Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Preview
After an eternity since Round 1, the F1 circus is up and running again!
As the sport returns again to an historic track, will it be Red Bull this time with the upper hand after their form at Bahrain? Or have Mercedes found answers after being on the back foot at the season opener?
If Red Bull wanted to keep its momentum up, as they try to bring down the might of Mercedes, today didn’t really do much to help that cause. It was close between the two in FP1, however FP2 really threw a spanner in the works, as Verstappen’s car stopped early on with a broken driveshaft. This meant we do not know where they stack up against the rest, and neither do they, which could leave them on catch up for the rest of the weekend. They will likely be in the mix for pole and the win, although with the Silver Arrows looking improved, it could be a more difficult proposition. I have a feeling that Perez will be more in the fight this time around, we saw glimpses of pace at Round 1, so now after some time to digest that, he may be able to fit in better with the car.
After today’s running, are Mercedes favourites for the win? They may well be, at least they are much closer than what we would have thought yesterday. The car looks more planted and stable here, which was their main issue at Bahrain, it is possible that the first round was an outlier, although I don’t think anyone hopes it was. If they are ahead it won’t be by much, as the Red Bull does look quick too, so expect another tense battle for the win. Bottas has continued his good form here from last year, where damage was what cost him the win, let’s just hope he can keep it up when it counts!
The midfield may have a similar pattern to 3 weeks ago, as Ferrari and Alpha Tauri have stellar one lap pace, however McLaren could well be saving their energy for the race, where it really matters. The Woking based team showed no signs of qualifying pace today, which could be slightly worrying, given how hard it is to overtake here, especially compared to Bahrain. They may just be keeping their powder dry at the moment, but I don’t see any major gains in not seeing what you have.
Ferrari have to be boosted by the form we saw today, with Sainz able to back up Leclerc, they will be a force to be reckoned with, for the other teams in the mix. The crash from Leclerc should not have done that much harm, he didn’t lose any laps compared to his rivals, and the damage is not major really. I would not be at all surprised if they top the midfield this weekend, although another Italian team will want to one up them here.
Having spent so much time testing here, this surely is their best shot for Alpha Tauri to be third best team for a weekend, all year, unless another track particularly suits their car. Given how well they raced here last year, you would imagine they have a good shot. It could be a tantalising fight between them and Ferrari, and their strong line up should be able to be a thorn in the side of the Scuderia.
Behind these three teams, Aston Martin and Alpine are settling into positions in the pecking order that they shouldn’t really be in. Aston Martin has been hurt with the regulation changes for this year, which makes their slump more understandable, although there is no reason to start throwing your toys out of the pram about it! You have to remember that they only got to where they were through copying Mercedes’ car, so it shouldn’t be surprising that the regulations will be aimed at slowing them down. As for Alpine, it is a continuing saga of mediocrity for a manufacturer team which should be on the up, if it weren’t for the fact that it keeps restructuring the team every year. Both of these teams will be battling for the last few points this weekend most likely, although there was some hope for Alpine after Alonso’s great pace at the first race.
Alfa Romeo have really been able to drag themselves away from the bottom pack, I don’t see points being easy for them, given how many fast teams are ahead of them, but the odd point is possible. Williams’ plan to focus on specific weekends to try and get points, means we don’t know where they will be at any given weekend, until we ascertain which tracks, they have focused on. Their pace does look improved here, so we could see them battling nearer the pack on this occasion. Could they finally grab some points?
Not much to say about Haas really, a tough year has only just begun for them, Mazepin continued to struggle behind the wheel of the car today, spinning a fair few times. His woes only accentuate how well Mick is doing to keep it on the track, and get some pace out of it.
This tight and twisty track, is unlikely to give a thriller of a race, like we saw at Bahrain. Although if we get some rain like has been predicted, that could all change, plus even in the dry there are many storylines to watch out for, throughout the field!