Formula 1 in Imola: The 7 key factors

S for starting grid

After the training, the competition and fans certainly expected more from qualifying than Verstappen’s eighth pole in a row. With this success, the Red Bull driver reached another milestone in his Formula 1 career on Saturday. From first place on the grid eight times in a row, only one person has managed that so far: Ayrton Senna. At the Brazilian’s place of fate, Verstappen is once again starting the race from first place today, but after the performance in training and the defeat against Norris last in Miami, the hope for an exciting Grand Prix is ​​alive more than ever this season.

Hülkenberg helps Verstappen to pole! Who was the finger for? (09:37 mins)

The newly crowned F1 winner will start the race alongside Verstappen in the McLaren. Actually, his teammate Oscar Piastri should have been standing there, but his carelessness in Q1 was his undoing. After a block from Kevin Magnussen, he received a grid penalty of three positions and is therefore only fifth. Between him and Norris is the Ferrari duo Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. The chasing field is also exciting with both Racing Bulls in the top 10 and Sergio Perez in eleventh place on the grid. In addition, we can expect Alonso to catch up, starting out of the pits after a horror Saturday.

S for start

Fernando Alonso knows his way around Imola, as he had memorable duels with Michael Schumacher at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari almost 20 years ago. The Spaniard believes the chances of an overtaking maneuver here are as low as in Monaco. Accordingly, the drivers will be determined to get to work at the start, as Imola offers the best opportunity to gain a position.

It’s about 400 meters from the pole to the first braking point and the Tamburello variant is tough. If you risk too much, you can’t simply switch to an asphalt run-off area like you can on the newfangled GP courses. A merciless gravel bed awaits in Imola. In view of this, Alonso still manages to get something positive out of his start from the pits. “It also has advantages. We saw the accident at the start in Formula 2. We have to avoid things like that, just when it comes to the spare parts situation,” said the Aston Martin driver.

S for strategy

Changing positions is a problem in Imola, not just on the track but also in the pit lane. With a transit time of 28 seconds, the pit lane is one of the longest in the season, which means the time lost when changing tires is correspondingly greater. Pirelli expects the teams to adopt a one-stop strategy, which is also supported by the tire degradation seen so far this weekend.

The soft tire (C5) also performed for more than one fast lap in qualifying. The mixtures C4 (Medium) and C3 (Hard) should also prove to be long-lasting over the race distance of 63 laps. There are only limited reference values ​​from the past. The current generation of Formula 1 cars drove in Imola for the first time in 2022, and that in changeable conditions.

S for Safety Car

As an old-school race track, Imola already offers a higher level of difficulty compared to the more undemanding courses of the 21st century. For the 2024 season, small renovations were carried out, with which the gravel beds, which are so popular among fans and drivers, are celebrating a renaissance. Among other things, the track limits in Piratella and Acque Minerali have been tightened.

Driving errors are punished even more severely, which led to a few crashes in training and qualifying. A safety car phase is often the result during a race. Since Imola returned to the Formula 1 calendar in 2020, there have been three races there. Bernd Mayländer had to move out a total of five times. The probability of neutralization is therefore 100 percent.

S for Scuderia Visa Cash App RB F1 Team

Minardi became Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2006, Scuderia AlphaTauri in 2020 and in 2024… the Visa Cash App RB F1 Team. The new team name disguises the roots of the traditional racing team, which ventured into Formula 1 in 1985 from its halls in Faenza, just outside Imola. Things couldn’t have gone better at the team’s home game this weekend.

Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo are clearly number one in the midfield this time and will start the race from seventh and ninth place on the grid. The team from Faenza’s best result to date at the home race in Imola was fourth place. In 1991 it was Pierluigi Martini who caused a sensation in the Minardi with Ferrari power. The result was equalized in 2020 by Daniil Kvyat in the colors of AlphaTauri.

S for Silver Arrow Hope

The training gave Hamilton and Russell hope that the upgrades to the F1 W15 would really make progress. Positions six and eight in qualifying did not necessarily confirm this on paper. The two Brits were left behind against McLaren and Ferrari, and Aston Martin was simply not represented this time after the debacle for Alonso. Nevertheless, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has a sneaking suspicion that things can finally look up in Imola.

“We’re four tenths behind Max, what we’ve done is working. But it’s baby steps,” Wolff told Sky Deutschland. Mercedes has not yet been on the podium in the six races so far. Russell’s best result was fifth place at the opener in Bahrain. But Hamilton doesn’t expect a podium finish this time: “It’s mainly about managing the tires. The cars in front of George are faster anyway. We’re where we are at the moment.”

S for winner

Imola was home to a Formula 1 Grand Prix for the first time in 1980. There have been 16 different winners in 30 races to date. With seven triumphs, Michael Schumacher is the undisputed record holder at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari. Of the active drivers, three were already victorious in Imola. Verstappen won the last two races in 2021 and 2022. In 2020 the winner was Lewis Hamilton, 15 years before that it was Fernando Alonso.

In addition to the latest Formula 1 winner Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc in particular will be ready to do anything to finally be at the top of the podium again – and in front of the eyes of the Tifosi. The Scuderia’s savior has not been at the top of the podium since the 2022 Austrian GP and is only too keen to end his two-year dry spell, especially since the last two triumphs in red were achieved by his teammate Carlos Sainz. However, the Spaniard also has a chance of winning, just like Piastri in the second McLaren.

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