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2020 Russian GP Race Recap : It ain't over till it's over!

The second half of the 2020 F1 Season kickstarted with the Russian GP in the city of Sochi. The Sochi Autodrom is a street circuit built around the Olympic Park by the legendary circuit designer Hermann Tilke consisting of many medium-speed corners.

The Russian GP was the first one-off GP of the 2020 season followed by a two-week break before the return of Nurburgring for the German GP and then a double-header in Portugal and Italy.


The sport also saw a reshuffle in its leadership with Ex-Ferrari Team Principal & Lamborghini supremo Stefano Domenicali taking over the role of CEO and Chase Carey becoming the Non-Executive Chairman.


Sochi had been a happy hunting ground for Mercedes, and their dominance in 2020 made them the runaway favourites. Hamilton was one victory shy of equalling Michael Schumacher's record of wins ( 91 ) besides extending his lead in the Championship. Red Bull hoped to see both its cars on the sharp end of the grid in its quest for a podium here. Ferrari had aerodynamic updates, and Stroll had the privilege of driving an upgraded Racing Point car, the Canadian being a beneficiary of a new chassis after his crash in Mugello a fortnight ago. Pirelli chose the softest three tyre compounds for this weekend.


Let us have a quick recap of the Russsian GP weekend.


Practice :

Valtteri Bottas was the fastest driver at the end of Free Practice 1, half a second clear of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. The Dutchman wasn't pleased with Russell in the Williams impeding him on his fast lap.

Perez and Stroll were in the top 6 for Racing Point followed by Ocon in the Renault. Kvyat had a spin but managed to set the 7th fastest time with Albon, Vettel and Gasly completing the top 10. The 2019 pole position man Leclerc was P11 for Ferrari followed by the McLaren duo of Sainz and Norris. It was a tough session for Sainz who suffered a spin at turn 10, the rear of his car hitting the barriers, leaving his rear-wing hanging precariously as he limped back to the pits.

The Alfa Romeo cars were 14th and 15th fastest followed by Magnussen and Russell. Grosjean was P18 for Haas, having gone wheel-to-wheel with Leclerc over track position during the session, leaving the Monegasque a bit flummoxed. It was a quiet FP1 for Hamilton who managed to set only the 19th fastest time on hard tyres. Latifi had a similar crash to Sainz at turn 10, the impact leaving him winded and the car a wreck. The stewards Red Flagged the session to clear the stricken car. The Canadian came out unscathed thankfully.


Free Practice 2 got underway with teams splitting the sessions into low fuel runs and race simulations. Turns 2 and 13 turned out to be notorious ones in FP2. Hamilton had a big lockup and just avoided the barriers at turn 13. Stroll, meanwhile, spun at the same spot. Norris and Albon had to use the run-off at Turn 2 after missing their braking point while Verstappen made a rare mistake and got spun around at Turn 14.

It was Bottas who had the momentum on Friday and set the fastest time, more than two-tenths clear of his team-mate Hamilton. Ricciardo carried his FP1 form into FP2 and was third fastest, but a second adrift. Sainz, Norris and Perez ensured McLaren and Racing Point representation in the top 6 while Verstappen was the fastest Honda-powered car in 7th.

Ferrari had both its cars in the top 10 with Ocon splitting the "Prancing Horses". Albon, in P12, was in an Alpha Tauri sandwich while Raikkonen in his Alfa Romeo ( in P14 ) was the fastest Ferrari-powered customer car. Latifi had a better FP2 with the 15th fastest time, edging out his team-mate, but more than two seconds slower than Botttas.

It was a disappointing FP2 for Stroll who managed only the 17th fastest time with Magnussen, Giovinazzi and Grosjean bringing up the rear of the field.



The Final Practice Session ( FP3 ) saw Hamilton find his mojo, setting the fastest time, eight tenths clear of team-mate Bottas. The Briton went wide at turn 13, skating over the sausage kerb. Only two-tenths separated four drivers from four different teams, and it was Sainz who set the third quickest time from Ocon, Perez and Verstappen. Ocon had an off-track moment at turn 17 but was able to continue without any damage. It was an encouraging session for Vettel, the Ferrari driver setting the 7th fastest time from Stroll, Kvyat and Ricciardo. Gasly was P11 in the other Alpha Tauri having suffered a spin at turn 15.

Leclerc was P12 in the other Ferrari with Russell catapulting his Williams to 13th. Issues with the general balance of the car led to incessant complaining by Grosjean, the Frenchman suffering a similar spin like Gasly's but managing to put in the 14th quickest time. Latifi and Magnussen were P15 and P16 for Williams and Haas, but more than 2 seconds slower than the fastest time of FP3. The Alfa Romeo cars were struggling in 17th and 18th while Albon, in the sister Red Bull, had a very unsettled FP3. The Thai driver needed to step up his game in Qualifying. McLaren's upgrades didn't seem to work on Norris' car, the British driver 20th at the end of the session.



Sochi is a power-sensitive circuit, and the Mercedes works team had a clear edge over the rest of the field. It was advantage Bottas in the intra-team battle. Pirelli's choice of having the softest three compounds for the weekend would bring Red Bull into the fray, but Friday running suggested that they might not be the real contenders. Renault power came to the fore, and the works team with Ricciardo was right in the mix for the top 6 along with McLaren, their customer team. Ferrari powered cars seemed destined for a long Sunday afternoon, their lack of straight-line speed costing them dear. However, the works team had both its cars in the top 10 and were optimistic of keeping it that way come Qualifying. Perez, without the upgrades, was faster of the two Racing Point cars which might have made the team to reconsider the effectiveness of the updates brought in. The midfield promised to be a closely contested affair come Sunday.


Qualifying :

The skies were overcast for the start of Qualifying, and the threat of rain loomed at the beginning of Q1. Russell was the first driver out on track with medium tyres but had to abort his flying lap due to traffic. A slew of cars emerged behind him, five minutes into the session, all on soft tyres. The Renault drivers were also on medium tyres on their first runs.
Hamilton and Magnussen had their lap times deleted for exceeding track limits at turn 2. The sausage kerbs were unsettling a lot of cars on their flying laps. The reigning World Champion recovered to P2 on his second attempt. Bottas, Hamilton, Perez, Sainz, Verstappen and Leclerc were the top six after the first runs with Ocon, Raikkonen, Giovinazzi, Grosjean and Latifi in the drop zone. Vettel and Magnussen were on the cusp of elimination and needed to improve their times.

Only Bottas and Verstappen from the top 6 ventured out for another run in the final minutes of Q1. Raikkonen missed his braking point and got unsettled over the kerb at turn 2. The resulting imbalance sent his Alfa Romeo into a spin, ruining his and his team-mate's lap who was following closely behind. The lap times came down rapidly ( for the others ) with track evolution. Leclerc and Vettel managed to scrape through to Q2 in 14th and 15th. Meanwhile, Russell put in a stonking lap to go 13th quickest while Kvyat, Ocon and Ricciardo broke into the top 6. Grosjean, Giovinazzi, Magnussen, Latifi and Raikkonen got eliminated at the end of Q1.




Spots of rain got reported by the drivers on their out-laps at the start of Q2. Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen had opted for the medium tyres while the rest of the field ( bar Russell ) stuck to the softs. Hamilton set the fastest time on his banker lap but his lap time got deleted for exceeding track limits at turn 18. Ricciardo led from Sainz and Perez at the end of the first runs. Bottas, Norris, Gasly, Verstappen, Ocon, Leclerc and Kvyat completed the top 10 with Albon, Stroll, Vettel, Hamilton and Russell in the drop zone. Hamilton wanted to do another run on his existing medium tyres, but the team denied him the request, asking him to switch to a fresh set of medium tyres for the remainder of Q2. Russell, who was out of sync with the rest of the runners, set the 13th quickest time ( provisional ) on soft tyres.

Ricciardo chose to not run again in Q2 while Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen went out with a fresh set of medium tyres. There were two minutes left on the clock and Vettel was on a flying lap, just ahead of Leclerc. The German clipped the inside of the kerb at turn 4, his car getting spun around, making him a passenger as he careered into the barriers while sliding over the sausage kerb. It was a big wreck, and his front wing got dislodged. Leclerc ended up going over some debris, and the session got Red-Flagged! Hamilton, who was on a flying lap as well couldn't complete his lap and remained in the drop zone, yet to set a representative lap time. These were tense times for Mercedes and Hamilton, his race strategy compromised as well.

It was a lengthy halt to the session, and when the pit lane was due to open, a queue had formed up at the pit exit. Hamilton exited the garage with soft tyres and would have to pass several cars on his out-lap if he wanted to start his lap in time. Matters got complicated further when Stroll encountered trouble as he waited for the session to resume. The Racing Point mechanics had to wheel him back into the garage, an overheating issue to blame. He was out of Q2 as well. The Red Bulls were quick off the blocks as soon as the session resumed. The Alpha Tauris behind them decided to hold up the rest of the field for a few more seconds before they pulled out onto the race track. Hamilton got informed by the team that they were critical on timing, asking him to push.

