Lewis Hamilton beat Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in an incident-packed Tuscan Grand Prix, with Red Bull’s Alex Albon taking his first podium in F1, and becoming the first Thai driver to stand on an F1 podium. Hamiltons 90th race win leaves him just one shy of the great Michael Schumacher on 91. Hamilton also set another record this weekend, taking his 222nd points to finish.
It was action from lights out, as Bottas beat Hamilton into turn one to take the lead, but behind them heading into Turn 2, multiple cars came together in a crash that ended the race of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and the winner from the last race, Pierre Gasly in the Alpha Tauri.
The safety car came out while the debris and stricken cars were cleared away, but there was chaos again when racing resumed on lap 7. Carlos Sainz in the McLaren, Antonio Giovinazzi in the Alfa Romeo, Kevin Magnussen in the Haas and Nicholas Latifi in the Williams were all taken out of the race when they tripped over one another, thankfully all without injury, although Sainz was left holding his left hand. The race was red-flagged while the debris was cleared and yet more cars were cleared away. Sainz referred to the incident as “really scary” but Romain Grosjean, who narrowly avoided getting caught up in the carnage, had harsher words to say, calling it “****ing stupid”.
The race restart spelt the beginning of the end for Bottas, as he dropped behind Hamilton in what will be now a familiar scene, and was left to trail his teammate. He never lost too much ground, but you got the sense that Bottas would never be able to mount a challenge. The two Mercedes drivers were told to stay off the kerbs to preserve tyre life, all but ending any chances (we thought) of a fight.
On lap 45, the race was red-flagged for a second time when Racing Point’s Lance Stroll suffered a tyre failure and went off at high speed into the barriers. It was a scary incident, with the Canadian driver thankfully unharmed, and he clambered out of the stricken pink car. The damage to the barriers was sufficient to warrant a second red-flagged, and the Marshalls set to work clearing a smoking Racing Point and mending the barrier.
At the second restart, Hamilton got away well, but Bottas didn’t and fell behind Daniel Ricciardo in the Renault, who was looking for his first podium with the team, in his last season with them before he switches to McLaren for 2021. Bottas finally managed to pass Ricciardo, but Hamilton was too far up the road to challenge, and despite his best efforts, Bottas was yet again destined to finish in the second spot. Ricciardo was passed by Albon in the closing laps and was unable to take 3rd back, giving Albon his first taste of champagne as an F1 driver.
Sergio Perez finished fifth in the Racing Point, with Lando Norris sixth in the McLaren. Daniil Kvyat finished eight for Alpha Tauri with Charles LeClerc finishing a disappointing eight at Ferrari’s 1000th Grand Prix. Kimi Raikkonen finished ninth after a 5 second time penalty, with the second Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel crossing the line in tenth. George Russell was an agonising eleventh for Williams, and so close to their first points of the season. Romain Grosjean finished twelfth and last of the runners in the Haas.
The championship has all but gone for Bottas now. 55 points behind his teammate, he needed to capitalise where he could this weekend, and he did just that when he jumped Hamilton into turn one. It all went backwards for him from there though, and he lacked the fight needed to stay in front and keep up with his teammate. It was even more annoying when Ricciardo got past him, and even though he managed to pass the Renault, he couldn’t catch up to Hamilton enough to use DRS and mount a challenge for the victory. I seem to be saying this every week now, but he is so toothless and disappointing in races. His qualifying performances are good, more often than not he is very close to Lewis, but he just lacks fight in the races it seems. It’s like he thinks “Ah well, he got me, but I’ll try again next week” but next week never comes. Since he won the first race of the season, we’ve seen very little to make me think that Bottas can be World Champion, either at Mercedes or elsewhere. He’s a good driver, don’t get me wrong, but there are far more drivers on the grid who will fight and put up a stronger fight than Bottas. I’ve said it before, but I just feel disappointed that Mercedes gave him another deal for 2021. It virtually guarantees that Hamilton will have very little competition next season as well. Bring back Nico Rosberg, I say!
Alex Albon On The Podium At Last!
Albon could have had three podiums at least by now if circumstances had been different. He finally got his first podium today, with a calm and mature drive. He started fourth, but dropped down the order at the start and was left to fight his was back. Red Bull played a decent strategy and he was in prime position to overtake Daniel Ricciardo for the final podium spot on the second restart. He wasted no time in passing Perez and then Ricciardo to secure his first top 3 finish. He has been under a lot of scrutiny this season, with less than admirable performances coupled with the man he replaced, Pierre Gasly, doing very well in inferior machinery. He silenced a few critics today however, and I hope he can push on for here and get a couple more podiums this year! It won’t be easy though, not if Max Verstappen can get back amongst the fight following two DNFs in a row!
So Close For Williams
For most of the race, George Russell was either in or on the fringes of the top 10, and it looked very likely that Williams would finally get their first point of the season. When the race was restarted for a second time, he was running in ninth, splitting the two Ferraris. He quickly slipped to the back of the pack though and although he was able to pass Romain Grosjean, he couldn’t catch up to the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel and had to settle for 11th. It’s unlikely he would have been that high up without the amount of retirements throughout the race, but it was still good to see Williams fighting teams on track and threatening the top ten, and even fighting Ferrari. They leave Mugello on 0 points still, but with some circuits coming up that may benefit the Williams car, I’m hopeful they can finally get a top 10 finish and at least equal Haas in the championship.
Where Are We Heading Next?
It’s Russia next, in two weeks time. It’s a circuit Valtteri Bottas goes well at traditionally, so if he’s serious about turning his season around and fighting Lewis, this circuit will give him a good chance to do so. But, I won’t be holding my breath.
How Is The Championship Looking?
Lewis Hamilton is now 55 points clear from Bottas, with 190 points to the Finns 135. With two DNFs in a row, Verstappen’s charge has taken a serious hit and he is third on 110 points. Lando Norris is fourth on 65 points, with Albon jumping up to fifth with 63. Mercedes are a long way ahead in the constructors championship on 325, with Red Bull their nearest challengers on 173. McLaren are third with 106 points, with Ferrari down in sixth on only 66 points. Williams remain the only team yet to score (I really hope I don’t have to say that anymore soon…).
So, aside from the spectacular crashes at the start of the race, it wasn’t overly exciting, and ended with a predictable Mercedes 1-2. Such a shame following last week’s incredible Grand Prix at Monza. Mercedes were back on top this week and they look likely to remain the team to beat for the foreseeable future. I’m really starting to wish the regulations were still changing in 2021 instead of 2022, but with the current pandemic it’s the right decision to push the change back by a year. Still, it means we have at least one more year of Mercedes dominance to look forward to. If you’re a Mercedes fan then that’s good news, but if you’re not, well… try and remember the good times!
Get a Beverage and Get Comfortable!
As normal, Martin, Neil and myself will be live on the F1 Fans show on the HDR Network Monday evening at 8pm for a recap of the Tuscan GP, discussions over drivers (probably Bottas again), and plenty more chatter. Get yourself involved - we always love seeing your comments and reading your opinions!
Take care, and stay safe!