It was an historic Grand Prix at the Mugello circuit yesterday for several reasons: it was the first time the Ferrari-owned track hosted the Formula 1 World Championship and the Scuderia celebrated its 1000th race in the series. It was a spectacular and action packed race on a circuit that is demanding for car and driver. This weekend it received the important recognition of the ISO 20121 certification for sustainable management of events. It is the first circuit in the world to be recognised by the TÜV certification body.
There were several exciting events apart from the race itself. Mick Schumacher put on a spectacular display at the wheel of the F2004 that his father Michael, teamed up with Rubens Barrichello used to win the two world titles in 2004 and there was also a thrilling parachute display as the Pisa-based “Folgore” brigade brought a 400 square metre Italian flag down to earth as well as a 300 square metre Scuderia one. Then, on Saturday night, the heart of Florence, the Piazza della Signoria, was lit up with a fantastic show of images projected on the walls of the Palazzo Vecchio where over eight thousand socially distanced visitors over the course of the Sunday could get close up to five of the Ferrari Formula 1 cars that have shone a light on the fantastic history of the Prancing Horse, as well as a range of current road cars from the Maranello marque.
The only downside of the weekend was an important one, namely the race result, with the SF1000s finishing eighth and tenth with Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel respectively. To find out how the Scuderia approached a weekend on a track that had never been used for the world championship before and where the last test dated back to 2012, we spoke to Inaki Rueda, Head of Race Strategy.
“On a new track there are many more unknown factors because we have no reference points, not just in terms of set up but also how long it takes to complete a pit stop, what are the chances of overtaking and especially tyre degradation. It’s very difficult to simulate and the FIA was open to extending the DRS zone but after Friday practice it was clear that the circuit layout, combined with front tyre degradation, could lead drivers who were struggling to have a slower exit from the final corner as well as the chance of having a good line at the first corner.”
In fact, this last factor had a negative impact on Charles’ race.
Unfortunately yes, but first we have to go back a bit. Going into the race, we thought a one stop would be possible, starting on Mediums and finishing on Hards, but with such a long start-finish straight there was a very high risk of losing places at the start. So the plan was to start on Softs and go to at least lap 25 before switching to Mediums and if necessary, before lap 20, think of doing a two stopper. After qualifying well and getting a good start, Charles was third, but the first red flag suggested an alternative plan: switching to Hards and trying to go to the end, potentially saving 22 seconds of pit stop – as the rules don’t say you have to make a stop, they say you have to use at least two types of dry tyre, or go for a two stop, opting in that case to stay on the softest compound. The one stop threw up two unknowns: how much we could count on tyre performance at the end of the race and how much of a penalty it would be making a standing start with the Hards. All things considered, we therefore decided to restart on Softs to make a further stop to switch to Mediums.
However, things didn’t work out like that.
“Charles managed to stay third until lap 17, but from then on he had ever increasing degradation, higher than the others, losing a lot of places to the extent that on lap 21, he pitted again to switch to the Hards. At the start, his pace wasn’t bad and he managed to undercut Perez and Norris, even if it was not enough, given that they both got past him again. We were hoping to go to the flag and, eventually, to make up a few places.”
And Sebastian’s race?
“He was involved in the collision on the opening lap at turn 2 and lost the front wing. Seb pitted immediately for a set of Mediums, then for the first restart he opted for Softs before switching to Hards on lap 18, following the same sequence as Charles. Then there was another red flag and everything was reset to zero.”
The final phase was a sort of sprint race: could something different have been tried?
“No, there was no point, coming up with something clever with just 13 laps to go. Unfortunately, complicating things still further was the fact we had to start from the dirty side of the track, given that when the red flag came out, Charles was eighth and Sebastian tenth. With so many laps running on the racing line, the other side was covered in “marbles” which made it harder to get off the line from a standing start and both our drivers were overtaken by Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen, who apart from anything else were able to better warm up their tyres as they’d been allowed out on track ahead of the rest to unlap themselves. Not an enormous advantage, but not negligible. In the end, at least we managed to get both drivers into the points but clearly our race pace was unacceptable. Charles and Seb did their best: it is up to us to give them a car with which they can fight for better places than the ones we were fighting for yesterday.”