The cold tyres on his car caused him to run wide at turn 2, forcing him to take the longer route around the markers set by the FIA Race Director. The clock was ticking down, and Sainz and Perez failed to start their lap. Hamilton, just ahead of the duo, was able to commence his final run, beating the clock by less than a second! A close call for the reigning World Champion. He was able to set a lap, ending the session with the 4th fastest time. Meanwhile, Verstappen was flying on his final attempt but slowed down at the end to avoid starting the race on soft tyres. Leclerc made a mistake, putting him out of contention for Q3.
Ricciardo ended Q2 with the quickest time from Bottas, Sainz and Hamilton. Perez was the solo Racing Point car to get into Q3 with Norris and Gasly 6th and 7th. It was another close call for Albon, who got the job done in the final minutes of Q2 with the 8th fastest time. Verstappen and Ocon completed the top 10. Leclerc, Kvyat, Stroll, Russell and Vettel were the eliminations from Q2.




The final shootout got underway ( Q3 ), and Hamilton stepped up when it mattered. He was on provisional pole with a healthy lead of eight-tenths of a second from Bottas. Verstappen and Ricciardo were the only other drivers within a second of his time. Perez, Sainz, Ocon, Albon, Gasly and Norris completed the rest of the top 10.
The drivers opted to not wait for the final minutes of Q3 to complete their second runs. The Red Bull drivers let the rest of the field to clear before joining the track a minute behind. Bottas, the first challenger for pole, lost time in the first sector after his car got a bit awry at turn 2. He failed to improve in sector two as well, eventually setting a time that was half a second slower of his team-mate's first attempt. Hamilton, behind him, went even faster and set a new track record! Pole position was his unless Verstappen had a say. Verstappen benefitted from a tow from Bottas ( who was on the cooldown lap ) and relegated him to P3, helping Red Bull get its first front row start in Sochi. It was pole position for Hamilton again!
Perez qualified an unlikely 4th having pipped Ricciardo by four-hundredths of a second. Sainz, Ocon and Norris made it Renault Powered rows three and four for Sunday while Gasly qualified ahead of Albon to start P9.




Hamilton, Magnussen, Grosjean and Latifi got summoned to the stewards' room for not following the Race Director's instructions with regards to rejoining the track at turn 2. However, they escaped any penalties.




It had been an eventful and frenetic Qualifying session in Sochi. Hamilton, with all the setbacks and hiccups, reigned supreme on Saturday. However, it was a compromised strategy for him with his immediate rivals starting the race on medium tyres. Verstappen and Bottas would be hoping to get the tow from Hamilton to jump him on the run into turn 2. Perez was giving other F1 teams a great audition with his performance on Saturday. The Renault powered cars weren't short on power and would be a handful come Sunday. Albon would need to salvage his weekend on a Sunday again after a disappointing performance in Qualifying. The lack of straight-line speed would make it a challenging race for the Ferrari powered cars, and they would need smart strategic calls to capitalize on the slip-ups ahead. Russell was brilliant on Saturday for Williams but would he be able to maintain the momentum on Sunday was a different matter altogether. The Alfa Romeo drivers were disappointing with their performances since a Q2 appearance for both was definitely on the cards. Haas F1 needed to address its balance issues if the team hoped to have a fruitful Sunday.



Race :

Albon and Latifi got five-place grid drops each due to a gearbox change. There was drama before the start of the race with Hamilton coming under investigation for practice starts outside the designated area. The race start drew nigh, and the stewards were yet to make a decision.


Raikkonen and Kvyat opted for the hard tyres while Leclerc, Stroll, Russell, Vettel, Grosjean, Giovinazzi and Magnussen were on the mediums. Albon, who got demoted to P15, due to the penalty had to start on the soft tyres from Q2 on Saturday.


The five red lights went out, and it was a clean getaway for Hamilton from pole position. Verstappen who was on the "dirty side" of the grid got bogged down and lost second to Bottas. Bottas got into the tow behind Hamilton, and the team-mates were side-by-side going into turn 2. Unfortunately, the Finn had to relent, and Hamilton kept his position. Verstappen tried to avoid Ricciardo who had the inside line, getting forced to go around the bollards at turn 2. Chaos unfolded further down the field. Sainz, in the midfield tussle, too was pushed off the track at turn 2, but tried to rejoin the circuit too quickly and ended up hitting the wall with his left front tyre. It was race over for the Spaniard. A slew of cars had to take avoiding action and Norris, his team came off the worst, having lost ten places on the opening lap. There was more drama two corners later with Leclerc tapping the right rear wheel of Stroll's car, the contact sending the Canadian into the barriers. He became the second retirement of the race on the opening lap. The stewards deemed it as "no action necessary".


The Safety Car got deployed by the stewards to clear the debris on the track caused by the incidents. It was a lightning start for the Haas cars, the duo up into P9 and P10 while Giovinazzi was P12 for Alfa Romeo. Russell, Norris and Albon decided to pit at the end of the opening lap for a fresh set of hard tyres with Norris' stop being longer as the team checked for damage and debris. Norris also reported issues with his steering, the team asking him to manage it till the end of the race.


Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Ocon, Ricciardo, Perez, Gasly, Leclerc, Magnussen and Grosjean were the top 10 behind the Safety Car.


The Safety Car pulled into the pits, and it was a clean restart for Hamilton ( lap 6 ). Russell and Raikkonen went wheel-to-wheel, but Raikkonen held on to P15. Norris and Albon too had a tussle with Norris relegating the Thai driver to 18th. Hamilton had already opened up a 1.5 seconds gap to Bottas at the end of lap 6.


The verdict was out on the infringement committed by Hamilton earlier. The stewards penalized him with two 5 seconds penalties for two violations of practice starts outside the designated area. He would have to serve it at the time of his pitstop.


Kvyat got past Grosjean for P10 on lap 8 with Verstappen reporting grip issues on his rear tyres. Raikkonen overtook Latifi for P14 on lap 9. A three-way battle unfolded at the back of the field with Norris putting pressure on Russell for P16 and Albon waiting for the right opportunity to pounce on any mistake by the duo. Russell held on to 16th, but Norris lost 17th to Albon. Meanwhile, at the front, Mercedes asked Bottas to close the gap to Hamilton ( lap 12 ) while Russell locked up at turn 13 and lost 16th to Albon. Kvyat overtook Magnussen for P9 while Norris got past Russell for P17 ( lap 13 ).


Mercedes asked Hamilton to push to build a gap and mitigate the time lost at the time of serving his penalty. He refused to pit at the end of lap 14 and went on to set the fastest lap of the race. Perez got past Ricciardo for P5 on lap 15 while Russell pitted for mediums, having flat-spotted his exiting set. Ricciardo, having lost P5 pitted immediately after for hard tyres and rejoined in 14th. Hamilton didn't let up on his pace and set the fastest lap of the race again on lap 16 while Albon relegated Latifi to P16.


Hamilton finally pitted on lap 17, serving his 10 seconds penalty and switching to the hard tyres. He rejoined in 11th, and out of contention for race victory ( unless there was to be another Safety Car period ). Giovinazzi too pitted from 11th, rejoining in 17th with a set of hard tyres. Ontrack, Norris overtook Latifi for 15th.


Bottas, now in clear air went on to set a series of fastest laps as he prolonged his stint on the medium tyres. Grosjean and Latifi pitted on lap 18 for hard and medium tyres, rejoining in 15th and 17th respectively. Ocon and Gasly pitted a lap later, both switching to the hard tyres. Gasly rejoined in 13th while Ocon in 9th just behind Vettel. Meanwhile, Hamilton, who was in 11th moved up three places with those ahead of him pitting and got past Vettel for 7th, gaining track position on Ocon.


Magnussen pitted on lap 20 for hard tyres rejoining in 14th while Ricciardo got past Raikkonen for P9. Perez pitted from 3rd a lap later for hard tyres, rejoining in 6th behind Hamilton, and jumping Ocon who got stuck behind the Ferrari of Vettel in 8th. Bottas' pace at the front was relentless as he set another fastest lap of the race. Ocon's race was getting compromised with his inability to clear Vettel which allowed his team-mate Ricciardo to close upon him and get within DRS range. Renault instructed the Frenchman to let Ricciardo by, and he obliged on lap 25. However, Ricciardo locked up on the run into turn two and went over the kerbs, attracting the attention of the stewards.


Verstappen pitted for hard tyres on lap 26, rejoining in 4th behind Leclerc and Kvyat. He had a 6 seconds lead over Hamilton. Bottas pitted a lap later and retained his lead, switching to the hard tyres for his final stint. Verstappen cleared Kvyat for P3 ( lap 27 ) while Ricciardo relegated Vettel to 8th on lap 28. However, Ricciardo got a 5 seconds time penalty for not following the Race Director's instructions on rejoining the track at turn 2 ( the infringement on lap 25 ). Vettel lost another position to the Renault of Ocon, the Frenchman finally getting past, but all his hard work brought to nought with the time lost.


