A second spectacular melee in the opening laps of the Tuscan Grand Prix caused the race to be red-flagged, leaving only 14 cars in contention at Mugello.
The Safety Car had already been out after an incident on the opening lap that ended the races of Max Verstappen and last week’s Italian Grand Prix winner Pierre Gasly.
But when the race went ‘green’, leader Valtteri Bottas, who had passed pole position sitter Lewis Hamilton off the start line, backed the pack up while warming his tyres and the concertina effect saw several cars towards the rear run into each other.
Four drivers exited the race as a result of the crash – Kevin Magnussen, Nicholas Latifi, Antonio Giovinazzi and Carlos Sainz. Fortunately, it appeared all of the quartet were unhurt.
Romain Grosjean narrowly avoided being caught up and fumed over his team radio: “That was f*cking stupid from whoever was at the front. They want to kill us or what? F*ck. This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”
— Planet F1 (@Planet_F1) September 13, 2020
Bottas, clearly the subject of Grosjean’s ire, was subsequently told by his team that those at the back had accelerated too soon, before the Finn had essentially re-started the race in earnest by hitting the throttle himself.
It was the second consecutive race that had to be red-flagged – the first time that has happened since 2011.
Before the race was due to begin again from a standing start, another retirement was confirmed – that of Esteban Ocon’s Renault, leaving only 13 runners, while Alex Albon had a new front wing fitted to his Red Bull.
When the race did resume, Hamilton did to Bottas what the Finn had done to him originally, beating him for pace off the start line and taking the lead into Turn 1 as the grand prix finally got going properly.
After running within a couple of seconds of the World Champion, Bottas lost time lapping cars just before his pit-stop and asked to be put on the “opposite” set of tyres to his team-mate, rolling the dice strategy-wise.
However, both drivers were put on the hard tyres and Bottas was over six seconds behind Hamilton when the race was red-flagged for the second time – that last happened at Brazil in 2016 – after Lance Stroll crashed heavily.
The plus point for Bottas was that for the previous two standing starts, the man second on the grid had got into Turn 1 ahead – potentially important with only 13 laps remaining.