Hamilton back to winning ways after chaotic Tuscan GP

Lewis Hamilton quickly put the disappointment of last Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix behind him  by winning a chaotic inaugural Tuscan Grand Prix from teammate Valtteri Bottas and Alexander Albon, who edged out Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo in the final laps.

In a crazy race that featured two red flags and eight eliminations, Sergio Perez came home fifth for Racing Point after a late off from his teammate Lance Stroll, ahead of Lando Norris Daniil Kvyat and Charles Leclerc. Former Ferrari teammates Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel rounded off the points scoring finishers.

“It’s all a bit of a daze, it was like three races in one day,” said Hamilton after taking an incredible 90th grand prix victory and his sixth of the season. “Just incredibly tough today, I think obviously with the difficult start this track is phenomenal and keeping Valtteri behind, he’s been quick al weekend was not easy, and I was behind him at the beginning. With all those restarts, total focus was needed. It was really, really hard.

“The first stint I was fine managing my tyres and I didn’t really need to stop but it just worked because Valtteri had a problem and then you obviously see things unravelling those next laps. And the last I started on the softs, which was a used tyre, and not knowing how far that’s going to go, Valtteri appeared out of nowhere and Danny was behind and he was on it. So keeping that one second gap, because this is a long, long straight, 1000 metres or whatever it is, I didn’t want him to have the DRS. My heart is definitely racing and it’s crazy to be here and have 90 grands prix.”

With the spectacular high-speed Mugello circuit in the Tuscan hills wowing drivers and fans alike, it was always going to be intriguing as to what would unfold at the start. And we didn’t have long to wait for the answer, Bottas jumping Hamilton as carnage ensued behind, Max Verstappen punted into the gravel trap by Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo, who was hit by Monza winner Gasly.

Verstappen was already hampered by a Power Unit issue on the grid before the lights went out, and he found himself quickly going backwards into the pack before the coup de grace of being shunted into the gravel trap, those behind unable to avoid his slowing Red Bull.

When the dust, or gravel, settled, it meant that Bottas resumed his lead from Hamilton, Leclerc and Albon. But not for long, as upon the restart, the back of the grid did not connect to the front, as a slow Magnussen was smashed by Giovinazzi from behind, the pair then collecting Sainz and Latifi, showering carbon fibre all over the grid and eliminating three more drivers from the race.

Take two, and this time it was smooth sailing on the getaway, only Bottas and Hamilton still on the medium compound of the leading protagonists, Hamilton taking his teammate around the outside into Turn 1.

It was also looking good for the Racing Point duo of Stroll and Perez, quickly clearing the Ferrari of Leclerc as the Ferrari driver was the first to pit for a set of Pirelli hard boots to take him to the finish on lap 22.

But the real battle sadly didn’t involve the beautiful burgundy Ferrari on its home circuit on its 1000th Grand Prix start. It concerned that of the now black Mercedes cars, Hamilton complaining of his rear tyres going off, quickly before Bottas came onto the radio, demanding the opposite strategy tyre than Hamilton.

And it was Bottas who pitted first for the hard compound in lap 32, followed by Hamilton a lap later for the hard compound, meaning it appeared to be a straight fight to the flag but with Hamilton holding a comfortable lead. With Ricciardo and Stroll also on the medium compound, the battle for the final podium position would also be a cracker, and when Stroll disappeared into the gravel trap at Arrabiatta 2 due to a puncture, it meant another red flag and yet another stoppage.

It also allowed drivers to pit for fresh tyres and it suddenly became a F2 or F3 sprint race scenario, 13 laps to decide the final places. And it was Ricciardo who managed to place himself between the two Mercedes drivers, Albon also putting pressure on the Mercedes behind.

But it only took a lap for the Finn to regain position and with four laps to go, Ricciardo’s Renault succumbed to the Honda power of the Red Bull and Albon finally had his first podium in F1 after a fine drive.

And so, after one of the most dramatic races after a dramatic season of racing in this COVID-19 era, Hamilton extends his lead at the top of the drivers’ standings to a huge 55 points over Bottas with eight races remaining.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.