Meanwhile, Albon pitted from 11th for medium tyres and rejoined in 16th ( lap 28 ). Leclerc made his mandatory pitstop a lap later, switching to the hard tyres and ending in 7th ahead of Ocon. Albon and Russell made another stop and switched to the medium tyres. Kvyat pitted for medium tyres on lap 31 from 3rd, rejoining in P8. Vettel followed the Russian into the pits and switched to the hard tyres, relegated to 16th. Raikkonen was the only driver yet to pit and was putting up a spirited defence against Gasly in the battle for P9.


Bottas, Verstappen, Hamilton, Perez, Ricciardo, Leclerc, Ocon, Kvyat, Raikkonen and Gasly were the top 10 at the end of lap 32.


Gasly finally got past Raikkonen on lap 34 while Renault informed Ricciardo about his time penalty, asking him to push and build a gap to Leclerc behind. The Australian replied with "I shall drive faster". Red Bull informed Verstappen about the deficit to Bottas and the lap times he was setting, Verstappen replied that he focused on his own pace, vary of Hamilton behind. He had given up on his chances of a victory. Raikkonen was the last driver to pit on lap 36, switching to the medium tyres, but the left front got re-attached slowly. The Finn rejoined in 16th, 12 seconds adrift of Vettel.


Albon overtook Giovinazzi for P13 ( lap 38 ) and then got past Grosjean a couple of laps later. Grosjean ran wide at turn two and had to go around the bollards which made him vulnerable to an overtake from Giovinazzi behind. The Frenchman couldn't hold onto P13 and had to relent on lap 41. Vettel was the next driver to overtake Grosjean, the two banging wheels at turn 2, and Grosjean taking out the bollards in his attempt to adhere to the Race Director instructions. The Haas drivers lost more positions with Albon relegating Magnussen to P12 ( lap 42 ) and Raikkonen getting past Grosjean for P15 ( lap 43 ). The Virtual Safety Car period got initiated by the race stewards as the marshalls went about the job of replacing the foam bollards destroyed by Grosjean earlier.


Gasly pitted from 9th, trying to take advantage of the VSC period, but it ended as soon as he entered the pit lane. He switched to the medium tyres and lost two positions in the process. Grosjean pitted for medium tyres, rejoining in 18th and last. The battle for 9th was hotting up with Norris, Albon and Gasly on laps 45 and 46. Albon closed in on Norris with DRS assistance, but Norris slowed him down on the exit of turns ten and eleven, making Albon vulnerable to Gasly who wasted no time and relegated him to 11th. It was now Gasly's turn to go wheel-to-wheel with Norris who was putting up a stoic defence. It was job done for the Frenchman on lap 48 with Albon doing the same a few corners later. The Briton eventually pitted at the end of the lap for a fresh set of medium tyres, ending up in 15th behind Raikkonen.


Giovinazzi, who was having a strong weekend with Alfa Romeo was on the cusp of scoring points again when he got past Magnussen for P11 on lap 49. Meanwhile, Verstappen at the front decided to push till the end and set the fastest lap of the race. A three-way battle unfolded between Magnussen, Vettel and Raikkonen who had reduced the deficit after completing his pit stop. Kvyat was now within DRS range of Ocon and had P7 in his sights ( lap 50 ). Verstappen reduced Bottas' lead to 5.5 seconds who responded by snatching the fastest lap of the race from the Dutchman. Raikkonen kept up the pressure on Vettel, hoping to make up a position on his former team-mate while Russell pitted for soft tyres on the penultimate lap.


Bottas took victory from Verstappen, taking home the point for the fastest lap as well. Hamilton recovered to 3rd but was unhappy with the punishment meted to him. These three drivers finished on the podium for the sixth time in 2020. Perez came home in a commendable 4th with Ricciardo finishing in 5th for Renault. The Australian retained his position despite the time penalty. Leclerc was 6th for Ferrari, followed by Ocon who held onto 7th from Kvyat. Gasly and Albon completed the top 10. The stewards had dished out a five-seconds time penalty to Albon as well, but the Thai driver, like Ricciardo, had built a big enough gap to retain the final scoring points finish.


Giovinazzi produced a fine drive in 11th for Alfa Romeo, shame that he was unable to finish in the points again. Magnussen did well to fend off a late challenge from Vettel and Raikkonen while Norris finished a dismal 15th for McLaren. Latifi was 16th with Grosjean and Russell the final classified drivers.


Mercedes were flawless in their strategy calls, and an early pit stop was damage limitation for Hamilton. Bottas kept it clean throughout and managed his race pace well. Red Bull and Verstappen weren't able to mount a serious challenge and would be happy to have split the Mercedes drivers nonetheless. Racing Point had a bitter-sweet weekend with Perez doing an exceptional job in the older-spec car but Stroll suffering from an early end to his race. Renault had the best result from the midfield teams with both drivers finishing in the points. McLaren would want to put this weekend behind them as soon as possible. Leclerc produced a stellar drive in his under-performing Ferrari, the Monegasque benefitting from great strategy calls from the pit lane. The Alpha Tauri drivers finished in the points again ahead of Albon who had another compromised weekend due to the gearbox penalty. He has the backing of the team still, but patience would be running out for some of the top brass. Giovinazzi drove a strong race for Alfa Romeo and drives such as these will help in his quest for a contract in 2021. Magnussen remained the better of the two Haas drivers while Vettel's poor form in the 2020 Ferrari continued. Raikkonen would rue his qualifying mistake since he had the speed to finish higher than he did. Williams went backwards again on a Sunday.


Bottas was going through a lean patch since his finish outside the points ( British GP ). His inability to capitalize on Hamilton's mistakes drew a lot of criticism from fans and experts alike. He vowed to keep pushing and not give up until it's over and this victory will do his confidence a world of good. Hamilton would have to wait for another day to equal Schumacher's record.


The F1 Fraternity now travel ( in a fortnight ) to the legendary circuit of Nurburgring, the venue for the Eiffel GP. Seven years have passed since it hosted an F1 race. The inclement weather has produced some exciting races in the past. Bring on round 10 of the 2020 F1 Season!

2020 Tuscan GP Race Recap : Entanglements, Crashes, Stoppages, Restarts & Win Number 90!

The pandemic COVID-19 threatened to jeopardize the 2020 F1 Season as the world went into lockdown, and a lot of races were postponed or cancelled. Racing returned in July with a series triple-headers, the governing body planning for 17 to 18 races in the season. Many iconic tracks got added to the calendar while some made a return after a long hiatus.

Mugello had been a regular feature on the Moto GP calendar but had never hosted an F1 race. F1 however, had an in-season test here in 2012 where Grosjean had come out fastest for Lotus F1. It was also the venue where Kimi Raikkonen tested for Sauber in 2000, eventually getting him a ticket to F1 a year later. The track finally got the opportunity to host a full F1 weekend in 2020, and the race got christened "The Tuscan GP".


It would also play host to Scuderia Ferrari's 1000th GP in F1. The Italian marquee has been the most successful team in F1, having participated every year since the sport's inception and sported retro Burgundy livery to commemorate the weekend. The sport welcomed fans ( in limited number ) to the grandstands for the first time this year.


The driver market was abuzz in the leadup to the Tuscan GP. Sergio Perez announced that he would be leaving Racing Point at the end of the season with no alternate destination ( currently ). The replacement got announced the very next day, and it was none other than the 4 Time World Champion Sebastian Vettel! The team would also change its name to Aston Martin from 2021.

Renault Sport F1 also decided to change their name and livery to Alpine Racing F1, 2021 onwards. Alpine, the brand's sports performance division relaunched in 2017 had been a regular feature in the World Endurance Championship. The cars would be powered by Renault E-Tech Hybrid Engines, however.

Simon Roberts, Williams Racing's former MD got appointed as the acting Team Principal for the transitional period.


The Italian Grand Prix threw up a major upset with Gasly taking an unlikely win for Alpha Tauri. Hamilton and Mercedes hoped to reclaim the top step in Mugello. Verstappen and Bottas looked to make amends from last weekend while Ferrari prayed for a memorable 1000th GP in the sport. The midfield battle was hotting up between McLaren, Racing Point and Renault and a good result was the need in Mugello since it marked the halfway stage of the 2020 season.


Who reigned supreme in the wilderness of Tuscany?

Time to revisit the inaugural Tuscan GP!


Practice :

Sunny skies greeted the teams on Friday morning for the start of Free Practice 1. FP1 was a learning experience for all the drivers as they explored different lines and tested the limits of their cars. It wasn't an uneventful session though with Latifi suffering a spin, barely escaping the gravel trap and Grosjean expressing his displeasure after being held up by Perez on his flying lap. Bottas was the fastest in FP1 and the first driver to set a "track record" in an F1 car. Verstappen was a close second with Leclerc finishing an unlikely third. Hamilton, Gasly and Ocon completed the top 6. The top 15 drivers had set their best lap times on the soft tyres while Russell used the mediums and the two Racing Points along with Latifi stuck to the hard tyres.
Raikkonen was P11 for Alfa Romeo, quicker than a works Ferrari driven by Vettel. The German was languishing in P13, a second adrift of his team-mate who was third. Sainz managed only the 15th fastest time while both the Racing Point cars were only quicker than one Williams.
The pecking order would change considerably in FP2 though.



