Just a few days after the arguably most exciting race of the season, the Italian Grand Prix, teams and drivers made a short trip from the historic Monza to the picturesque Tuscany for Round Nine of the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship, the Tuscan Grand Prix.
This weekend’s race takes drivers and teams to a new territory with the Ferrari-owned Mugello circuit playing host to a Formula 1 race for the very first time. Located in the Tuscan hills, the Mugello circuit is expected to become one of the drivers’ favourite with its elevation changes and fantastic layout.
The present-day closed Mugello circuit was constructed in 1973 and opened in 1974. Although the circuit has not staged a Formula 1 race, it is not unknown for the sport as it served as a test venue ahead of the 2012 season. An unofficial track record of 1:21.035 was set by Romain Grosjean during this test, but the unofficial F1 lap record is held by Rubens Barrichello and Ferrari from 2004: 1m18.704s, which is set to be shattered this year.
Races were held before the construction of the purpose-built race track on public streets around Mugello from the 1920s. Giuseppe Campari won there in 1920 and 1921, and Emilio Materassi took victories in 1925, 1926 and 1928.
Following a 25-year hiatus, the Mugello Grand Prix was revived in 1955 when Ferrari powered Umberto Maglioli to a fantastic victory. The race was not held in the following years, but its was brought back in 1964. Between 1964 and 1970, the Mugello Grands Prix saw Porsche, Ferrari, Abarth and Alfa Romeo dominate the proceedings.
The 5.245km track features an extremely long start-finish staight that will favour cars with a good top-end speed. Turn 1 , the San Donato corner is a 180-degree medium-speed bend where patience is required before drivers can accelerate at full throttle. Turns 2 and 3 form a floowing section where it is vital for cars to react well to the quick changes of directions.
Following a short straight, drivers find themselves in another flowing combination of corners that is followed by another shorter straight. This section leads towards the quick Turns 6 and 7 where the track goes significantly downhill. The next two bends are blindingly fast corners. The right-hand Arrabbiata corners are the two quickest corners of the track, probably taken flat-out in a Formula 1 car at speeds of around 260 or 270kph.
Turns 10 and 11, the Scarperia and the Palagio bends are medium-speed bends where a very sharp front end is vital to maintain good speeds through this section. The next corner, the 200-degree Correntaio turns drivers back, leading toward a brutally fast chicane.
The road then leads towards Turn 14 where patience is required. Drivers need to wait at the entry and focus on a perfect exit out of the corner to have a good speed onto the straight-finish straight.
Pirelli’s Head of F1 and Car Racing Mario Isola said that the Mugello circuit plays an important role for the Milan-based company as it was the circuit where it first conducted testing ahead of its return to the sport back in 2010.
„Mugello is a fantastic addition to the World Championship calendar with a particular significance for Pirelli, as it's where we first ran our Formula 1 tyres back in August 2010, just two months after our agreement was announced to supply the sport from 2011 onwards. It’s a spectacular and very fast circuit that will definitely place big demands on tyres, which is why we have selected the hardest compounds.”
Drivers will be keen to complete many laps during the practice sessions to gain experience on a circuit that will a real test to the fitness level of drivers and the aerodynamic performance of the cars.
„As with any new venue, Mugello represents a bit of an unknown for most of the drivers and an entirely clean sheet of paper when it comes to strategy. Free practice will be particularly crucial to collect as much data as possible, and we’re likely to see teams splitting their programmes to gain as much information as they can about every tyre under all circumstances. From our point of view, we’ve been able to prepare also by analysing data from our other championships that have raced at Mugello.
„Congratulations to Ferrari for reaching the incredible milestone of 1000 races: just one of the factors that makes the team so iconic in our sport, and worthy of this fitting celebration where we are also delighted to be title sponsor,” he said.
Pirelli will bring their hardest compounds to Mugello, with the C1, C2 and C3 on offer. This is also to shield against the potential for thermal degradation exacerbated by very hot weather.
The asphalt at Mugello is famously aggressive, again placing more demands on the tyres. The track was completely resurfaced for the last time in 2011. With no really tight chicanes or big braking zone, Pirelli expects the traction and braking forces to be very low whereas the tyre stress will be high due to the quick corners and high lateral forces.