Mugello, 2020

Why “insanely fast” Mugello could be F1’s next-best thing to Suzuka

2020 Tuscan Grand Prix Ferrari 1000

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Formula 1 won’t race at the much-loved Suzuka circuit this year, as Japan’s round of the world championship was one of many to be cancelled due to Covid-19.

But could the demanding curves of Mugello, which will hold its first round of the world championship this weekend, prove the next-best thing?

The Tuscan circuit opened in 1974. Its 15 corners have been largely unchanged since, though in 2011 it was reprofiled in several places, largely to aid drainage.

The resurfacing project was handled by Dromo, who have since worked on several other Formula 1 circuits including Sepang, Silverstone and the extensively re-profiled Zandvoort which the series was supposed to return to earlier this year.

“Mugello is really something,” enthused Dromo owner Jarno Zaffelli in an exclusive interview for RaceFans. He had a chance to watch F1 cars test at the circuit in 2012, but the latest generation of machine will be significantly faster.

Official tyre supplier Pirelli has selected its hardest rubber, as it regularly does when F1 visits Suzuka, because of the high cornering forces anticipated. Mercedes predicted minimum cornering speeds of at least 200kph at nine of its 15 corners.

Mugello circuit
Single DRS zone confirmed for Tuscan GP at Mugello
“At Mugello we have asphalt that is quite old,” says Zaffelli. “We did it in 2011, the first one that we did. So it is worn asphalt with a lot of load because it’s very fast. Arrabbiata first and second [turns eight and nine], they will be insanely fast. So a lot of loads on tyres.”

While some of the current drivers on the grid were at that test in 2012, and others raced there in junior formulae, none have the same regular experience of it in current F1 cars that they do at other circuits. That will also be the case when they race at Autodromo do Algarve and other venues later in the season.

“We will see a different way of driving at those circuits,” Zaffelli predicts. “When you have a normal calendar of 22 races, 14 or 15 of those tracks are basically done with the same concept in mind: aerodynamic, lap time and the hairpins are good, this is the concept.

“Now this year, in 17 races, half of that will be actually relying on different stuff. They’re relying on old-school tracks.

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“There is not one [person] that made all the designs, they are coming from all different perspectives, all different heritage. Coming from road circuits like, for example, Imola, which was roads connected between each other in the seventies and then became permanent.

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Suzuka, 2019
Suzuka’s flowing corners have been compared to Mugello’s
“Or a purpose-built circuit but designed in the sixties – Mugello, like Suzuka was. The same concept that you can see in Suzuka you can find it here today in few tracks. Mugello is one of those.

Zandvoort is another one. Spa to some extent, even if Spa is actually a track more modern as a concept because of the long straights and aerodynamics.”

Mugello’s high-speed nature, limited run-off and restricted sight lines into several of its corners will make it more of a challenge, says Zaffelli.

“First of all the drivers are going to have very little experience in real life of this track. So the fastest drivers to adapt, to understand how the track is will make a difference. They will have to rely as much as possible in simulation and not all the drivers are good in simulations – that’s why they use the test drivers.

“They will rely a lot on simulation, they will rely a lot on data. But the fact is that also the engineers, they will struggle to get the data properly.

F1 cars will take Mugello’s Arrabbiatas “completely flat-out”
“Normally the engineers are dealing with the data from tracks that are, let’s say, easy to learn, to feel, to see, because they don’t have blind corners. As the track is more difficult, the [more the] driver is making a difference.

“If you take a track, let’s take the old Valencia, it was a really easy one to learn. But if you take Suzuka nowadays it’s still very difficult because you don’t have your sight and you don’t have your eyes to see where you’re going.

“So there is a certain extent of guessing and guessing makes for mistakes and guessing makes for uncertainty. And this is what we are looking for because we are looking for the drivers that are making a difference.

“So if Lewis Hamilton is faster than the others nowadays and we are saying he probably is the best driver in this era, it’s because he’s also the faster one to understand this kind of stuff.”

Drivers will have the usual three practice sessions to adjust to the new challenge of Mugello, starting tomorrow. But that won’t be the case when they visit another unfamiliar track, Imola, later this year, for a two-day race weekend.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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16 comments on “Why “insanely fast” Mugello could be F1’s next-best thing to Suzuka”

  1. Maybe early days but at Suzuka there is a lot of close racing thoughout the grid while Mugello might end up being a highspeed Monaco.

    1. +1 high speed Monaco especially with conservative hard tyres.

  2. Really looking forward to watching the onboard of Hamilton’s pole lap.

  3. There does not seem to be many good passing opportunities here and I see lots of grass and gravel where nowadays we have asphalt. Could be an interesting race just based on that…or another yawn. We will see.

    1. I kind of expect qualifying to be pretty good, watching really nice drivers on the edge, maybe an unexpected (and a Ferrari and/or Haas) ending their session in the gravel @gpfacts.

      But for the race, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a bit like the Monza race for Sunday, so barring Leclerc/Vettel repeating their actions to spice up the race again, and maybe an accident taking out Hamilton, we’re likely to see Verstappen behind or between the Mercedes guys for more or less the whole race.

  4. Hopefully this race is incident free. It looks very dangerous for modern F1 cars. I don’t like the gravel and grass run offs you wouldn’t want to roll a car.

    1. Rolling is not dangerous.
      It’s way more dangerous to have a tarmac runoff & come back to the track after a spin or something, like Hubert’s crash.

      1. Rolling is very dangerous with all these grass and gravel run offs.

        Also, there’s not a lot of run off in many parts of Mugello.

        1. I think these are two incredibly broad outlooks.

          Both have their positives and their drawbacks. Asphalt is, generally speaking, much better for 4 wheels. Asphalt offers the best form of retardation. Gravel is, generally speaking, better for 2 wheels, as it separates the bike from the rider.

  5. I hope the TV producer will place a number of cameras around the circuit that will let us see a good representation of the speed of the cars.

  6. Lots for the drivers to learn this weekend but I’m quite interested in what the start will look like, does anyone have any previous knowledge of the starts here? It might be where we get the most action and if the drivers don’t have much video to go from it could be pretty unpredictable I’m hoping.

    1. @alec-glen I saw some start footage from a lower category at one point, and nothing special in it, so I doubt there’s going to be anything unusual in F1 either.

  7. Even watching on boards of the track makes my palms sweaty. If you lose the car in one of those very many 3-6 g corners you are taking a quick trip into a wall. And since there is only landscaping around the road you have zero opportunity to gather it up or brake or even try to point the nose away first, assuming you are not upside down already. Drivers will be earning their money.

  8. With the gravel everywhere, I predict a large number of safety cars during the race and several off track events at turn 10 (Scarperia), where the cars will be braking hard with very hot tyres, after enduring very high loads in the two Arrabiatas. The winning strategies will be the ones that account for safety car periods, later in the race.

    1. I predict the opposite: with the Pirelli tyres falling into pieces after a few laps, everyone will be preserving them, and thus not pushing too hard to make any mistakes.

  9. Jacked up to witness the challenge of this interesting track layout. It’s like two separate tracks divided by a very long straight. Looks to be a good test. Looks like it could become a mess when patience is lost. Watch out Grosjean is coming. No surprises there. The field will fall back into order here. No lucky Gasly stuff here. The strong will remain so as the back half of the grid might look sloppy due to the fabled Demands of this place. Initial biggest surprise is how Mugello is actually properly said “MooJello“. I knew it with a heavy G like in Gibraltar. Who Cares. It just special place for racefans to see something special for a change when our Formula One Cars get to test their potential unlike anywhere so far.
    Smart to give this place a chance to come here during frickin Covid

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