Free Practice 2 got underway with Norris' session getting cut short due to a crash at turn 3. The Briton ran wide, putting his left rear wheel on the gravel that sent him into a spin making him lose his front wing and hit a concrete wall. The session got Red Flagged briefly. A technical issue on his Haas car restricted Grosjean, the Frenchman completing only five laps. Perez got into trouble with the stewards after his left front tyre clipped the rear of Raikkonen's car. The Mexican was exiting the pit lane while Raikkonen had just started a flying lap. The contact sent the latter into a spin and onto the gravel. Thankfully, he was able to continue. Both Ferrari cars suffered spins with Vettel suffering a power loss near the end of the session.
Bottas was the class of the field again, bettering the track record set by him in FP1. The top 6 were two-by-two, the Mercedes followed by the Red Bulls and the Renaults. Perez, Gasly, Raikkonen and Leclerc completed the top 10. The deficit between the Ferrari team-mates reduced with Vettel finishing in 12th, a tenth adrift of his team-mate Leclerc. The McLarens were 13th and 14th, and Kvyat was 15th for Alpha Tauri. Giovinazzi split the two Williams in 17th while the Haas cars brought up the rear of the field.


Perez incurred a one-place grid drop for his earlier misdemeanour.


It was advantage Bottas at the end of day one at Mugello. However, Hamilton finds a new gear come Saturday. Verstappen was doing all he could to keep the Mercedes duo honest, and it seemed that he would finally get some assistance from his team-mate Albon. Red Bull's pace on race simulations was encouraging as well. The midfield battle was a close on based on the results from Friday.

Free Practice 3 saw Bottas continue his dominance at the top, but the gap reduced to less than two-hundredths of a second to Verstappen. Hamilton was a further six-hundredths adrift, qualifying promising to be a close-run affair. Gasly split the two Racing Points in a commendable P5 but had a major off-track excursion at turn 11 while Leclerc ensured Ferrari representation in the top 8 with the 7th fastest time. Albon was 8th in the other Red Bull with Kvyat 9th. The big surprise of FP3 was Grosjean in 10th whose running on Friday got limited due to gremlins. Renault fell backwards with Ocon in P11 and Ricciardo in P17. McLaren too had a disappointing session with only the 12th and 19th fastest times. The chances of making it into Q2 seemed bright for the Alfa Romeo duo who were 13th and 14th fastest. Vettel's woes continued as he could manage only the 18th fastest time. A brake-by-wire failure kept Russell in the pits for almost the entirety of Free Practice 3.



Qualifying :

Williams was the first team to head out on track at the start of Q1. The rest of the field followed suit shortly after, and Gasly, Raikkonen, Russell, Grosjean and Magnussen were in the drop zone after the first set of runs. Vettel and Norris were the drivers under threat while Gasly got hampered by traffic on his first run. Bottas, Verstappen and Stroll opted to stay in the pits, and the rest went out for their final runs of Q1. A mistake in sector two compromised Russell's attempt. The Briton was on a good lap before a short trip over the edge of a gravel trap. He still improved to P12 only to fall back into elimination as others improved on their lap times. Vettel and Norris had fallen into elimination but improved to P14 and P9 respectively. Gasly was the first big casualty of Q1. The winner of the Italian GP from last week got eliminated from Q1 along with Giovinazzi, Latifi, Russell and Magnussen.
Bottas was the fastest in Q1 from Hamilton and Verstappen. Albon, Leclerc and Perez completed the top 6. It was a close call for Vettel who was relieved to make it into Q2. Raikkonen was now making it a regular feature to get into Q2 with Alfa Romeo. It was Gasly's first Q1 elimination since Belgium 2019.



The start of Q2 saw some drama in the pit lane when Racing Point released Stroll just in front of Verstappen, and the Dutchman wasn't pleased with his strategy getting compromised. Everyone opted for the soft tyres and exited the pits for their first runs of Q2. Grosjean, however, decided to stay put and adopt the "out-of-sync" strategy. The pecking order got reversed with Hamilton edging out Bottas by thirteen-hundredths of a second on his first run. Verstappen was two tenths slower in 3rd, followed by Albon, Ricciardo and Stroll. Albon was finally getting to grips with his one-lap pace while Ricciardo was "out of breath" after his first effort of Q2.
The drivers in the drop zone were Kvyat, Sainz, Vettel, Grosjean and Raikkonen. Raikkonen had used a used set of soft tyres from Q1 which explained the deficit to the rest of the field.
The top 5 chose to not run in Q2 again as the others headed out on a fresh set of soft tyres. Vettel improved on his final run, but couldn't make it into the top 10 while his team-mate Leclerc failed to improve, eventually finishing in 8th. Stroll stayed 6th fastest while Raikkonen relegated Vettel to 14th. The Iceman set an identical lap time to Sainz ( who was yet to complete his second run ) and Kvyat. Kvyat made a mistake at turn seven which sent him over some gravel, compromising his final attempt of Q2. The yellow flags from Kvyat's offtrack moment caused Perez to abandon his lap while Sainz improved to P10 and put Norris into the drop zone. The top 5 remain unchanged at the end of Q2 with Norris, Kvyat, Raikkonen, Vettel and Grosjean getting eliminated from Q2. Vettel was only half a second slower than his team-mate, but that was the difference between a P8 and a P14!

The top 10 shootout was underway in Q3 with Ocon and Perez opting for only one run and Perez choosing the "out-of-sync" strategy. Hamilton was on provisional pole from Bottas and Verstappen. The deficit was only six-hundredths of a second between the Mercedes team-mates. Verstappen, four-tenths adrift seemed to be the best of the rest. Albon was the 4th fastest from Stroll, Ricciardo, Leclerc and Sainz.
Perez decided to complete his only run early in the session, desiring to have a clear track. He went 5th fastest, making it an all Racing Point third row ( provisionally ). The final minutes of Q3 saw the nine contenders head out on track for one final faceoff. Hamilton couldn't improve on his second run, a mistake in sector one costing him time. Verstappen went quicker than his previous best lap but stayed in third. There was drama in the dying minutes of the session as Ocon lost the rear of his car at turn 3, spinning him around and bringing out the yellow flags. The yellow flags in sector one compromised the lap times of all the runners behind him, and Bottas was one of them. The Finn wouldn't improve, and Hamilton claimed pole position! Albon ensured a second-row lockout for Red Bull while Leclerc gave the Tifosi some hope with the 5th fastest time. Perez and Stroll were P6 and P7 for Racing Point while Sainz split the Renaults of Ricciardo and Ocon.

It was Pole Number 95 for Hamilton with Mercedes securing a front-row lockout for the seventh time in 2020! Bottas was a bit unfortunate with the yellow flags in the end, but it was a hard-fought battle. Nonetheless, he had a great platform to mount a challenge for the win on Sunday. Red Bull was pleased to have both its drivers in the fight at the front and Ferrari pinned their hopes on Leclerc for their historic weekend. Perez was faster than his team-mate, in a car that was an older spec. Renault didn't capitalize with its drivers on Saturday but hoped for a better showing on Sunday. It had been a tough weekend for the McLaren drivers and a long afternoon awaited them on race day. The Alpha Tauri drivers made mistakes which cost them dear in qualifying, and they couldn't afford the same on Sunday. Raikkonen was the fastest customer Ferrari and even did one better than Vettel who was in the works team. The Iceman hoped to bag his first points of 2020 come Sunday. Haas and Williams struggled again and seemed destined to remain the backmarkers for this weekend as well.


Race :

Sunday was a special day for Scuderia Ferrari F1 as they celebrated their 1000th GP with a small pre-race celebration. Mick Schumacher, the son of the most successful driver in F1, Michael Schumacher, had the opportunity of driving his father's title-winning Ferrari from 2004 around the circuit. 


Pirelli chose the C1, C2 and C3 tyre compounds for this race weekend and most drivers had plans to stop twice during the race.


The drivers made it to the grid after their reconnaissance laps, and Verstappen reported issues with his power unit. There was a flurry of activity around his car as the mechanics first addressed a brake light issue and then the software and electronics. Thankfully, the power unit issue got addressed in time, and Verstappen was ready for the battle ahead.


Kvyat, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Russell and Latifi opted for the medium tyres while the rest were on softs.


