Mugello is “a special challenge” says former lap record holder Riccardo Patrese


Mugello will be one of the tougher tests for drivers and fitness according to a former lap record holder around the Tuscan circuit

Sebastian Vettel, 2020 Mugello

Mugello will test drivers fitness like no other according to Riccardo Patrese

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This year’s unorthodox season sees Formula 1 stage the snappily named Tuscan Grand Prix Ferrari 1000 at Mugello, a circuit that is hosting a championship grand prix for the first time.

Riccardo Patrese – who for six years held the official Mugello lap record – believes this year’s F1 field is facing “a special challenge” around the Ferrari-owned track, in addition to it being “very, very demanding”.

Patrese set the benchmark time of 1min 39.07sec driving one of the fearsome Lancia LC2s in 1985. The Group C-class sportscars were at that point setting lap times comparable with midfield F1 machinery.

Speaking to Motor Sport, Patrese explained just what made the track such a challenge.

“The circuit is so demanding because it’s particularly technical,” the former Williams driver said. “You don’t have much time to breathe. There’s a long straight, yes, but all the rest of the circuit you’re very, very busy driving.”

The six-time grand prix winner says the narrow old-school layout, which features only medium to fast pace corners, will present a unique test for the drivers in what has been an unusual season so far.

Riccardo Patrese, 1982 Brabham

Patrese combined his F1 commitments with his Lancia Group C duties, setting the lap record at Mugello with the Italian team in 1985

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Many other drivers have been excited about the prospect of qualifying around the Tuscan track and lamented the fact that F1 doesn’t race there. After an official test in 2012, Mark Webber emphasised that “10 dry laps today around Mugello is the same as doing 1000 laps around Abu Dhabi in terms of satisfaction”.

“I reckon that the two Arrabbiata corners will be very interesting to watch the modern Formula 1 cars going through, owing to the downforce and speed these current cars can carry through the corners,” Patrese said.

Similar to the Suzuka Degner combination, Arrabbiata 1 and 2 represent a high-speed swoop which yields the best results for the bravest contenders.

“They’re my favourite parts because they’re the quickest two corners,” Patrese told Motor Sport. “It’s flat, so you drive with a lot of speed through them. All the rest of the circuit is nice, there are chicanes, but not too tight. All the corners are really demanding.”

The Padua native was a constant frontrunner during his sportscars tenure between 1979-85, something he dovetailed with a successful F1 career. While his best championship placing was a runner-up spot in 1982, his rapid pace behind the wheel of the Lancia resulted in numerous fastest laps and pole positions.

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“In those days the Group C had a lot of downforce and could go through corners very quickly, nearly as fast as a Formula 1 car,” remembers Patrese. “So when we got [to using] the qualifying tyre, we managed to do a very quick time that was close to that Formula 1 record.

“Ferrari was testing there all the time, so we could do the comparison and it was between their times. I think their best then was around 1min 37sec.”

Much has been said about the difficulty of overtaking at Mugello, but as someone who knows the circuit intimately, he feels there are opportunities to be had.

“It will be possible to pass but not easy,” the Italian notes. “You have a chance to overtake at the end of the straight and also when you get to the breaking points at the chicanes.

“In my time, the brakes were not as efficient as today, so the braking area was much longer than now and it was, therefore, easier to get past. But today they have the DRS to exchange positions.

“I think in the end it could be an interesting race for the action of overtaking.”


The direction changes at Mugello will put drivers necks to the test

Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images

The aforementioned Webber also warned that F1 drivers’ necks may “snap in half”, such is the physical strain around the circuit. Patrese concurs that it’s a formidable challenge:

“I’m pretty curious to see how they manage to get through the Arrabbiata corner, because the G-force will be very high,” the Italian comments. “The [demand on] necks is going to be really, very tough.”

Recent family forays back into the world of motor sport have re-emphasised this aspect of the track to Patrese.

“I’ve been testing with my son who is in F4. We were at Mugello, Imola and Monza,” he says, “and the most difficult circuit for him, from a physical point of view, is Mugello.

“So I reckon that is going to be the most demanding circuit out of the three [for F1 drivers too].”

All this only adds up to a perfect driving challenge though, one that Patrese fondly remembers relishing.

“It’s one of my favourites,” he enthuses. “Mugello was difficult and there was a challenge between the driver and the circuit, to use the circuit at the maximum speed and to be quicker than the others.

“You get less pleasure if you are just [easily] quick. If you are fast at a demanding circuit, it’s something special for a driver.”