Hamilton takes 90th F1 win in chaotic Tuscan Grand Prix

Andy Hone/Motorsport Images

Hamilton takes 90th F1 win in chaotic Tuscan Grand Prix

Formula 1

Hamilton takes 90th F1 win in chaotic Tuscan Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton is one win away from Michael Schumacher’s all-time victory record after claiming his 90th F1 triumph in a marathon Tuscan Grand Prix at Mugello.

Only 12 drivers made it to the checkered flag in a debris-strewn race that ran for almost two and a half hours and featured two red-flag suspensions.

Poleman Hamilton was slow off the line, allowing teammate Valtteri Bottas to steam into the lead, but chaos ensued behind them.

Max Verstappen, starting third, nailed his start to put himself between the Mercedes cars on the run to San Donato, but after only a few yards his engine lost power and he was swamped by the midfield.

His race would last only a few more seconds. Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean sandwiched Pierre Gasly heading towards Luco, and the out-of-control Finn rear-ended the Verstappen, putting the Dutchman into the gravel and out of the race.

Meanwhile, Gasly — winner of last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix — rocketed into the air and towards the gravel, his AlphaTauri too damaged to make it back to the pits.

Further ahead, Carlos Sainz spun his McLaren racing side by side with Lance Stroll towards Poggio Secco, and though most of the field managed to avoid him, Sebastian Vettel couldn’t navigate himself out of the way, damaging his Ferrari.

Grosjean and Vettel returned to the pits for repairs as the safety car neutralized the field to clear the scene.

Racing resumed on Lap 7, but only briefly. Bottas, leading the pack, left it to the very last moment to floor it, but several drivers nearer to the back pre-empted the restart as they approached the start-finish line.

Nicholas Latifi and Antonio Giovinazzi were among them, and as they closed on Kevin Magnussen ahead, the Dane still traveling at reduced speed in the Bottas train, they were forced to swerve out of the way.

Latifi managed to avoid the Haas but Giovinazzi rammed into the back of it, and the two crashed cars collected Latifi anyway as they careened towards the barriers. Sainz, further down the field, couldn’t react quickly enough to the carnage and joined the trio in the wall.

The race was red flagged to remove the wreckage, and almost 30 minutes after the suspension and 45 minutes after the grand prix began the race resumed with a standing restart.

Bottas wasn’t so slick off the line the second time around. Benefiting from the Finn’s slipstream, Hamilton easily swooped around the outside of the sister Mercedes to retake the lead (pictured, top) and restore qualifying order.

The Briton wouldn’t relinquish the lead from there, nailing a second restart on Lap 46 and controlling the gap to record his 90th career victory, now just one shy of Michael Schumacher’s 91-win record.

“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 (with) the heat, keeping Valtteri behind — he’s been quick all weekend — it was not easy.”

Bottas had a second chance to reclaim the lead after another red flag interruption late in the race, but the Finn again couldn’t execute a strong start, falling to third for a lap before reclaiming and consolidating second place.

“Disappointing because obviously it was like a dream start for me for the race … and obviously I held my position at the [safety car] restart,” he said. “It seemed like there were no opportunities anymore once I lost position at the second start, but that’s how it goes.”

The championship gap now stands at 55 points with eight rounds 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.”

With Verstappen out of the picture, the battle for the podium was fiercely contested. Charles Leclerc started from third on the restart grid but the Ferrari was never going to be fast enough to hold position. He predictably sunk down the order from Lap 15.

Racing Point’s Lance Stroll moved up into third, but Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo was in hot pursuit. The Australian closed up behind the pink car to pull the undercut on Lap 26, and when the Canadian delayed his stop another three laps the position change hands.

Stroll’s concern became Alex Albon behind, who had stopped on Lap 32 and was finding a massive improvement in pace on fresh mediums. But the Thai had only just closed to within 1.3 seconds of the Racing Point when Stroll speared off the track at the second Arrabbiata, the rapid right-hander. Appearing to suffer a rear-left puncture, he smacked into the barriers with enough force that his car smoldered and eventually caught fire.

Stroll emerged from the wreckage unscathed, but the race was red-flagged a second time.

Albon, without a podium since joining Red Bull Racing in August 2019, seized the opportunity. On Lap 51 he boldly launched his car around the outside of Ricciardo’s at San Donato, making the move stick to at long last secure his place on an F1 rostrum.

“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.”

Ricciardo came home fourth ahead of Racing Point’s Sergio Perez. McLaren’s Lando Norris kept AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat at bay over the line for fifth.

Kimi Raikkonen took the flag eighth but had five seconds added to his time for crossing the white line on pit entry, dropping him to ninth behind Leclerc but keeping Vettel in 10th.

George Russell fell just 2.4s short of his first F1 points in his 30th grand prix in 11th, while Romain Grosjean was a remarkable 12th and final finisher despite being caught up in both early crashes.

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