The five red lights went out, and the inaugural Tuscan GP got underway! It was a slow start for Hamilton who got overtaken by Bottas and also by Verstappen. However, the Red Bull driver suffered a sudden loss of power, rapidly losing positions and ending up in a midfield tussle. Bottas led from Hamilton, Leclerc and Albon but there was mayhem further down the field. Raikkonen suffered a touch of oversteer out of turn 1, having to correct his line. Gasly was sparring with Grosjean when he ended up in a Raikkonen-Grosjean sandwich. The trio banged wheels with Gasly tangling badly with Raikkonen, getting lifted into the air momentarily and hitting Verstappen. Raikkonen couldn't control his braking due to the locked wheels and rear-ended Verstappen as well, sending the Dutchman into the gravel. Further up, Sainz got spun around by one of the Racing Point cars and suffered damage. Vettel was unable to take avoiding action and damaged his front wing in the process.

The resulting debris on track forced the stewards to deploy the Safety Car. Verstappen was out of the race for the second weekend in a row. The incident got flagged for investigation, but later got termed as a "racing incident".

Vettel and Raikkonen pitted at the end of the first lap for a new wing and a fresh set of medium tyres.

The order behind the Safety Car was - Bottas, Hamilton, Leclerc, Albon, Stroll, Ricciardo, Perez, Norris, Kvyat, Ocon, Russell, Magnussen, Latifi, Giovinazzi, Sainz, Grosjean, Raikkonen and Vettel.

Magnussen was a big winner, having made up eight positions on the opening lap.

It was a lengthy Safety Car period as the marshalls tried to extricate Verstappen's stricken Red Bull. 

The Safety Car peeled back into the pits at the end of lap 6 with Bottas bunching up the field to time his restart perfectly. It was a clean restart at the front, but further down, the midfield got tangled in an ugly crash on the start-finish straight. Sainz, Giovinazzi and Magnussen collided on the restart, parking up on the pit straight. Magnussen went slow at the restart, but Giovinazzi reacted quicker and went into the back of his car. The duo then collided with Sainz and Latifi which caused the Safety Car to get deployed again. Grosjean, Raikkonen and Vettel did well to avoid the mayhem in front of them.

The stewards deemed it best to Red Flag the race to remove the excess debris and the cars on the start-finish straight. Alfa Romeo and Haas also had the opportunity to inspect and repair the damage sustained by Raikkonen and Grosjean in the first lap incident. Both had extensive floor-damage, and the mechanics were busy taping up the gaps under the watchful eyes of the FIA Scrutineers.


The race restart incident got investigated, and the following drivers were issued warnings ( post-race ) for inconsistent application of throttle and brake for the restart procedure - Magnussen, Kvyat, Latifi, Albon, Stroll, Ricciardo, Perez, Norris, Ocon, Russell, Giovinazzi and Sainz.


The restart would be a standing start again but the Red Flag period claimed another victim in Ocon. The Frenchman retired due to his brakes overheating. Only 13 cars remained at the restart. It was turning into a race of attrition. Bottas, Hamilton, Russell and Raikkonen opted for the mediums ( Raikkonen on used ) while the rest of the field was on soft tyres. Lap 9 became the formation lap for the restart. Hamilton's front brakes were smoking as he waited on the grid for the five red lights to illuminate.

Everyone had a clean getaway, but Bottas lost the lead to Hamilton into turn 1. Albon was down in P7 while Raikkonen had moved up into P10. Vettel got past Grosjean for P12 on lap 11 while Russell overtook Raikkonen for P10 a lap later. Hamilton set the fastest lap of the race on lap 13 and was pulling away from Bottas and Leclerc.

Ricciardo overtook Perez for P5 on lap 15 while Vettel relegated Raikkonen to P13. The battle for the final podium position was hotting up with Stroll closing in on Leclerc. It was job done on lap 18 for the Canadian. Albon began to make amends for his poor restart with a pass on Perez for P6 on the same lap. Leclerc then lost three places in the span of three laps with Ricciardo, Albon and Perez getting the better of the Ferrari driver. He didn't want to lose more time and pitted on lap 22 for hard tyres, the team switching him to plan "C". Leclerc rejoined in 13th and last.

Hamilton, Bottas, Stroll, Ricciardo, Albon, Perez, Norris, Kvyat, Russell and Vettel were the top 10 at the end of lap 24.

Ricciardo was closing up on Stroll in the battle for P3 while Leclerc cleared Grosjean for P12. Norris was in acknowledgement with the team's idea of undercutting Perez while Bottas requested Mercedes to put him on the opposite strategy to Hamilton. Ricciardo pitted on lap 28 for medium tyres and rejoined in 8th. Raikkonen pitted for hard tyres, but a slow left-rear and miscommunication with the rear jack-man kept him stationary for almost 13 seconds. He rejoined last, far adrift from the rest of the field. Meanwhile, on track Norris got past Perez for P5 on the 28th lap.

There were more pit stops over the next couple of laps with Perez, Stroll, Norris and Kvyat pitting for the mediums and Vettel, Grosjean and Russell for the hards. Perez got the jump on Norris as the undercut seemed to be the smarter call. Ricciardo was another beneficiary, displacing Stroll for P3. Perez set the fastest lap of the race on lap 32 while Bottas pitted having nursed his tyres till that stop. He switched to the hard tyres and rejoined in third. Mercedes asked Hamilton to pit, but the Briton wanted to go longer since his tyres felt fine. The team asked him to pit for "safety reasons" and cover him off against the undercut. Hamilton pitted on lap 33 for hard tyres and rejoined, his lead intact while Albon switched to the medium tyres on the same lap, emerging in 5th. Norris got past Leclerc for P7 while Raikkonen overtook Grosjean for P12. Bottas set the fastest lap of the race on lap 35 as he tried to reduce the gap to Hamilton at the front. Kvyat was closing in on Leclerc for P8, the latter's tyres losing performance. Leclerc got rid of his hard tyres on lap 38, switching to the mediums and rejoining in 11th.

Albon was the fastest man on track ( lap 40 ) and honing in on Stroll in P4. Russell had quietly moved up to P9 in his Williams, hoping to stay in the points. Mercedes asked both its drivers to avoid the kerbs since they were concerned about the health of the tyres.

There was more drama on lap 43 with Stroll crashing at turn 9. He picked up a rear-tyre puncture and was a passenger as he hit the barriers. The Safety Car got deployed for the third time, and Bottas was the first to pit for medium tyres. Ricciardo, Albon, Perez, Norris, Kvyat, Raikkonen, Grosjean and Vettel pitted for the soft tyres while Hamilton switched to the mediums a lap later. Replays showed the Raikkonen entered the pit lane at the last moment, cutting across the white line, which got flagged by the stewards for investigation.


The old school nature of the track meant that the extrication of Stroll's car was becoming difficult. The barriers also needed repairing, and the Stewards decided to Red Flag the race for the second time! It was a complete reset for the remaining drivers and a golden opportunity for Bottas to try for victory. The drivers returned to the pits to await further instructions about the race restart and have some maintenance work done on their cars. Meanwhile, the Racing Point of Stroll looked like a complete wreck with the marshalls having to use extinguishers to put out fires at the back of the car.

Raikkonen and Grosjean were a lap down to the rest of the field and instructed to complete a lap before rejoining the back of the queue under Safety Car for the formation lap. Lap 46 became the formation lap for the third standing start of the race! Everyone was on the soft tyres for the final stint of this race.


The lights went out and the race restarted with Hamilton getting away nicely. Bottas got overtaken by the fast-starting Renault of Ricciardo with Albon and Perez fighting wheel-to-wheel behind them. Russell, who was in P9 got bogged down at the restart and fell back to P12. Raikkonen was up into P8, ahead of Grosjean and the Ferrari drivers.

Bottas reclaimed P2 from Ricciardo on lap 48 and went about chasing his team-mate in full earnest. He set the fastest lap of the race on lap 49. Meanwhile, Raikkonen got a five-second time penalty for crossing the line at pit entry in the Safety Car period earlier. The Iceman was under threat of finishing outside the points, and the team asked him to keep pushing till the end of the race.

Leclerc overtook Grosjean for P9 on lap 50 while Albon got past Ricciardo for P3 a lap later. The Thai driver looked set to bag the first podium of his career. Grosjean got relegated to P11 by Vettel on lap 51 while Hamilton extended his lead with the fastest lap of the race. Grosjean lost another position, this time to Russell who was trying to recover the places he had lost at the restart. Russell was informed about Raikkonen's time penalty, and the team asked him to keep pushing until the end. They believed they could finish 10th and take home a point at the end of the race.

Albon was closing in on Bottas, but the Finn responded with the fastest lap of the race on lap 53. Russell was now in DRS range of Vettel for P10, the duo falling away from Raikkonen and Leclerc in front. Alfa Romeo was updating Raikkonen about the gaps at the end of each lap, and the Finn consistently kept setting personal best lap times to build a buffer to the chasing pack behind him. Eventually, Vettel and Russell failed to stay within five seconds of Raikkonen. The Finn was pulling away comfortably from Leclerc as well.

Ricciardo was keeping Albon honest but was unable to mount an attack for P3. Albon had to keep it clean for two more laps, and the final podium place was his! Hamilton didn't want the point for the fastest lap to slip away and bagged it on the penultimate lap of the race. Russell couldn't sustain his challenge and fell away from Vettel.


