No-one is truly expecting the Tuscan Grand Prix to be a pass-a-minute thriller. The most spectacular, undulating, driver-testing circuits rarely produce the best wheel-to-wheel action. It is the lesser-mentioned trade-off for Formula 1 venues.
A privilege of being in attendance at grands prix is the ability to get up close and personal trackside with Formula 1 cars. In the absence of season highlights Monaco, Singapore (exceptional street tracks) and Suzuka (always incredible) the new-for-2020 Mugello has already grabbed centre spot.
The setting is already utterly beautiful. Nearly every way you look there are rolling verdant hills that lead on to the next valley, with the odd ramshackle cottage visible in the distance, the whole picture assisted by the blue skies. Some of the faded road signs even point to Imola – another ‘new’ destination for Formula 1 in the coming weeks. It is as if someone painted the most perfect landscape and then built a phenomenal track in the middle of it.
The charm is aided by the history and the newness, unusually melding together in perfect harmony. New Formula 1 venues are regularly state-of-the-art, specially constructed, with little character. Mugello has limited Formula 1 history but is old school: everything has a 1970s vibe, the place is typically Italian in aura, but it has endless charm and atmosphere – even without a throng of spectators. The return of a limited number of fans was welcome, and some were milling in fields outside of the track to sneak a view, to see these stunning works of art fly around the track.
MotoGP has often put on a show at Mugello and for one year the track is out on loan to its four-wheeled friends to display its credentials.
There is very little of the 5.245km circuit that isn’t spectacular. The rooftop of the pit building provides a view of most of the track, aside from the highly-elevated opening corners, and is ostensibly the easiest vantage point for journalists consigned this year to the media centre. But the best sequence of corners at Turns 6 through 9 – Casanova, Savelli and the two Arrabbiatas. Drivers plunge downhill through the right-left sections of the first two corners before darting to the left-hand-side of the narrow circuit for the full-throttle high-speed Arrabbiata right-handers. Thanks to a conveniently located car park an area on the outside of Arrabbiata 1 is accessible for viewing.
Approaching almost 300km/h and pulling 5G there is little room for error as they fly through Arrabbiata 1 – a long-radius corner with far more banking than TV pictures show – and scream over the exit kerb, kicking up sparks as the floors bounce against the serrated track edge. Barely milliseconds later the drivers hurl their machines into Arrabbiata 2 and from the vantage point of this writer disappear behind the grass bank and fence outside of Bucine. Get it wrong through this sequence and there is just a thin strip of tarmac – bedecked in the tricolore colours – before a sea of gravel awaits.
Formula 1 cars are always more impressive at venues where they can flaunt what they were designed to do, and there’s plenty of that at Mugello. These 2020 machines, after all, are the fastest in Formula 1’s feted 70-year history.
“It’s a lot of fun, really cool, especially after we go into Turn 1, the first section is fantastic and the second sector is also amazing, so I really enjoyed every single lap today,” said Valtteri Bottas, who fronted both Friday practice sessions.
“It is a very cool track to drive in an F1 car with so many fast corners and to be able to take Arrabbiata 1 and 2 flat out easily is quite incredible and really enjoyable to drive,” said Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
“It’s unbelievable, all the fast sections are pretty impressive,” beamed Charles Leclerc, representing circuit owners Ferrari.