A race that saw not just one, but three standing starts, Lewis Hamilton still managed to emerge with his 90th career Formula 1 victory at the Tuscan Grand Prix on Sunday.
Enthralling from start-to-finish despite its two-and-a-half-hour runtime, F1’s first outing at the Mugello circuit had plenty of thrills and spills before Hamilton took the chequered flag from Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas by 4.880 seconds.
Indeed, it only took a few corners for the first safety car of the race to be brought-out, after a collision between Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly saw the former careen into the back of a slow-starting Max Verstappen, ending Gasly and Verstappen’s races in the process.
Then as the safety car returned to the pits on lap 9, Bottas – leading the race after jumping pole-sitter Hamilton at the start – opted to slow the pack down prior to the restart, but several backmarkers didn’t get the message, causing a four-way collision between Kevin Magnussen, Carlos Sainz, Antonio Giovinazzi and Nicholas Latifi on the start-finish straight which brought out the first red flag of the day.
25 minutes later the race got back underway, with Hamilton this time getting the better start off the line to take back the lead from Bottas, which he would then hold until the finish.
That said, he had to face one more test after Lance Stroll caused a second red flag when he lost his Racing Point into the Arrabiatas on lap 40, albeit one the Briton handled easily as Bottas lost position to Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo off the line.
Managing to make his way back behind his teammate, Bottas simply didn’t have the pace to overhaul him, giving the Briton win number six for the 2020 season, and number 90 for his career – one short of record-holder Michael Schumacher.
“It was all a bit of a daze,” Hamilton said afterwards. “It was like three races in one day. It was incredibly tough today, obviously with a difficult start.
“This track is phenomenal. Obviously the heat and keeping Valtteri Bottas, who has been quick all weekend, was not easy and I was behind in the beginning. All those restarts, the focus that’s needed during that time, it’s really, really hard.
“It’s crazy to be here and have 90 Grands Prix [wins].”
Bottas, who will rue several missed chances this weekend to get the better of Hamilton, was playing a very different tune.
“Disappointing because it was like a dream start to me to the race. I also managed to hold my position at the Safety Car restart and then, I don’t really remember all the phases, but it seemed like there were no opportunities anymore after I lost the position at the second start.
“I’ll just keep pushing trying to get better. It has to turn out well for me at some point.”
Behind the Mercedes pairing, Red Bull’s Alexander Albon managed to earn his first career podium, having delivered a scintillating move on the aforementioned Ricciardo to get what had previously been denied him at the 2019 Brazilian and 2020 Austrian Grands Prix.
“Obviously a while to get here – and it was a tough one. I had to work for it,” he said of his accomplishment.
“I can breathe, it feels nice to be here.
“We just didn’t get off the line [at the starts] so most of the overtakes had to be done on the circuit. Our car is good on the brakes, we’ve known that since day one, so we can do the kind of moves like that. It’s fun to drive.”
Ricciardo ultimately finished two seconds behind him in P4, with the Racing Point of Sergio Perez fifth, a further five seconds back.
McLaren’s Lando Norris was sixth, earning valuable points after an 11th-placed start, with Daniil Kvyat following behind him again as he had done on Saturday.
Charles Leclerc could only managed P8 for Ferrari as they celebrated their 1000th Grand Prix at a circuit which they own, a strong start giving way to a distinct lack of race pace.
Kimi Raikkonen was ninth, ahead of old teammate Sebastian Vettel in the last points-paying position, the German having spent much of the race in a battle with Williams’ George Russell, indicating just how far car and driver have fallen.
Chasing his first career points, Russell had to settle for 11th, with Romain Grosjean last of the finishers.
Aside from those mentioned above who did not finish, Esteban Ocon was also forced into retirement after his brakes overheated.