Hamilton took the Chequered Flag and victory at the Tuscan Grand Prix! Bottas was second best again, and Albon was ecstatic to bag the first podium of his career! Ricciardo matched his best result at Renault with P4, narrowly missing on what could have been a famous podium. Perez, Norris and Kvyat had escaped the midfield melee unscathed and finished in 5th, 6th and 7th respectively. Raikkonen came home in 8th, but only 3.5 seconds ahead of Leclerc which meant that he would lose P8 to the Monegasque driver ( due to the time penalty ). He, however, finished P9, finally scoring his first points of the 2020 season. Vettel was 10th with Russell and Grosjean finishing just outside the points. Ironically, the three podium finishers from the previous race weekend didn't finish the race! The Tuscan GP became the longest race of the 2020 season.


Mercedes celebrated 100 Grand Prix victories since their return to F1 in 2010. Hamilton was one shy of equalling Schumacher's record of wins in F1 ( 91 ). Red Bull was pleased to see Albon finally finish on the podium, something that was long due. Ricciardo was the driver of the day and had there not been the third restart he would have won Renault's first podium since their return. He drove a flawless race. Raikkonen did a fine job after the final restart in a car that had a badly damaged floor. Alfa Romeo was steadily improving with each weekend. Ferrari was the only team along with Mercedes to have both their cars finish the race. P8 and P10 were the best they could with the lack of speed. Williams and Russell were disappointed to have finished just outside the points.

Verstappen with his third retirement of the season was out of the title race. Bottas vowed to keep pushing until the end, but Hamilton remained relentless in his quest for the 7th title.


This race was a reminder of the saying - "to finish first, first, you have to finish". Hamilton had clean getaways and made no mistakes at the front. Others kept it clean amid utter chaos which unfolded around them. This race was a test of the mental calibre, fortitude and fitness of every racer and kudos to the men who got across the finish line.


We have reached the halfway point of the 2020 season, and racing resumes in a fortnight in the city of Sochi, Russia. Will anyone be able to dethrone Mercedes on another power track?

The challengers have the time to regroup, restock, restrategize and return renewed for round ten of the season.

2020 Italian GP Race Recap : Gasly, the New Alpha at the Temple of Speed!!

Round 8 of the revised 2020 F1 Season took place at Circuit Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, also known as the Temple of Speed. The circuit situated near the city of Milan is the home Grand Prix for Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team, and it's faithful, the Tifosi. Unfortunately this year the race was held behind closed doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The FIA enforced the ban on "quali modes" from this weekend. The ban came into effect on Saturday, meaning the teams had to use a single-engine setting from the start of qualifying till the end of the race. 


Williams Racing announced that Claire Williams, the Deputy Team Principal, would step down from her position after the Italian GP weekend. The new owners Dorilton Capital chose to continue with the Williams name, but it was an end to a rich legacy of racing history. 


Mercedes reigned supreme at Spa and seemed destined for the same in Italy. Ferrari's lack of straight-line speed caused them much pain at Spa while Renault produced their best result of 2020 ( till now ). Autodromo Monza is the fastest circuit on the calendar, demanding a low downforce setup from all teams. Would there be a new winner or would status quo be maintained? How did all the teams fare at this historic track?


Time for a quick recap!


Practice :

Free Practice 1 saw Valtteri Bottas top the timesheets from Lewis Hamilton and Alex Albon. Kvyat, Verstappen and Gasly completed the top 6. It was a fruitful session for Alpha Tauri, its duo within a second of the high-flying MercedesVerstappen suffered a spin at the Ascari chicane in the early part of FP1, hitting the wall and damaging his front wing and bringing out the red flags. There were a lot of cars running wide onto the gravel at turns causing "stones" to end up on the racing line which came to the notice of Raikkonen. The midfield battle resumed between Racing Point, McLaren and Renault with Perez, Norris, Ricciardo and Sainz making it into the top 10. Leclerc was P11 for Ferrari, in a car that was a mere shadow of its predecessor. Vettel had a torrid time in the other works Ferrari suffering from balance issues and locking up his tyres regularly. He could only manage the 19th fastest time. Ocon and Stroll were 12th and 13th, respectively. The Haas drivers were 14th and 15th, followed by the two Alfa Romeos. Roy Nissany, the reserve driver for Williams, got the nod for another FP1 session and was the faster of the two Williams drivers. 




Mercedes reigned supreme in Free Practice 2 with Hamilton setting the fastest ever practice time at Monza, two tenths clear of his team-mate Bottas. Turn 5 was the nemesis with a lot of drivers struggling for corner grip. Norris was the surprise of FP2 with the 3rd fastest time in his McLaren. Gasly's Friday got better with a P4 finish followed by Verstappen and Sainz who were more than a second adrift of Hamilton's time of FP2. The resurgence of Alpha Tauri continued with Kvyat in the sister car setting the 7th fastest time from StrollLeclerc and Perez. Stroll had a sparring time with the Haas cars, impeding Grosjean and then getting impeded by Magnussen on his flying lap. Leclerc had his share of off-track moments, relaying how difficult it was to drive the car. His team-mate Vettel suffered a spin ( at turn 6 ) but was able to get his car back to the pits after escaping unscathed from contact with the barriers. He managed the 12th fastest time. The Renault drivers were P11 ( Ocon ) and P15 ( Ricciardo ), but ascertaining their pace was difficult since some of their laps got deleted due to exceeding track limits. Getting a tow is invaluable on a circuit like Monza ( for better straight-line speed ), and the drivers tried to practice for qualifying by queueing up one behind the other, resulting in traffic jams, and some drivers missing their braking points. Giovinazzi however, benefitted from the tow and was P13 ahead of Albon in a Red Bull. Raikkonen, in P17, was in a Haas sandwich with Latifi and Russell bringing up the rear of the field.



Hamilton seemed to have the upper hand with regards to one-lap pace, but how large would the disparity be with the chasing pack by the banning of engine modes remained to be seen. Everyone needed to stay "within the white line" to avoid having lap times deleted. The effect of the tow could also throw up a few surprises on Saturday, needing the teams to form up an effective strategy to benefit from this.




It was a dry Saturday, and Free Practice 3 got underway with the teams running their qualifying simulations. Bottas was the fastest in FP3, three tenths clear of his team-mate Hamilton in P5. Hamilton's final run was compromised after the Briton had to make an evasive manoeuvre to avoid hitting slow-moving cars ( near Parabolica ). Renault power came to the fore with SainzNorris and Ricciardo making it into the top 4. A suspected fuel pump failure on Ricciardo's car cut his session short and briefly brought out the red flags. Verstappen slotted in at P6, his best lap on the medium tyres. Albon, Ocon and the Racing Point duo completed the top 10. Leclerc was P11 for Ferrari, just clear of Gasly and Kvyat in 12th and 13th. Grosjean, in P14, was the first driver more than a second slower of the fastest time of FP3. Vettel split the Haas drivers with Raikkonen, Latifi, Russell and Giovinazzi bringing up the rear of the field. There were a few drivers who had their lap times deleted for exceeding track limits at turn 11, and this trend continued into qualifying.


The desire for a better tow along with optimum track position was leading to massive traffic jams and it became pretty evident that this could cause an accident besides denying some the opportunity to set a lap time ( a repeat of 2019 ). Some drivers were also found guilty of driving too slowly on their warmup laps. Eight drivers got summons at the end of FP3 - Latifi, Grosjean, Perez, Hamilton, Gasly, Stroll, Albon and Sainz. The incident at the Parabolica where Hamilton was the aggrieved party also got investigated.




Qualifying :

Williams and the three Ferrari-powered teams were the first cars out on track at the start of Q1. The rest of the field exited the pits with thirteen minutes left on the clock, everyone barring the Mercedes works team was on soft tyres. Leclerc, Magnussen, Gasly & Stroll had their lap times deleted for exceeding track limits at turn 11. The top 6 after the first runs were Hamilton, Bottas, Perez, Sainz, Norris and Verstappen. The drivers in the drop zone were Latifi, Stroll, Gasly, Leclerc and Magnussen. The list changed again as the latter half of the field went for a second run. Meanwhile, Albon had his lap time deleted for exceeding track limits and was on the cusp of elimination in P15. 

A flurry of cars exited the pits with three minutes of Q1 remaining with Perez, Sainz and Verstappen choosing to stay put. Grosjean, Vettel, Giovinazzi, Russell and Latifi were in the drop zone. The fight for the optimum tow and track position made the Alfa Romeo drivers overtake a couple of cars ahead of them, leading to complete chaos at the exit of Parabolica. Six drivers were battling on the pit straight at the start of their final flying lap of Q1. It seemed to be more of a race rather than a qualifying session as the contenders jostled for position, and the results were disastrous. Vettel got impeded by Russell and had to back out of his final run, eventually pitting and getting eliminated in Q1! Raikkonen got an excellent tow from Ocon, but the Frenchman, himself on a flying lap didn't budge, and the two were millimetres away from a high-speed collision. The replays showed how messy the out laps were for the final runs and almost all drivers got compromised on their flying laps. Russell and Raikkonen made their displeasure known over team radio.

