Formula One has saluted Ferrari’s contribution to the sport as the team prepare for their 1,000th race Sunday’s Tuscan Grand Prix. The Scuderia are being honoured at the Mugello circuit owned by the team, where F1 has never raced before, in the first grand prix meeting of the season to allow spectators.
Ferrari will reach 1,000 grands prix having competed in the sport since F1’s inaugural season in 1950. Their records reflect the status they have achieved and their longevity, compiling 16 constructors’ championships, 15 drivers’ titles, 238 wins and 228 poles from 78 models.
“It’s an honour being here today,” said the Ferrari team principal, Mattia Binotto. “It’s a responsibility and an honour. There is such history since 1950, always being here, and never stopped, the most winning team in constructors, drivers and in victories. When I was a kid I was a fan and I never thought I could be here.”
Struggling this season, down on power and sixth in the championship is not how they would like to mark their achievement but they have entered into the spirit of the affair. Both cars this weekend will race in the deep burgundy colour sported by the first Ferrari built in 1947, the 125S.
The world champion, Lewis Hamilton, is known to be a fan of the marque, certainly in that he owns at least two of the company’s road cars and acknowledged their place in F1. “Ferrari have contributed such a huge amount to the sport,” he said. “There’s so much passion for the brand around the world and F1 wouldn’t be the same without Ferrari. It’s a brand we need to keep here and do I hope at some stage we have them back in the competitive position so we can fight and get back to doing what they did well before.”
His words were echoed by the Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner. “Ferrari are an iconic team,” he said. “I remember seeing the V12s when Nigel Mansell and Gerhard Berger were driving at Silverstone, the noise of the engines was amazing. There has always been this mystique about Ferrari and everything they have achieved. They are tough competitors, a great race team. Ferrari and F1 are synonymous.”
Perhaps appropriately given the Ferrari celebration this is the first race this season to have paying spectators. A welcome return for the tifosi, even in a limited capacity, with 2,880 a day allowed into the circuit. These enthusiastic souls peppering the grandstands in socially distanced positions represented a faint glimmer of the hope of a return to normality. On Sunday they will be able to watch Michael Schumacher’s son, Mick, lap in the F2004 in which his father took his seventh title as well as the race itself while on Friday they were the first to witness Formula One cars race at Mugello.
The track evolved from the Circuito Stradale which was created in 1914 and held its first grand prix in 1920. The racing continued to take place on the public roads in the hills of Scarperia until 1970 and the permanent layout now employed was first used in 1974. The drivers had been eagerly anticipating putting it to the test, and they were not disappointed as they barrelled through the elevation changes and sweeping turns.
“This track is pretty intense – so fast and challenging,” said Hamilton. “It’s amazing to experience. I love it. It’s one of the most physically demanding I’ve driven for a while.” Williams’ George Russell tweeted: “This. Track. Is. Mad!!! I bloody love it!!!”
Indeed, as the cars swept down the hill through turn seven, Savelli, and then hurtled flat out pulling 5G through the double right-hander of Arrabbiata 1 and 2 the scene was breathtaking.
Valtteri Bottas topped the timesheets in first practice from Max Verstappen with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in third and Hamilton in fourth. In the afternoon Bottas led Hamilton and Verstappen by two-tenths with Leclerc in 10th and Sebastian Vettel in 12th.