'Unbelievable' Mugello draws driver praise

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'Unbelievable' Mugello draws driver praise

Formula 1

'Unbelievable' Mugello draws driver praise

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The “unbelievable” Mugello circuit drew praise from the Formula 1 grid after Friday practice at the Tuscan Grand Prix, with even Lando Norris declaring himself a fan despite a crash.

Mugello was a late addition to the F1 calendar after the season was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and is the first venue this year that was not on the original schedule. For most drivers it is their first time driving an F1 car at the track, but even the Ferrari drivers who had tested at Mugello before the delayed season start, said that Friday left a big impression.

“It’s unbelievable,” Charles Leclerc said. “All the fast section is pretty impressive. I think it is going to be quite a difficult race physically, as FP2, for the neck, you start to feel it already, so the race will be a tough one.”

You could be forgiven for being skeptical about a Ferrari driver’s reaction given that it is a Ferrari-owned track, but Max Verstappen offered similar sentiments.

It’s a very cool track,” Verstappen said. “There are so many fast corners and in a Formula 1 car, to take Arrabbiata one and two flat out, easily, is quite incredible. So it’s really nice, really enjoyable to drive.”

Lewis Hamilton sees similarities with Istanbul’s Turn 9 in some sections of Mugello after his first run in the Mercedes, having not even done a track walk on Thursday.

“It almost feels like Turkey, the triple left-hander whatever it is there,” Hamilton said. “It is incredibly fast through the first, six, seven, eight or nine corners; it’s intense. I have to say it’s amazing to experience it. It’s going to be difficult to look after the tires through that section, but everyone is in the same boat.

“It’s a very, very serious track, all medium and high – don’t think we go lower than third or fourth gear, so it’s so quick. There’s not a lot of run-off area, really, particularly through Turn 8 and 9.”

The minimal run-off caught Lando Norris out at Turn 5 in FP2, when he dipped two wheels in the gravel on the exit of the corner – one of many drivers to do so – but lost control and ended up in the wall.

“As much as I hate the fact there was gravel because of crashing and damaging the car, it’s better like this being more tricky,” Norris said. “It’s more challenging, and I think that’s what it should be like. Not ideal, but it’s what happens sometimes.

“It felt a lot worse in the car than what it looked like, but I think there’s some damage to the steering and maybe the rear. Nothing major, luckily. I don’t think I damaged much to the floor or the wings, apart from the front wing. It’s not terrible; it could have been worse, so I’m lucky. It was a small mistake from my side which was quite costly. It cost me all of the high-fuel running in P2, but it is what it is and we will try to make up for it tomorrow.

“(The track) is fast and it’s good fun. It’s tricky with the tarmac here, it’s very slippy, and a lot of people are struggling and so are we. We were expecting to be quite a bit quicker than what we were doing because we were expecting the track to be much grippier. It seems very slippery for some reason. and it makes our lives very difficult in the car. It’s a good challenge, and this car is very fast, very high-speed, quite physical, but it’s a good fun challenge.”

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