The stewards decided to investigate the incident involving Ocon, Raikkonen and Latifi after the session.

Grosjean, Vettel, Giovinazzi, Russell and Latifi got eliminated at the end of Q1.  

Hamilton was fastest in Q1 from Bottas and Perez. Sainz, Gasly and Verstappen completed the top 6. Leclerc made it into Q2 with the 10th fastest time while Albon was fortunate to scrape through in 15th. Raikkonen and Alfa Romeo made an appearance in Q2 for the second time this season.



All teams opted for the soft tyres for their first runs of Q2, and it was Hamilton who set the fastest lap time ( on the first run ), going past the previous track record of Raikkonen set in 2018. Bottas was second quickest with only five-hundredths of a second separating Perez and Sainz in 3rd and 4th. Verstappen was P5 along with Gasly in P6, the Frenchman continuing to impress in his Alpha Tauri. Kvyat, Ocon, Leclerc, Magnussen and Raikkonen were in the drop zone, Magnussen and Raikkonen having set their banker laps with used soft tyres from Q1. There was a beeline at the pit exit in the final minutes of Q2 with everyone on a fresh set of soft tyres. The Renault drivers had clear air and track position with Ricciardo leading Ocon on their flying laps. Ricciardo had to improve as he was only 9th fastest and was pushing hard for a better lap time. Unfortunately, an error on the exit of turn 5 sent him wide and over the gravel bringing his effort to an end. Magnussen also went wide on the second Lesmo bringing out yellow flags in sector 2. 

Bottas, however, found more pace and went the fastest at the end of Q2, making the track record his own. He was into the high 1:18s, two tenths clear of Hamilton and Sainz. Perez, Verstappen and Gasly completed the top 6. Ricciardo was the only works Renault driver in Q3 with the 9th fastest time while Albon had yet another close call in Q2 with a P10 finish.

Kvyat, Ocon, Leclerc, Raikkonen and Magnussen got eliminated at the end of Q2. 



Q3 got underway with the Mercedes duo having a comfortable buffer to the rest of the field. Hamilton was on provisional pole from Bottas and Perez. Verstappen and Sainz were 4th and 5th fastest. Norris completed the top 6 after the first runs while Albon had another lap time deletion due to exceeding of track limits. Ricciardo, Gasly and Stroll were the others to set banker laps. Hamilton and Bottas didn't wait for the final minutes of qualifying and drove out of the pits with five minutes remaining on the clock. The rest of the field mirrored their strategy. The Mercedes cars were into the 1:18s again with Hamilton setting a new track record, en route to the 94th pole position of his career! Bottas improved on his lap but was a tenth slower than Hamilton's pole lap. McLaren sprung a surprise with Sainz who went third fastest, eighth tenths adrift of the Mercedes. It was the highest starting position for the Ferrari bound Spaniard.

It would be the first time in 2020 that a Red Bull would not feature on the second row of the grid with Perez pipping Verstappen to P4. Row three got taken up by Verstappen and Norris while Ricciardo and Stroll occupied row four. Albon and Gasly completed the top 10.


The stewards' decision was "no further action" for the incident from Q1 ( Raikkonen, Ocon & Latifi ).


It was no secret that the Mercedes would be unbeatable on a Saturday. The deficit would have only been wider if running higher engine modes were allowed. They were clear favourites, and another 1-2 beckoned. Hamilton bagged the 94th pole position of his career besides setting the fastest lap in the history of F1. Sainz had a great qualifying for McLaren and looked a serious contender for the podium on Sunday. Red Bull had Racing Point and Alpha Tauri breathing down their necks while Renault was there to capitalize on mistakes by its competitors. It was a very tight midfield, and teams had to draw up their best strategies for Sunday. Ferrari seemed destined to contend with its customer teams ( Haas and Alfa Romeo ) for yet another weekend while Williams rued a missed opportunity in qualifying and hoped to make amends on race day.


Race :

Bottas had some drama on his reconnaissance lap, locking up his tyres and his car bouncing over the kerbs. No damage suffered though.

The risk of rain during the race was 20%.

The tyre compounds available for the race were C2, C3 and C4. The top 10 started the race on the soft tyres from their Q2 session. Kvyat and Vettel chose the hard tyre, Leclerc and Ocon the softs and the rest were on mediums for the start of the race.

It was a clean getaway for Hamilton when the lights went out. Bottas had a decent start but got swamped by the McLarens into turn 1. Sainz got the jump into P2 while Norris made contact with Bottas on his overtake for P4 a couple of corners later. It got worse for the Finn with Perez and Ricciardo getting past him in the Lesmos and at Ascari.

Raikkonen and Giovinazzi moved up two and four positions on the opening lap while Albon lost six places. The Thai driver tangled with Gasly at the first turn of the opening lap and was down in P15. The incident got noted, the stewards deeming it as "no investigation necessary".

Magnussen pitted at the end of the opening lap, switching to the hard tyres, rejoining almost a minute behind the rest of the pack. He had picked up front-wing and nose damage.

Stroll got past Verstappen for P7 on lap 2, and Vettel overtook Russell for P17. Bottas suspected a slow puncture on his car, but the team assured him that all was fine. Verstappen got back into Stroll's slipstream and reclaimed P7 on lap 3. Meanwhile, Hamilton was motoring away in the lead and set the fastest lap of the race on lap 4. Leclerc and Raikkonen battled for P12, but the latter put up a dogged defence. 

There was drama on lap 6. Vettel suffered a rear brake failure while fighting with Russell over P17 and was unable to brake at the first chicane. He went straight through the polystyrene board, his brake-by-wire system having exploded. Ferrari had made him aware of the situation on the previous lap, and his brakes were already on fire out of Ascari. Bits of the brake components flew off on the entry into Parabolica, eventually sending him through those boards at turn 1. He slowly made it back to the pits and into retirement on lap 7.

Albon incurred a five-second time penalty for not giving Grosjean a car's width while defending his position at turn 1. He suffered massive floor damage as a result of that contact. The Perez and Norris battle heated up on lap 9, the former having to back out of a move at turn 1. Bottas wasn't able to close up on Ricciardo, the chance of a race win dwindling with each passing lap.


Hamilton, Sainz, Norris, Perez, Ricciardo, Bottas, Verstappen, Stroll, Ocon and Gasly were the top 10 at the end of lap 12.


The team decided to put Bottas on the alternate strategy, asking him to go longer than the cars ahead of him on his first stint ( lap 16 ). He also was asked to move off the racing line wherever possible to cool off the temperatures on his car and came under pressure from Verstappen who was in DRS range. Bottas wasn't happy about the setup and the engine settings he was on, his car struggling in the dirty air. Hamilton meanwhile had opened a ten seconds gap to Sainz at the front and looked in control.

Latifi pitted for the hard tyres on lap 17 while Albon made a move on Leclerc for P13. Leclerc didn't waste time and pitted immediately to switch to the hard tyres, rejoining in P17. Raikkonen pitted a lap later for hard tyres, rejoining in P16. The Finn was a bit confused with the strategy call by the team since he believed the medium tyres had some life left. The team wanted to cover off Leclerc and Raikkonen was forced to relent. Latifi overtook Magnussen for P18 ( lap 19 ), and Magnussen rolled to a stop near the pit entry with an engine failure.

Gasly pitted for hard tyres, rejoining in P15 and just after that the Safety Car got deployed ( lap 20 ). Hamilton and Giovinazzi decided to capitalize and pitted for mediums and hard tyres, respectively. The rest of the field stayed out since the stewards had closed the pit lane entry.

Hamilton and Giovinazzi got flagged for investigation for entering the pit lane when it was closed!! Replays showed that the lightboxes had a red cross and the duo had committed a safety breach!

The Pit lane entry cleared on lap 22 and, there was a slew of pit stops. McLaren, Red Bull and Renault decided to double stack their cars. Perez, Bottas, Kvyat, Grosjean and Russell were the others who pitted. Bottas was able to jump Ricciardo and Perez in the pit stops. It was a slow stop for Perez, his right front tyre to blame. All chose the medium tyres. Stroll was the only driver who didn't pit under the Safety Car and was up into P2. Gasly, Giovinazzi, Raikkonen, Leclerc and Latifi had jumped into the top 8 after the round of pit stops.

The Safety Car was in at the end of lap 23 and racing resumed in full earnest.

Hamilton was quick off the blocks with Gasly in tow. Leclerc made a double overtake on the Alfa Romeo cars, moving up into P4. Raikkonen got past his team-mate for P5, and there was a lot of action throughout the field. Sainz was past Latifi for P7, Verstappen cleared Perez for P12, the latter losing three more positions to Ocon, Kvyat and Russell. He recovered to repass Russell. Latifi lost two more places to Norris and Bottas and was down to P10 while Ocon sparred with his old nemesis Verstappen for P12 but couldn't complete the overtake. Further down the field, Albon got past Grosjean of P17.

