Lewis Hamilton is one win short of equalling Michael Schumacher’s F1 victory record after triumphing at a chaotic Tuscan Grand Prix, while Alex Albon became Thailand’s first podium-getter with a strong third place.
F1 first visit to Mugello was high attrition, featuring two red flag interruptions and several multi-car crashes that left only 12 drivers still running when the chequered flag fell.
Hamilton wielded the disruption to his advantage. After losing pole to fast-starting teammate Valtteri Bottas on the first lap, he was able to seize back the lead at the first standing restart to break the Finn’s challenge.
This article originally appeared in The Phuket News.
The Briton was then flawless at a second restart on lap 46 to convert pole to victory after a marathon two hours and 25 minutes.
It was Hamilton’s 90th win, just one shy of Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 career F1 victories.
“It was all a bit of a daze — it was like three races in one day!” a visibly spent Hamilton said. “All those restarts — total focus was needed during that time. It was really, really hard.
“The heat keeping Valtteri behind — he’s been quick all weekend — was not easy.”
Bottas tried desperately to win back the ascendancy after ceding the race lead, but to no avail. He asked his team for an alternative strategy, but the Finn burnt through his rubber faster than the Briton and needed an earlier stop, allowing Hamilton to cover his tyre choice on a later lap.
Second place cost him another eight points to the Briton on the title table to stand 55 points adrift with eight races remaining.
“I’ll just keep pushing, trying to get better,” he said. “It has to turn out well for me at some point, so I’ll keep pushing.”
Thai driver Alex Albon kept his cool though the carnage to take his maiden F1 podium, sealing the deal with a brilliant move around Daniel Ricciardo’s outside at turn one.
Albon, 24 years old, had to fight for his spot on the rostrum, having lost a total of five places to bad getaways at the two restarts.
But as has so often been the case this season, the Red Bull Racing driver was ferocious in the race, picking off drivers one by one with some perfectly judged passing to earn the place on merit.
“It’s taken a while to get here!” he said. “It was a tough one as well, I had to work for it.
“I’m really happy. I can breathe. It feels nice to be here.”
Albon was the sole Red Bull Racing driver in the race after teammate Max Verstappen, starting from third, was wiped out on the first lap.
The Dutchman got a slow start thanks to an engine problem that plunged him into the midfield, and at the entry to turn two he was rear-ended by Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen and beached in the gravel.
Raikkonen had been powerless to prevent the crash, having collided with Pierre Gasly and Romain Grosjean seconds earlier. Gasly came off worst, launched into the air and coming to rest in a heap in the gravel.
The race was neutralised by a safety car, but the restart on lap seven lasted mere seconds before a horror crash on the start-finish straight forced a race suspension.
Bottas was controlling the pack at a slow place ahead of the restart, but several drivers near the back of the field disastrously attempt to pre-empt him and floored it as they approached the line.
Antonio Giovinazzi was one of them, smashing into the back of Kevin Magnussen. The pair collected Nicholas Latifi ahead as they hurtled towards the wall, and Carlos Sainz behind couldn’t avoid the wreckage.
All four were eliminated, and the scale of debris required 30 minutes to clean the circuit.
Racing Point’s Lance Stroll held third for the middle portion of the race but was undercut by Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, and both were bracing for attack by Alex Albon for the final third of the race when Stroll fired off the circuit in another suspension-inducing crash.
The Canadian’s car left the road taking the 270-kilometre-per-hour turn seven in what appeared to be a failure of the car at the right-rear corner. Stroll emerged unscathed, but the damage was so severe the wreckage caught fire.
The second restart ensued with Ricciardo and Albon fighting for third, the Australian having to settle for fourth in his equal best result for Renault.
Sergio Perez and Lando Norris finished fifth and sixth in the sole remaining Racing Point and McLaren cars ahead of AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat.
Charles Leclerc was highest-placed Ferrari driver, finishing eighth in his team’s 1000th grand prix. Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen was classified ninth ahead of Sebastian Vettel in the second Ferrari.
George Russell was 2.4 seconds shy of his first F1 point in 30 race starts, and Romain Grosjean was the final finisher in 12th.