The Mugello circuit in Italy is a second home for Ferrari and now it is also set to become a second home for Formula One.
There is a tidal wave of expectation that suggests Mugello will soon be announced as the ninth round of the 2020 season on August 13, a week after the confirmed Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
Ferrari sparked the initial speculation when it chose to conduct its only pre-season test at Mugello, 90 minutes down the road from Maranello, instead of at its on-site test track in Fiorano.
Like the Renault, Alpha Tauri and Mercedes teams, Ferrari conducted a shake-down of their socially-distanced COVID-19 pitlane procedures with their 2018 cars in preparation for next weekend’s delayed opening round of the 2020 F1 season in Austria.
However, eyebrows were raised when the Scuderia chose to pack its trucks and drive down the highway to the 5.2-kilometre venue instead of walking next door from the road car division in Maranello where its team is based.
In fairness, Ferrari does own both venues and has a history of running its end-of-season celebration events at Mugello in front of thousands of cheering tifosi.
If Mugello does join the 2020 roster then Ferrari’s test could provide a crucial advantage for the Prancing Horse as it would be the only F1 team with fresh data around a track that last hosted a grand prix in the pre-hybrid era of 2012.
Although it’s not yet been ratified by Formula One or placed on the calendar, sources both within and outside the circuit are claiming it’s a done deal and the race will be perfectly timed to coincide with Ferrari’s 1000th Grand Prix.
Officially, Ferrari says the decision to load the trucks and drive down to northern Tuscany was because Mugello’s topography is a better match for the Red Bull Ring where the first two races of this year will be held, compared to the nearly-flat Fiorano layout.
Following the test, both Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc added their weight to plans for a GP.
“It was great to once again get those feelings from sitting in a car and to do so at such a spectacular track. I really think Mugello deserves to host a Formula One grand prix,” says the four-time world champ, Vettel.
“I hadn’t driven it for eight years, so it took a few laps to get used to and then I really enjoyed myself.”
Leclerc added that the many hours of virtual racing he has done during the off-season could not prepare him for the real thing.
“Even though I’ve been pretty busy with virtual racing, I needed to get that physical impression of speed,” he says.
“Being able to drive on such a spectacular track for the first time in a Formula One car helped to make this day even more memorable.”
With Mugello’s confirmation imminent, a third Italian track – Imola – is also looking more and more likely to join the series.
Imola last hosted a grand prix in 2006, and is infamously known as the scene of Ayrton Senna’s fatal crash in 1994, but there is clear potential for an Italian triple-header at the three tracks.
“Imola has F1 in its DNA and, on this track, the history of F1 must not be forgotten and we should be rightly proud of it,” says the president of the Imola track, Uberto Selvatico Estense.
The Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, as Imola is officially called, lies 40 kilometres east of Bologna, a two-hour drive from Mugello, and hosted its first Grand Prix in 1953.
In 1981, organisers found a loophole in F1’s one-race-per-country rule at the time by borrowing the name of the neighbouring Republic of San Marino so that it became Italy’s second GP alongside Monza each year.
“In this serious crisis, our goal is to bring back the top series to Imola this year and the most logical solution for F1 fans would be to use circuits with great media impact like Imola, perhaps together with Monza and Mugello for a legendary national triple.”