Hamilton takes 90th win in crazy, red-flagged Tuscan GP

(Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton celebrated his 90th Formula One win, one short of Ferrari great Michael Schumacher’s all-time record, after a crazy Tuscan Grand Prix on Sunday that twice had to be stopped and re-started.

Formula One F1 - Tuscan Grand Prix - Mugello, Scarperia e San Piero, Italy - September 13, 2020 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton celebrates with the trophy on the podium after winning the race Pool via REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini

The six-times world champion’s Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas completed the Mercedes one-two in a crash-strewn race at the Ferrari-owned Mugello circuit north of Florence in central Italy.

Red Bull’s British-born Thai driver Alexander Albon, whose Dutch team mate Max Verstappen retired in the gravel after a second corner collision, took third place for his first career F1 podium.

Hamilton’s sixth win in nine races this season sent him 55 points clear of Bottas, with eight rounds remaining, and the Briton also took an extra point for fastest lap at a circuit making its F1 debut.

“It was all a bit of a daze. It was like three races in one day,” gasped Hamilton, who finished 4.880 seconds clear of Bottas for a record 222nd points finish in a race with three standing starts.

“All those restarts, the focus that’s needed during that time, it’s really, really hard,” said the Briton, who started on pole but lost out to Bottas initially.

He turned the tables at the first standing re-start and retained the lead at the second.

The race was Ferrari’s 1,000th championship grand prix but the best the sport’s most successful team could manage was eighth for Charles Leclerc while team mate Sebastian Vettel finished 10th.

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Australian Daniel Ricciardo was fourth for Renault, after looking good for a first podium since he joined the French team from Red Bull at the end of 2018, with Racing Point’s Mexican Sergio Perez fifth and McLaren’s Lando Norris sixth.

Mercedes, celebrating their 100th win in the modern era, are now 152 points clear of second-placed Red Bull in the constructors’ standings.

The race was stopped eight laps in following a collision among backmarkers who sped up too early when the safety car had peeled off with Bottas leading and controlling the pace.

Debris was scattered across the main straight after McLaren’s Carlos Sainz piled into the back of Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi with Haas’s Kevin Magnussen and Williams’ Nicholas Latifi also caught up. None were injured.

“Everyone in front of me thought the race was going and we were all flat out until someone realised the race was not on,” said Sainz.

“It’s definitely not a nice feeling to do 280kph and suddenly find three cars in the middle of the straight.”

The safety car had been deployed initially after Italian Grand Prix winner Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri was launched into Verstappen’s car after contact with Romain Grosjean’s Haas and Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo.

The retirement was Verstappen’s second in a row and third of the season.

The front wing of Vettel’s Ferrari was also damaged in contact with Sainz, his replacement at the Italian team next year.

The race was red-flagged again with 13 laps remaining when Canadian Lance Stroll crashed his Racing Point at the second Arrabbiata turn after a puncture, leaving the car a wreck.

This time Ricciardo seized second from Bottas at the re-start only to be retaken by the Finn. Albon then passed him with eight laps to go.

The race, the first of the COVID-ravaged season to have a limited crowd, was the second in a row to be red-flagged and the first since Brazil 2016 to have two such stoppages.

Only 12 drivers finished, with AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat seventh and Raikkonen ninth after a five second time penalty.

Williams’ George Russell, still without an F1 point, ran as high as eighth and was in a scoring position when the race was stopped for the second time and took away his hard-earned advantage. He ended up 11th.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by William Maclean, Pritha Sarkar and Christian Radnedge