From Lewis Hamilton going through a two-pronged assault to extraordinarily fast drivers out of place, and from Williams realistically preventing for factors to a rookie seeking to atone for an error, we spotlight 5 key issues to look out for in Sunday’s race at Imola…
1. Hamilton versus two Purple Bulls
Not like the sample we have used to lately, it’s Mercedes beneath stress strategically
We’ve grow to be accustomed to seeing Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas collectively as the highest three – in various order – over the previous 12 months or two, and so they key factor about that mixture is that it’s two Mercedes drivers up in opposition to one Purple Bull.
Even when the second Purple Bull has been on the sharp finish it’s hardly ever been capable of keep there for a full race, so even at one of the best of instances that also means it’s an equal battle between two groups of two vehicles.
However that’s not the case this weekend, the place Sergio Perez pulled out a superb efficiency to outqualify Verstappen – the primary time the Dutchman has been overwhelmed by a crew mate since 2018 – to begin on the entrance row alongside Hamilton, with Verstappen in third place. And with Bottas down in eighth, that offers Purple Bull two vehicles to battle with in opposition to the lone Mercedes early on.
Perez additionally begins on the smooth compound in comparison with mediums for Hamilton and Verstappen, which means Purple Bull have already got two completely different methods in play from the phrase go, and probably a bonus off the road. It means the tables are turned in the case of the strategic battle, and it will likely be fascinating to see how either side reply to this uncommon dynamic.
2. Bottas and Norris with floor to make up
Sharing the fourth row, each drivers ought to have been a lot increased
Bottas is unquestionably out of place, however what was fascinating about his qualifying efficiency is we by no means truly noticed his true tempo. The Finn had a poor first lap and couldn’t rectify it along with his second, as he complained of a nervous rear finish in Q3.
Given the truth that Bottas was on pole here last year, it’s positively an underachievement, however in an especially shut qualifying session there have been a lot of drivers left to rue their remaining outcomes, none extra so than Lando Norris.
The McLaren appeared to come back alive within the fingers of Norris on Saturday and the British driver was already trying fast earlier than his remaining Q3 try, when he grabbed everybody’s consideration by setting the quickest first sector general. When he adopted it with the quickest second sector, a shocking pole place appeared on the playing cards, however after crossing the road in P2 he noticed his lap time deleted for marginally working huge at Flip 9.
The tempo was massively spectacular – Norris would have been inside 0.1s of pole had he stored the automobile on monitor – however he admits he solely has himself accountable for taking a tiny bit an excessive amount of threat. He’ll now have to take a couple of extra to make up for it on Sunday.
2021 Emilia Romagna GP Qualifying: Norris gutted as lap time is deleted
3. A vital begin
Overtaking was extraordinarily powerful at Imola final 12 months
Talking of taking dangers, the entire discipline will likely be considering being on the aggressive facet when the lights exit, based mostly on last season’s visit to the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari. On that event, monitor place was king as overtaking was extraordinarily troublesome, with Perez seeing a podium slip away after being called into the pits throughout a late Security Automotive interval.
The drivers had been anticipating a troublesome time in 2020, however now they’ve that have and know precisely how powerful it’s, they’ll remember that the primary lap could make or break their race as they’re unlikely to have the ability to acquire a number of positions on monitor after that time.
That stated, the forecast is for an opportunity of rain, and even when it’s dry the DRS zone has been prolonged this 12 months to attempt to improve the alternatives for overtaking. We’ve additionally already seen a lot of drivers not less than dip a wheel into the gravel on the remaining nook that leads into the DRS zone – with each Charles Leclerc and Nikita Mazepin crashing there on Friday.
4. Tsunoda’s fightback
A crash in qualifying means the rookie is beginning final
Talking of crashes, probably the most spectacular one was suffered by Yuki Tsunoda, and it proved to be extraordinarily expensive. AlphaTauri have appeared fast all weekend at their residence monitor – identical to they did final 12 months – and each drivers had been eyeing a top-10 begin on the very least. However Tsunoda spun into the boundaries on the Variante Alta – Flip 15 – on his first timed lap in Q1 and introduced out the purple flags.
The harm to the rear of the automobile was substantial, and would possibly even necessitate a pit lane begin relying on repairs, however both method Tsunoda goes to be the final automobile within the order whether or not he’s on the grid or within the pits.
And for the neutrals, that could possibly be a mouthwatering prospect.
Tsunoda was the standout driver when it got here to overtaking strikes in Bahrain, scything his way through the field on the brakes after a cautious opening lap. Imola is a monitor he is aware of effectively after in depth testing on the venue throughout the low season (albeit in outdated equipment), and he’s acquired a a lot faster automobile than a lot of these forward of him. He can’t actually depend on an epic first lap to erase the harm, so he’s going to wish extra of that braking confidence to get himself wherever close to the factors.
2021 Emilia Romagna GP Qualifying: Yuki Tsunoda smashes into wall in Q1
5. Williams’ dream of factors
Each drivers reached Q2 and had a shot at a top-10 qualifying place
The vast majority of the sphere will likely be after a point-scoring end at Imola after a remarkably shut qualifying session. All 10 groups had been in with an opportunity of advancing from Q1, with Haas simply 0.4s off courtesy of Mick Schumacher.
However probably the most eye-catching efficiency within the first a part of qualifying got here from Williams, the place Nicholas Latifi continued his sturdy weekend to advance in P12 and forward of crew mate George Russell. Each drivers had been eyeing Q3 however had been unable to fairly discover the required time on their remaining smooth tyre runs, with Russell ending up twelfth and Latifi 14th, however correctly within the midfield combine.
The automobile is fast sufficient to battle for factors, and whereas the troublesome overtaking would possibly imply they should depend on early positive aspects or a strategic transfer to get into the highest 10, the tempo is such that they need to be capable of keep there.