TRENDING TOPICS: A new era for Williams and 5 more talking points ahead of the Tuscan GP
After races at classic tracks in the form of Spa-Francorchamps and Monza, this week we head to a new venue for a Grand Prix at Mugello. As the paddock makes the short journey down to Tuscany, it's time to take a look at the main topics we expect to be making the headlines as the current triple header draws to a close.
1. A new (and incredibly quick) track
Mugello has been used for testing in the past, with an in-season test taking place back in 2012 at the venue, but this will be the first Grand Prix to be held at the Ferrari-owned circuit - and it was a late addition to the calendar.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the need to drastically change the 2020 schedule, and Mugello is the first venue that was not on the original calendar that will be raced at this season.
Teams are usually well-prepared for every circuit they go to but with Mugello they have had far less time to get ready, so practice will be even more crucial than normal, while qualifying is expected to be particularly important this weekend. From the drivers' point of view, it should be a thrill a minute, with the circuit extremely fast and super spectacular - that may or may not make for good racing, but expect plenty of sore necks come Sunday night.
2. Ferrari’s 1000th race
One of the reasons we are racing at Mugello is to mark 1000 races for Ferrari in Formula 1. The Scuderia have been part of the World Championship since the very first season in 1950 and will reach the special milestone at a circuit they own.
This season has been tough for Ferrari so far but they remain F1’s most successful team and can reflect on an incredible history that includes 16 constructors’ championships, 15 drivers’ titles and 237 victories.
It might be unlikely that those totals will be added to this weekend, but it will still be a special sight to see the Ferrari red on track at Mugello.
3. The return of fans
Another special aspect of Mugello is the fact that it will be the first race to welcome fans back to Formula 1 this season. All of the races up to now have been held behind closed doors in order to ensure the safe return to action, but as the world looks to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, Mugello sees the first fans allowed at the track.
At Monza there were 250 invited doctors and nurses in the grandstands as the F1 community showed their appreciation for their work in fighting the virus, but Mugello is the first event with open ticket sales.
A total of just under 3000 fans will attend the race, with the hope of increasing that number at certain future races this season, depending on ongoing negotiations with promoters and the relevant local governments.
4. Gasly and Albon
How can we talk about Formula 1 at the moment without bringing up Pierre Gasly’s epic victory at Monza? The last race was an all-time classic, with a podium featuring AlphaTauri, McLaren and Racing Point, despite both Mercedes drivers finishing and not suffering reliability problems.
Gasly deserves plenty of praise, as well as some time to revel in his first victory, but inevitably he was asked about the potential of returning to Red Bull for a second spell in future after being dropped in favour of Alex Albon mid-season last year.
Albon still enjoys strong support within Red Bull, with this year’s car deemed particularly tricky to drive, and his own difficult race on Sunday was partly due to significant damage sustained in early contact with Romain Grosjean. However, the stewards decided that incident was Albon’s fault and also handed him a time penalty – a further blow given the fact he was already losing a second per lap.
With a tough weekend coinciding with Gasly’s remarkable result, Red Bull are always likely to face questions about their driver plans.
The last driver to win for the team now known as AlphaTauri also did so at Monza, when Sebastian Vettel took a sensational victory back in 2008. He was promoted to Red Bull the following season and didn’t do too badly…
5. A new era for Williams
Monza was a particularly emotional event for one team, as one era drew to a close for Williams. The Italian Grand Prix was the final race with the Williams family still in charge, with Sir Frank Williams and his daughter Claire stepping aside after the sale of the team to Dorilton Capital.
The team name won’t change, but this weekend will be the first race without a Williams in charge since 1977.
The hope is it will signify the start of a new period of success for Williams, who are already moving forward after such a tough 2019 and now look to benefit from the budget cap and new technical regulations that are coming into force, all with fresh investment.
The new owners have put the team's Managing Director Simon Roberts in charge for the moment - but the former McLaren man is Acting Team Principal for now, and it remains to be seen what plans the new owners have for Williams once they are firmly entrenched at Grove.
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6. The Formula 3 decider
We mentioned it ahead of Monza and the racing in F3 certainly didn’t disappoint, but now the season draws to a close with two races at Mugello to decide the 2020 champion.
Oscar Piastri leads the standings by just eight points from team mate Logan Sargeant, and they have a clear advantage over the other four drivers still in contention.
Theo Pourchaire leads that chase but is 24 points off the lead, closely followed by Liam Lawson who is nine points further back. David Beckmann and Frederik Vesti also have an outside chance of taking the title but need some pretty remarkable results.
But the potential for those results is there, with Piastri and Sargeant both receiving grid penalties after the second race at Monza, meaning Piastri will drop five positions for race 1 at Mugello, and Sargeant will have to start three places further back from his qualifying position on a circuit where overtaking is expected to be difficult…