There was more drama on lap 24 when Leclerc lost the rear of his car under acceleration out of Parabolica and got sent straight into the barriers. It was a big crash, and the Monegasque sounded a bit winded over team radio. Thankfully, he got out of his car and jogged away from the scene of the accident.

The Safety Car got deployed again, but citing the damage done to the barriers, the stewards decided to Red Flag the race. The cars headed back to the pits, and the verdict from the pit lane investigation was out. Giovinazzi incurred a ten seconds stop-go penalty for his earlier infringement. Mercedes informed Hamilton a similar punishment was coming their way.

The cars returned to the pits while the stricken Ferrari got extricated by the Marshalls.

The stewards didn't wait long to punish Hamilton with the same ten seconds stop-go penalty, and this would put him out of contention for the win ( lap 26 ).

Hamilton decided to visit the stewards' office during the break to reason with them, and Mercedes decided to change some bits on both their cars ( specially Bottas ) under the watchful eyes of Joe Bauer, the FIA Technical Delegate.

Norris was also in trouble for driving too slowly in the pit lane entry. Stroll was the biggest beneficiary of the Red Flag. He hadn't stopped for fresh tyres under normal racing conditions or during the Safety Car period and could now swap his tyres until the end of the race. He was in P2 and could inherit the lead once Hamilton came in to serve his penalty. Gasly was P3 with Raikkonen in 4th for Alfa Romeo.

The stewards decided on a standing start for the race restart, and lap 27 became the formation lap behind the Safety Car. 

The pit lane lights went green, and Hamilton led the field away for the second "formation lap" of the race. Raikkonen, Giovinazzi and Ocon had opted for the soft tyres ( a dicey call ), their teams expecting them to complete a stint of 26 laps! Hamilton, Albon and Grosjean were on the hard tyres and the rest of the pack on the mediums. The incident between Verstappen and Perez from lap 24 got flagged for investigation as the cars lined up on the grid.

Hamilton had a clean restart, but Stroll lost P2 to Gasly. Raikkonen and Giovinazzi got passed him as well. Stroll had a big lock-up at the Second Variante, losing another place to Sainz but retaking it at the Ascari chicane. Kvyat got past Latifi ( for P11 ) who continued to fall backwards while Verstappen was down in P14.

Hamilton decided to serve his penalty on the next lap ( 29 ) and rejoined in last, thirty seconds adrift. Gasly led the race for Alpha Tauri with the two Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi in second and third respectively! Who could have imagined such a situation!
Meanwhile, Perez got past Latifi for P11 while Grosjean overtook Verstappen for 13th. Hamilton's other title challenger Bottas was in P7 battling for P6 with Norris. Giovinazzi served his penalty on lap 31, rejoining in P16 and last. Verstappen also pulled into the pits and retirement with an engine issue. It was a lacklustre weekend for the Dutchman.

Hamilton set the fastest lap of the race on lap 32, giving his all to reduce the deficit to the cars in front. Russell and Grosjean were sparring over P12, but the Frenchman held firm. Alfa Romeo's decision to put Raikkonen on the soft tyres was turning into a farce as Raikkonen rapidly lost places over the next few laps. He went from second to eighth in the space of five laps, losing positions to Sainz, Stroll, Norris, Bottas and Ricciardo. Thankfully, the racing was hard but fair as the Iceman put up a stoic defence but for a losing cause. The team and driver were having a heated discussion about preserving the tyres while pushing for points finish. Further down the field, Grosjean and Russell tussled over P12 and Hamilton had caught up to Albon and overtook him for P14 on lap 40.

Sainz was within three seconds of Gasly as Hamilton continued his charge up the field with overtakes on Russell and Grosjean for P13 and P12 ( lap 42 ). Raikkonen lost two more places to Kvyat and Ocon in the space of two laps. He was in P9 and under threat of finishing outside the points. Hamilton got past Latifi for P11 on lap 45 as the gap at the front reduced to two seconds. Perez went wheel to wheel with Raikkonen and relegated him to P10 on lap 46. Hamilton had caught up to the duo and put Raikkonen out of the points on the same lap. The fight for the win was hotting up with Sainz reducing the deficit to Gasly to just 1.2 seconds. These were anxious times in both the garages.

Perez lost 9th to Hamilton on lap 49, and the team asked Gasly to start pushing till the end of the race. Sainz got the license to use more battery power and closed the gap in the first sector, only to lose time in the dirty air in the second. Lap 50 saw Norris pulling away from Bottas who was falling back into the clutches of Ricciardo in the battle for P5. Hamilton picked off Kvyat for P8 on lap 51, and Raikkonen lost P11 to Latifi on the penultimate lap.

McLaren asked Sainz to "keep it clinical" and bring the car home in P2, but Sainz wanted to win this race. The battle went into the final lap, and Sainz gave it all under DRS to close up on Gasly. However, the Alpha Tauri had better exits out of the corners and was able to fend off the challenge. Further down the field, Hamilton got past Ocon for P7 and Grosjean relegated Raikkonen to P13.


Gasly took the chequered flag and victory at the Italian Grand Prix!! Sainz had to settle for 2nd while Stroll completed his recovery to 3rd. It was a missed opportunity for the Canadian, the mistakes on the restart costing him dearly. Norris came home in 4th, capping off a great Sunday for McLaren. Bottas could only manage P5 while Ricciardo held on to P6 from a charging Hamilton. It was an inspired recovery from the back of the field for the six-time World Champion. Ocon, Kvyat and Perez completed the top 10.
Latifi finished in P11, just outside the points in his Williams. Grosjean was 12th for Haas while Raikkonen had a frustrating end in 13th. Russell, Albon and Giovinazzi were the other classified finishers.



Celebrations erupted in the pit lane, the Alpha Tauri mechanics celebrating an unthinkable victory. The person responsible for their COVID tests joined them as well! McLaren was ecstatic with the second podium finish of 2020. Ontrack, Gasly was screaming with joy on the radio while Sainz was proud of the best finish of his career. He badly wanted the win for McLaren who hadn't won a race since Brazil 2012, but it was not to be. He wished for one more lap to get the job done. Ocon and Renault had an exchange of words, the team reminding him to avoid discussing sensitive matters over the radio. Raikkonen was livid with the strategy, and Alfa Romeo was apologizing for this gaffe. Latifi and Russell got on the radio to thank the Williams family for their support and wished them the best in their future endeavours.



Gasly was the first French winner since Olivier Panis' win in Monaco in 1996. It was the second victory for Alpha Tauri F1, 4371 days had passed since their last win in Monza in 2008 with Vettel. The Italian GP, their home race had become a happy hunting ground. F1 had a winner who didn't belong to Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull after 146 races. The last was Kimi Raikkonen with Lotus F1 at Australia in 2013.



The Williams Family said goodbye to the world of F1, Claire Williams emotional after her last Grand Prix with the team.
9 Constructor's Championships, 7 Driver's Championship, 114 Race Victories, 312 Podiums and 133 Fastest Laps were part of the legacy they leave behind!


The marshalls and the track representatives unfurled a gigantic Italian tricolour on the start-finish straight as the Alpha Tauri mechanics sang the Italian National Anthem with vigour during the podium celebrations.



Mercedes and Hamilton blew the chance of sure-shot victory with the pit lane infringement. Bottas had a humbling experience in the other car while Verstappen, the other title challenger to Hamilton, failed to capitalize and suffered retirement. McLaren was pleased with a strong performance while Racing Point made a recovery of sorts after a mediocre Belgian GP. Albon had a forgettable weekend, and his Red Bull seat was now under serious threat. Williams finished just outside the points unfortunately but would be encouraged with the race pace displayed by its drivers. Alfa Romeo's aggressive strategy backfired, and the team can't afford such mistakes when the chances of points finish are few and far between. Ferrari had an embarrassing weekend with double DNFs, and the absence of the Tifosi saved them further blushes. Their chances of salvaging this season are dwindling with each weekend.



Alpha Tauri and Gasly kept it clean and capitalized when the opportunity came. Honda power reigned supreme on the fastest track of the calendar. They have come a long way since their days of unreliability and lack of pace. Kudos to them! The past 18 months have been an emotional rollercoaster for Gasly, the jump to Red Bull in 2019 only to lose his seat midway through the season; then losing his friend Anthoine Hubert in Belgium and bagging his first podium ( 2nd ) in Brazil at the end of the year to winning this year with Alpha Tauri. Life had come full circle for the Frenchman. He spent a few moments in solitude on the podium, reminiscing the time gone by, remembering his deceased mate and taking in the feeling of being a Grand Prix winner. He was deserving of this honour. He fought hard, prevailed and came out triumphant. He was a new Alpha in the world of motorsport!



The next race on the calendar is the Tuscan Grand Prix. Mugello, a circuit that is a regular feature on the Moto GP calendar will host F1 for the first time. It is also Ferrari's 1000th GP, so the event has even more significance. 

Will we see a new winner in Mugello? Time will tell!