Lewis Hamilton can chalk up another Formula 1 first, and rain on Ferrari’s parade, in Italy this weekend at scenic Mugello – a circuit better known for MotoGP thrills and throngs of Valentino Rossi fans.
The first-ever Tuscan Grand Prix on Sunday celebrates Ferrari’s 1,000th world championship race at the circuit near Florence owned by Formula One’s oldest, most glamorous and successful team.
Ferrari have had little to celebrate this year, however, and travel south from Monza after their worst performance there since 1995.
Sebastian Vettel, soon to be announced as a Racing Point driver for 2021, and Charles Leclerc both retired last weekend and Ferrari are sixth overall and heading for their worst season since 1980, when they ended up 10th.
“The track has a very long straight, but it´s not super fast like the past two we raced on and so it should be a bit better suited to our car,” said Leclerc.
The Italian Grand Prix at Monza produced a huge upset with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly taking his first ever win while Hamilton, who led from pole before a penalty dropped him to last, finished seventh.
Normal service should be resumed this weekend with six-times world champion Hamilton, who has a 47-point lead over Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas after winning five of eight races, keen to clinch his 90th career win.
Had Hamilton won at Monza, the Briton would have been in the frame to equal Ferrari great Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 91 but that milestone will have to wait.
Last year there was not a circuit on the calendar that Hamilton had not won at but now, with COVID-19 ripping up the schedule and F1 forced to find replacements, there are several and Mugello is first up.
Seven of the current drivers have driven there before, notably at a 2012 test, although not Hamilton who has only experienced it in the factory simulator back at Brackley.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said he was excited to step into Ferrari’s backyard and see what the first new track of the year held in store.
Those with direct experience of the challenging high-speed, high G-Force layout which usually hosts the Italian motorcycle grand prix, suggested the whole grid would be in for a treat.
“The layout is absolutely outstanding. The region, first of all, it´s 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,” said Haas’s Romain Grosjean.
“The two Arrabbiatta corners are absolutely outstanding. I think with the 2020 cars it´s just going to be bloody awesome.”
Ferrari will race in a burgundy retro livery to mark the occasion, with Schumacher’s son Mick driving the German great’s 2004 car in a demonstration run ahead of the race.
Mercedes will also be paying tribute with the safety car they provide painted Ferrari red instead of the German marque’s usual silver.
For the first time this season there will be a limited number of paying spectators, with 2,880 trackside fans allowed in daily.
Some statistics for Sunday’s Tuscan Formula One Grand Prix at Italy’s Mugello circuit, the ninth race of the 2020 season:
Lap distance: 5.245km. Total distance: 309.455km (59 laps)
No previous race.
Start time: 1310 GMT (1510 local)
Sunday’s race marks Ferrari’s 1,000th world championship Grand Prix since the first in 1950. The track is also owned by the sport’s oldest and most successful team.
It will be the first race of the season with some paying spectators, with all previous rounds held behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mugello has never hosted a Formula One Grand Prix, although teams tested there in 2012 and will be the fourth Italian circuit to have featured in the championship after Monza, Imola and Pescara.
The circuit in the Tuscan hills near Florence has 14 turns, all medium or high speed, with a long pit straight. It has traditionally hosted motorcycling’s Italian Grand Prix.
Formula 1 Victories
Hamilton has 89 victories from 258 starts and is two short of Michael Schumacher’s record 91. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel is the next closest active driver on 53.
Hamilton has won five of eight races so far in 2020, Mercedes six of them. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly are the other winners, both in Honda-powered cars.
Ferrari have won 238 races since 1950, McLaren 182, Williams 114, Mercedes 108 and Red Bull 63. Former champions McLaren and Williams have not won since 2012.
Hamilton has a record 94 career poles.
Mercedes have started every race of 2020 from pole this season.
Hamilton has a record 157 career podiums.
Hamilton has a record 41 successive points finishes and can set an outright record for successive classified finishes this weekend.
The Briton leads team mate Valtteri Bottas by 47 points. Hamilton has scored 164 points so far, six more then second placed Red Bull have managed as a team.
All of the 10 teams except Williams have scored points this season.
Gasly’s win at Monza last weekend was the first by a French driver since Olivier Panis at Monaco in 1996. He became the 109th driver to win a grand prix and first new winner since Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in Belgium last year.
It was also the first by a driver from outside Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull since Kimi Raikkonen for Lotus in Australia in 2013.
Hamilton’s pole lap at Monza last Saturday was the fastest ever, the Mercedes driver qualifying at an average speed of 264.362kph (164mph).