McLaren and Ferrari launch general attack on Red Bull

No more getting up early or staying up late: Formula 1 starts its European tour in Imola. Since the route celebrated its comeback in 2020, it has been a guarantee of excitement at the highest level. After his debut victory in Miami, Lando Norris wants more – Red Bull and Ferrari are against it. Lots of updates, lots of action, maybe a lot of weather chaos again: The hot spots before the race in Emilia Romagna.

Focus #1: McLaren vs. Red Bull – is the Formula 1 duel going into the next round?

God Save the King instead of Het Wilhelmus – Lando Norris celebrated his long-awaited first victory in Miami. McLaren’s big update package was a huge hit; the light version was even enough for Oscar Piastri to be able to keep up with Max Verstappen. Now in Imola the Australian is getting all new parts on his MCL38.

Is McLaren always a candidate for victory from now on? (06:25 mins)

“It would be completely unrealistic to believe that what we have seen here is the current picture of the balance of power,” warned Andrea Stella. For the McLaren team boss, Red Bull is still the fastest team in Formula 1. Yes, Lando Norris benefited from the safety car and Max Verstappen’s RB20 had problems after the bollard accident.

But: Red Bull’s dominance of the last two years appears to have been broken. The 2024 world champions have already been beaten twice. After just six races, that is more than in the entire last Formula 1 season. And Imola is known to be one of Lando Norris’ favorite routes.

Lando Norris came third at Imola in 2022 and 2021, photo: LAT Images
Lando Norris came third at Imola in 2022 and 2021, photo: LAT Images

Focus #2: Ferrari hopes rest on major update package

With all the McLaren hype, Ferrari also wants to fight for victory at their home race. In Miami, the Scuderia already showed good pace (P2 in the sprint, P3 in the race). So far, Ferrari (together with Sauber) has brought the fewest new parts to the car. That’s coming to an end this weekend – a big update package will be available in Imola on SF-24.

Mega update for Ferrari in Imola! As strong as McLaren? (09:55 mins)

“The updates will define the rest of the season,” emphasized Charles Leclerc (in Imola with a new race engineer) after his third place in Miami. Fred Vasseur sees the matter very soberly and doesn’t expect a big hit. But: In this narrow field, a minimal improvement is enough. Not to be forgotten: Carlos Sainz was already at the top of the podium in Australia – without an update package.

Focus #3: The return of Formula 1 to Imola

Last year the Grand Prix was canceled due to severe storms in Emilia Romagna. After two years, the premier class is now returning to the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari for the start of the European season. The weather looks better in 2024 – except for Sunday afternoon. When the Grand Prix starts at 3:00 p.m., there is a threat of another bad weather front.

As in the last two races in 2022 and 2021. Both on wet roads, both with victories for Max Verstappen, but both very action-packed. There is also action this weekend from Sebastian Vettel: The Heppenheimer is driving his MP4/8 in Imola on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Ayrton Senna’s death. There are only minor changes to the track with gravel beds instead of asphalt run-off areas in turns 9, 11, 12 and 13.

In 2023 the race had to be canceled due to days of rain, Photo: Dieter Rencken / RacingNews365
In 2023 the race had to be canceled due to days of rain, Photo: Dieter Rencken / RacingNews365

Flashpoint #4: Kevin Magnussen in trouble

4 penalties in 7 sprint laps, a total of 65 penalty seconds in two days. Kevin Magnussen didn’t collect points in Miami, but rather penalties. Points are only available on the criminal license: the Haas driver has ten points, all of which are valid until 2025. Magnussen can’t afford anything anymore. There are approximately two points for being at fault for a collision. If he receives twelve penalty points he will be banned for one race.

His potential successor Oliver Bearman will take over Magnussen’s cockpit in the first free practice session. The Saudi Arabia sensation drove two training sessions for Haas in 2023. Fun fact: Thanks to his Ferrari campaign, the Haas reserve driver is currently placed higher in the drivers’ championship than both regular drivers. Nico Hülkenberg is also celebrating a first: the Emmerich native has competed in a Grand Prix 209 times, but never in Imola.

F1 race ban for Magnussen? Danner: That would be inappropriate! (11:07 mins)

Flashpoint #5: Fire in the Red Bull house

First Christian Horner, then Adrian Newey: Red Bull Racing cannot calm down. There are also the recurring rumors about Max Verstappen’s departure. In Imola the team finally wants to get back to sport – and back to winning ways. “Miami shows that we have to concentrate on sports,” said Dr. Helmut Marko told oe24.

At the Grand Prix in Florida the worm was in: Max Verstappen didn’t feel particularly comfortable in his RB20 all weekend, a rare mistake and the resulting bollard accident and (possible) damage did the rest. “In Imola we are bringing an upgrade from which I expect a lot,” says Marko. The clear goal for Red Bull: to repeat the double victory from 2022.

The last Formula 1 winners in Imola

Year winner P2 P3 Poles Nice. round
2020 Lewis Hamilton Valtteri Bottas Daniel Ricciardo Valtteri Bottas Lewis Hamilton
2021 Max Verstappen Lewis Hamilton Lando Norris Lewis Hamilton Lewis Hamilton
2022 Max Verstappen Sergio Perez Lando Norris Max Verstappen Max Verstappen

Focus #6: Battle for the Formula 1 midfield

Alpine finally got their first point in Miami, and everything should get better from now on. Haas is seventh in the constructors’ championship with seven points. The real fight takes place before that. Mercedes with 64 points has high hopes for part two of the Miami update, Aston Martin is also bringing new parts.

The big climbers at the moment are the Racing Bulls: the best start to the season of Yuki Tsunoda’s Formula 1 career (14 points) has the small team from Faenza dreaming of P5 in the World Championship. In Miami, the team collected 12 points, the same number as Mercedes. Aston Martin – currently in fifth place – only two, and that with safety car luck. If Daniel Ricciardo regularly maintains his Miami Sprint form, perhaps something will soon come of Franz Tost’s big dream.

Mercedes in the middle of nowhere while Ferrari racks up victories – some would say Lewis Hamilton can hardly wait to get off the sinking ship. Not true! You can read here why the seven-time world champion still gives his all for the Silver Arrows.

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