The ninth round of the Formula One World Championship will be a clean slate for everyone and a chance for a repeat underdog performance similar to Pierre Gasly’s wildly popular win with Alpha Tauri in Monza last weekend.
The picturesque Mugello circuit was a late call-up to the COVID-affected 2020 calendar and, while it held an F1 test day in 2012, it’s never hosted a race until now. This means that everyone, from the teams to tyre supplier Pirelli will be taking part without an ounce of real-world data to lean on.
Whilst a favourite of MotoGP, Ferrari’s ownership of the 5.3-kilometre circuit has ruled it out of being on the regular calendar but, when faced with a shortage of venues due to the late start to the season, it gained its chance to host a race and will welcome 3000 paying spectators.
Rubens Barrichello holds the unofficial F1 lap record around the 14-turn circuit of 1 minute 18.704 seconds, set during a private day in 2004 at an average speed of 239.91km/h in a V10-powered, Ferrari F2004.
The 2012 test day ended with Romain Grosjean clocking the quickest time in his Lotus-Renault V8, a long way off Barrichello’s time with 1:21.035.
“The layout is absolutely outstanding,” the Frenchman says on reflection.
“The region is beautiful and then the track is built in such a way that you go up and then down a little bit. It´s very fast, there aren´t any low speed corners. The two Arrabbiatta corners are absolutely outstanding. I think with the 2020 cars it´s just going to be bloody awesome.”
Mark Webber was also on hand that day for Red Bull and gives the track a big thumbs up.
“Ten dry laps around Mugello is the same as doing 1000 laps around Abu Dhabi in terms of satisfaction. Love the place,” he says.
Fellow Aussie, Daniel Ricciardo, is another of the few current F1 drivers who raced there in junior formulae, having competed there in Formula Renault in 2017.
“I’m really excited to drive a modern Formula 1 car at Mugello because I was also there for the 2012 test. It’s so fast and flowing, it has a nice rhythm and it’s going to be a lot of hard work at the wheel.
“I think all our necks are going to want to fly off because of the changes of direction and medium to high speed corners.”
He adds that it will be difficult for drivers to find the best overtaking places but suggests Turn One might be a hot spot for a last second lunge.
“I think we’re going to be braking late and deep into there as it’s quite a long corner. It’s going to be hard to send it from far, but that will be the challenge,” he adds
One man who has been on the circuit this year, albeit in a 2018 F1 car, is Sebastian Vettel who completed some filming laps with Charles Leclerc in late June before the season started.
“It’s unfortunate that we don’t have this track on the regular calendar because it’s an incredible circuit with a lot of high-speed corners,” he says.
As is often the case in F1, the biggest news this week comes from outside the track with the announcement on Wednesday that Racing Point’s Sergio Perez has been dropped from the team he helped rescue when it needed cash and has been with since 2014, followed 12-hours later by confirmation that Vettel has signed to take his seat.
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The news for Ferrari fans, while not a shock to hear their four-time world champ has signed with what will be badged Aston Martin next year, is a twist of the knife to have it confirmed on the eve of Ferrari’s 1000th Grand Prix in the midst of a year they hope to forget.
F1’s richest team suffered its worst result since 1995 last week when both Vettel and Charles Leclerc DNF’ed in Monza having both qualified on the seventh row.
As the in-form Racing Point, powered by the same Mercedes units that will most likely take Lewis Hamilton to his seventh World Championship this year, changes its name to Aston Martin, Vettel believes he has jumped jump ship at the right time.
“If you are fair, right now with the judgement, then obviously Mercedes has the edge over everybody else, and that’s not just valid for next year, they are probably in a very strong position for the years after that.
“It’s a very exciting challenge. I want to race at the front, not at the back and this team is giving me that chance.”
Perez broke the news of his departure via Twitter saying that it “hurts” and that he has no “Plan B” but will continue to fight for a seat for next year. The only options currently would be with Haas or Alfa Romeo where he previously raced in its Sauber days.
“It hurts a bit as I bet on the team during very rough times; we managed to overcome obstacles and I am very proud of saving the jobs of several of my team-mates.
“To the current administration, led by Lawrence Stroll, I wish nothing but the best for the future, especially with the upcoming Aston Martin project.”