Lewis Hamilton won a chaotic, dangerous, heart-pounding Tuscan Grand Prix after red flags twice halted the drama in Mugello.
The victory takes the Briton to within one race victory of Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 – a landmark he could equal in Sochi, Russia, a week next Sunday.
The most dramatic scenes came during the first re-start, just after the safety car pulled in having been deployed for a smash on the second corner of the race.
Valtteri Bottas, the then leader, waited until the last permitted moment to put his foot down.
But behind him, some of the pack were overeager and effectively restarted the race before those in front had done so.
As a number of the overzealous got on and off the throttle in a few frantic seconds, madness ensued.
Williams’ Nicholas Latifi sped up and slowed down, Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi went into the back of him.
Carlos Sainz then careered into Giovinazzi, lifting him into the air.
Haas driver Kevin Magnussen was also caught up in the accident. All four were sent into the barriers. A cloud of smoke hid the scene.
Sainz hurt his hand. But all four amazingly walked away.
Romain Grosjean, watching the dodgems from the cockpit of his Haas, was furious, aiming his disapproval at Bottas.
‘That was f stupid from whoever was at the front,’ said the Frenchman. ‘They want to kill us or what? This is the worst I have seen ever.’
Before that, Bottas had taken the lead from pole-sitter Hamilton, who made a terrible start.
The safety car almost immediately came out, after just two corners, when Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, last week’s surprise winner at the Italian Grand Prix, ended up in the gravel.
Verstappen had engine problems anyway and would have retired even if he hadn’t crashed.
He has now endured two DNFs in successive weeks – a massive dent in his title dreams. No wonder the Dutchman chucked his steering wheel on to the ground as he climbed out.
Following the second and bigger crash, on the start-finish straight, the race got underway again following a 36-minute delay.
Hamilton breezed cleanly away from the grid, slotting in behind Bottas and using the slipstream to make his move decisively at the first corner.
Not great by Bottas, but that tow is hard to resist.
Hamilton took the lead and it was plain sailing until Lance Stroll’s Racing Point suffered a suspected puncture on the fast second Arrabbiata corner and smashed hard into the barriers.
The red flag was waved again with 44 of the 59 laps done.
Stroll walked along the pits to his garage, his car catching fire, while everyone else geared up for the third act of the play, this time after a 23-minute hiatus.
TUSCAN GRAND PRIX RESULTS AND STANDINGS
1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes 2hrs 19mins 35.060secs
2 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes 2:19:39.940
3 Alexander Albon (Tha) Red Bull 2:19:43.124
4 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault 2:19:45.477
5 Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point 2:19:50.710
6 Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 2:19:53.943
7 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) AlphaTauri 2:19:56.816
8 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 2:20:03.405
9 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo 2:20:04.830
10 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 2:20:05.043
11 George Russell (Gbr) Williams 2:20:07.464
12 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas 2:20:17.096
13 Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point 42 laps completed, 14 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Renault 7 laps completed, 15 Nicholas Latifi (Can) Williams 6 laps completed, 16 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas 5 laps completed, 17 Antonio Giovinazzi (Ita) Alfa Romeo 5 laps completed, 18 Carlos Sainz (Spa) McLaren 5 laps completed, 19 Max Verstappen (Hol) Red Bull 0 laps completed, 20 Pierre Gasly (Fra) AlphaTauri 0 laps completed
Fastest Lap: Lewis Hamilton 1min 18.833secs on lap 58
1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes 190pts
2 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes 135
3 Max Verstappen (Hol) Red Bull 110
4 Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 65
5 Alexander Albon (Tha) Red Bull 63
6 Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point 57
7 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault 53
8 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 49
9 Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point 44
10 Pierre Gasly (Fra) AlphaTauri 43
11 Carlos Sainz (Spa) McLaren 41
12 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Renault 30
13 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 17
14 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) AlphaTauri 10
15 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Racing Point 6
16 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo 2
17 Antonio Giovinazzi (Ita) Alfa Romeo 2
18 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas 1
19 Nicholas Latifi (Can) Williams 0
20 George Russell (Gbr) Williams 0
21 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 0
CONSTRUCTORS’ STANDINGS: 1 Mercedes 325pts, 2 Red Bull 173, 3 McLaren 106, 4 Racing Point 92, 5 Renault 83, 6 Ferrari 66, 7 AlphaTauri 53, 8 Alfa Romeo 4, 9 Haas 1, 10 Williams 0
Bottas’s start was hopeless. Hamilton held on to his lead easily, finishing nearly five seconds ahead of Bottas with Red Bull’s Alex Albon third – the London-born Thai’s first podium. Hamilton’s championship lead stands at 54 points with nine of 17 rounds complete.
This was meant to be a celebration of Ferrari’s 1,000th race but it was far from that. Charles Leclerc finished eighth and Sebastian Vettel 10th out of 12 – their lack of pace almost painful to behold.
Brit Lando Norris finished sixth for McLaren and his countryman George Russell finished 11th for Williams.