AFRICAN MIRROR REPORTER
WORLD champion Lewis Hamilton recorded his historic 95th pole – Mercedes’ 69th – after he pipped teammate Valteri Bottas in the qualifier for the Tuscan Grand Prix at the Mugello circuit.
Bottas did better during the practice and earlier qualifiers but Hamilton delivered a strong performance when it mattered most. Mercedes locked out the front row, followed, in the second row, by the Red Bull pair of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albion.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who performed well in the practice round, starts the race in 5th in a race of historic importance to Ferrari. He will need a drive of his life to finish on the podium. His teammate Sebastian Vettel who is in his last season with Ferrari was booted out in the second qualifying round.
Ferrari celebrates a special milestone this weekend. Its team and cars will sport different colours to mark the historic 1000th race.
The celebration could not have come at the worst time for Ferrari who are experiencing a nightmarish slump of form which has seen them fail to claim a podium position since the post-COVID-19 restart of the F1 season.
The team’s 2020 car – the SF 1000 – has disappointed, failing to match the pace of Mercedes, Red Bull, Racing Point and Renault. Leclerc finished third in Practice One and will hope to maintain the form through to the qualifiers.
So, Ferrari have ditched their traditional and signature red colour for burgundy, which reflects that of the 125 S, the first ever Ferrari, built in 1947. Both drivers have special helmet designs for the occasion. Their race suits and the SF1000 have all been produced in the original burgundy red of the 125 S, the very first car and the 125 F1, the first car entered in Formula 1 by the Maranello marque.
Despite their difficulties on the track, Leclerc and Vettel are excited about the weekend.
Vettel said: “It’s a great honour to be driving a Ferrari in what is the 1000th Grand Prix for this, the longest serving of all Formula 1 teams. It will be even more of a pleasure to celebrate this anniversary at the Mugello Circuit and also because, for the first time this season, a few spectators will be allowed into the grandstands.
It is a very nice and super technical track with changes of gradient and very demanding corners. The track should better suit our car, so let’s hope we can deliver something to please the tifosi, both at home and at the circuit.”
Leclerc said: “I can’t wait to be on track at Mugello with Ferrari. The circuit is really beautiful and on top of that, we are celebrating our team’s 1000th GP in Formula 1. I’m also pleased to learn there will be a few thousand fans in the grandstands.
The track has a very long straight, but it’s not super fast like the past two we raced on and so it should be a bit better suited to our car. It will be important to make the most of the track time available, as we have no data from which to start. We hope to put on a show for the people at home and those in the stands and also get back to picking up some good championship points.”
A series of special events have been planned to mark Ferrari’s historic weekend. On Saturday after qualifying, the drivers and team principal headed for Florence’s Piazza della Signoria for a special evening. On Sunday before the race, the F2004 with which Michael Schumacher took his seventh title, his fifth with the Scuderia, will be back on track. At the wheel will be his son Mick Schumacher, himself a Ferrari Driver Academy student, currently second in the Formula 2 championship and he too has a special helmet for this occasion.
In line with Covid-19 restrictions, a limited number of fans – 2880 – will be allowed into the grandstands to be witnesses to history.
The Tuscan-Ferrari 1000 Grand Prix starts at 15.10 on Sunday 13 September.