really tough. The first start was not good and I lost the position on Valtteri, then the second start was better and I took back the position. After that, I had quite a large lead, and another red flag came. Anything could have happened in those restarts, but fortunately at the last one, I had my best start of the day and I was able to keep the position. Valtteri was always close to me and I couldn't make a single mistake, otherwise he would have overtaken me on the straight. A huge thanks to both the team present here and the team back at the factory for all their hard work that made this result possible, this is a fantastic circuit, I hope to come back here in the future".
Valtteri Bottas, who was not able to contain his teammate’s comeback in this race, is slightly more disappointed:
"It seems like there were three races in one day today, and it was really tough. The first part of the race went well for me, but it was short. I had a dream start and held my position on the first restart after the Safety Car. Once I lost the position to Lewis on the second restart, it was really hard to get it back. I did everything I could and pushed really hard, especially in the middle stint, so I could keep the gap. But when you're behind, your tires wear more. There weren't many opportunities once I lost the position, but that's how it goes, I have to keep pushing and improve. That's what I'm going to do".
He is rightly in a different mood Alex Albon, who finally, for the first time in his career, manages to get a podium in Formula 1:
"I'm very happy, it took me a while to get there! It's something I've always wanted and for one reason or another we've never been able to get it, but today being here is pretty special. It's really nice to give something back to the team, after they supported me from day one, and show them what I was capable of. It was a tough race, not exactly one of the easiest. This track is brutal, especially in the high-speed corners in the second sector, and with so many restarts to manage, all of our work was thrown off. We knew I'd have to be aggressive to make all the overtakes but we have a very good single-seater and we also know it does well under braking, and we used that to our advantage. When we lost two positions on the last restart, I got fired up because I didn't want to miss the opportunity for a podium, so I pushed hard for this third position and now I'm over the moon with this result".
On the list of those dissatisfied there is also Max Verstappen, who was first slowed down by a power unit drop, and then unintentionally hit a few meters from the start:
"I am obviously very disappointed, as I knew this could have been a very good race for us. I had a good start and I was able to dodge Lewis, but the car wasn't accelerating, so I lost a lot of speed and had no power. I slipped in the middle of the grid and got rear-ended. When you slide halfway down the field in the first few corners as well as I did, it's pretty easy to get involved in accidents, so I'm not so disappointed about that, we shouldn't have been there. There's not much more to say, but it's really very disappointing for the team that we had to retire again, especially when we looked very competitive. Certainly it's good to see Alex maximize the result and finish on the podium".
A list to which the Ferrari men are added, starting with Sebastian Vettel:
"The start was not the best, but I entered Turn 1 staying on the inside to avoid trouble. Then, when I got to Turn 2, I saw that the McLaren had spun, but I couldn't figure out which way it would go. But then it stopped practically there where it was and at that point I was like in a trap and I couldn't avoid it. Fortunately, with the Safety Car we were able to change the wing without losing any time, and we were able to rejoin the group. I would have liked to be able to take better advantage of the misfortunes of others, but at least I managed to stay relatively far away from trouble. The positive aspect is that we managed to finish in the points, but it is clear that we cannot be happy with this result".
And continuing with Charles Leclerc, who however gives the idea of being more satisfied than his teammate:
"My start was very good, to the point that I managed to climb up to third position, unfortunately however we didn't have the pace to hold that position and so we finished in eighth place. I tried to fight as hard as I could but it wasn't enough to defend ourselves. A lot has happened in this race but also today it was clear that we have a lot of work to do to improve our performance. The race itself was fun. I was happy to be able to start from a standstill after each break because it gave me a chance to fight to improve my position. The car was quite difficult to drive today, especially on Hard tires. Towards the end, however, with the Softs, the situation improved but overall it is useless to hide how complicated our situation is at the moment. However, this does not mean we have to lose heart but, on the contrary, now more than ever we have to stay motivated. This is very important. I am confident that better times will come soon".
Concluding with Ferrari's team principal, Mattia Binotto, who admits that this car has a number of shortcomings, and therefore the recent results certainly cannot make the team happy:
"Leclerc said that something needs to be done? He is right, we are all very disappointed and we are not happy with today's result. We had no race pace, after a few laps we lost our rhythm and the result is a direct consequence of this lack of pace. In this moment there are no explanations, we have obviously degraded the tires too quickly but it is a direct consequence of the difficulties of this project. It's not a certainty that we'll get out of it, it's not a matter of bringing in some aerodynamic appendages that won't improve our basic situation, but we need deeper changes. Some small changes will be there in the next race, but we don't expect them to make a difference. When you have a car with these underlying issues, then you need more time to take the necessary step back and make progress. We're working hard in Maranello, in the wind tunnel and with simulations, with the goal of correcting the basic design also and especially with a view to next year. We can see small appendages being added from race to race, but this is not what we need to aim for in order to make the leap in quality. We have fundamental problems with the project and we need time to correct them".
Driver of the day, despite the many difficulties, is the former Ferrari driver, Kimi Raikkonen, who tells his impressions at the end of a race that was exciting to say the least:
"It was definitely not one of the easiest races, but we finally managed to bring home some points, we can be happy about that. My race got off to a bad start, I don't know what exactly happened at Turn 2, but I got hit and I had a lot of damage. Probably, whoever hit me didn't expect the pack to slow down so much, but anyway the accident took away part of my bottom and front wing. The damage made the car very unmanageable and we had problems with the balance: we lost a lot of downforce, but in the end we managed to have an acceptable pace. I had a slow pit stop, but fortunately the second red flag put us back in the game. I had a penalty for touching the pitlane entry line and this didn't help, but after the second red flag I was still able to make some good laps, in the end I lost only one position. It was a far from perfect race, but we brought home two important points. It's a pity because we made good progress and I think that, with a quiet afternoon, we would have finished further ahead, but we hope to carry this performance into the next races".
Thus ends the ninth round of the Formula 1 World Championship of the 2020 season. A race that increasingly projects Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes towards yet another title, and that begins to cut Max Verstappen and Red Bull out of the possible battle. The next round of the season will take place two weeks later, on Sunday 27 September 2020, in Russia, at the Sochi circuit. In this stage, Valtteri Bottas will be called to answer to his teammate, trying to limit his title race, having already shown in the past to have a particular feeling with the track. However, it seems more and more unlikeable that the Finnish driver can really contrast Lewis Hamilton's run to the title.