After getting started with the Bahrain's Grand Prix, on Sunday April 18 2021 the circus moves to Italy, where there will take place the Emilia Romagna's Grand Prix. Initially the Grand Prix was not scheduled in the calendar of the 2021 season, but because of the problems caused by COVID-19, on Tuesday January 12, 2021, the FIA decided to postpone the China's Grand Prix to a date to be determined, initially scheduled as the third race of the Championship on the date of 11 of April. In its place, as second race of the World Championship, it is added the Emilia Romagna's Grand Prix. The Grand Prix's debut on the circuit of Imola took place in the 2020 Championship in November, to replace the races that didn't take place because of the pandemic. The racetrack got back disputing, at a distance of 14 years, a Formula 1 race, after the 2006 San Marino's Grand Prix. The Grand Prix, unlike the debut race of last season held in Bahrain which provided for an audience in the stands, but only the ones who had their vaccine against COVID-19 or the ones healed form SARS-COV-2, takes place behind closed doors, as the first edition held with a different programming stretched over two days instead of the normal 3, meaning a single session of free test held on Saturday morning, this edition is carried out with the traditional programming of 3 days, including the two sessions of free test on Friday. After the disappearance of Filippo, prince of Edinburgh, happened on Friday 9 of April and in a way not to overlap the programming of the event with the funerals expected to be on Saturday at the Castle of Windsor, FIA changes the programme with the anticipation of an hour the dispute of the 3 free practice and qualifying. Before the latter, a minute of silence will be observed. Previously, on Friday 29 of January, 2021, the regional governor of Emilia-Romagna, Stefano Bonaccini, announced the change of naming for the Made in Italy and Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix with the inclusion of the origin's indication of a good that has Italian origins. It is about the longest naming used for a Formula 1 Grand Prix in the history of the World Championship. In this season, it is Pirelli to be title sponsor of the race. Starting from this race the pairings in the usual press conference change with the journalists of the Thursday afternoon; indeed there won't be team divisions, as happened until last debut race, the Bahrain Grand Prix, but pairings of drivers from different teams, characterized in 10 shorts conferences. On the eve of the Emilia Romagna's Grand Prix, on Friday 16 of April, 2021, McLaren announces the British Paul di Resta as reserve driver. Di Resta raced fro, 2011 to 2013 with the last Force India and in 2017 with Williams. Andrea Seidl declares in this regard, McLaren's team principal:
"As you know our main agreement is the one we have with Mercedes, but we also have a great relationship with Paul di Resta, also in possess of a super licence. So we have an agreement with him that will allow the latter to intervene should the need arise. So we are prepared for different scenarios".
Vandoome and De Vries will alternate as reserve drivers for Mercedes and this is going to determine who will potentially be available for McLaren.
"Depending on who will be available from Mercedes, we will have the other driver at various weekends.We depend on Mercedes on this aspect.We simply have to follow what Mercedes puts in place every weekend. Our main goal is to have Stoffel or Nyck".
Previously, on Thursday 8 of April, 2021, Aston Martin announces the hiring of Nico Hulkenberg as reserve driver.
"First of all I say that having signed this agreement far in advance is fantastic, something I didn't have last year when I got in the car. I'm very happy of working again with this team, with which I raced a lot of times in my career. Obviously, I hope for Sebastian and Lance to do a whole season with no problems, but the team knows that they can count on me to do an excellent job; I'm ready to accept this test.It will also be interesting to help in the development of the team during the season, I can not wait to start and do good".
Otmar Szafnauer, Aston Martin's team principal, adds:
"We are delighted to welcome back Nico in the team in an official capacity, as reserve driver and of development. In these tough times it is particularly important to have such an expert like him in this role. Nico showed last year of being able to get in the car and do good even with no preparation. Now that he has a chance, combined with integration with the team, we know that we can count on them to do a great job".
The anglo-german team, in addition, announces that on the first of July, 2021, the technical director James Allison becomes Chief Technical Officer (CTO) to help the team overcoming the future strategic challenges of Formula1. The operative role actually occupied by Allison will go to Mike Elliott arrived in Mercedes in 2012 with the role of head of the aerodynamic department, becoming in 207 the chief of technologies. Elliott began his career in McLaren in 2000, subsequently continuing his experience in Formula1 with Renault. James Allison declares on this matter:
"I firmly believe that in this sport the people have at their disposal a limited period of time in the senior role, I chose to move away from my position as Technical Director and to pass the baton in the right moment for me and the team.I have spent the last magnificent 3 years and a half in the role of Technical Director, and it was a special privilege to guide the technical effort of the team in this period. It is a great pleasure to pass the baton to Mike, an outstanding engineer, we will gain advantage in the freshness of who is ready to accept this new challenge. I hope to continue giving my useful contribute in my new role of CTO, I will focus on the growth of our abilities on the whole line, supporting Toto in the main future strategies that we will have to face in the near future".
Toto Wolff comments, Mercedes's team principal:
"From when in 2017 James has arrived at Mercedes, he has been an amazing technical leader for our team, guaranteeing a huge contribution to our performances with a mix of great passion and determination, an unquestionable competence and an amazing character. We knew that his period in the role that he plays at the moment would end, and I'm so delighted to still have him in the team. The organisation of a team is a dynamic organism and we have to constantly adapt if we want to carry on in the right way. Knowing how to plan a handover in the best way possible has been a strength of our team, so I'm happy to announce Mike in his new role of Technical Director".
The organisers of the Australian Grand Prix, postponed to November because of COVID-19, announce some changes of the Albert Park's track, home of the Grand Prix during the 1996 season; the pit-lane is enlarged by 2 meters and the chicane including turn 9 and turn 10 is removed to make the section of the track faster.Other changes are about the enlargement of some turns, like turn 13 in the third sector, that has been enlarged in its entry. From the simulations undertaken, the lap time is reduced by 5 seconds.In parallel, the organisers of the Monaco Grand Prix, not held in the 2020 season because of the pandemic, announce the presence of spectators on the stands between the 40% and the 50% of the whole capacity.In the Principato the track's staging is in progress, it will host the next Grand Prix on May 23, 2021. The holding of the Canadian Grand Prix, which was also cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, scheduled for Sunday, 13 June 2021, is at risk because $6.000.000 would be missing to guarantee the holding of the race according to the contract with the promoters signed earlier. Should the North American race not take place, it could be replaced by other Grand Prix, such as the one in Turkey.
Meanwhile, work began on the construction of the circuit on the streets of the city of Jeddah, the venue for the debut of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Sunday 5 December 2021 as the penultimate round of the world championship, and finally the organisers of the Spanish Grand Prix announced that the race would be held behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Liberty Media announces the entry of the Miami Grand Prix on the calendar in the 2022 season with a contract signed for ten years. The race, to be held on a new circuit at the Hard Rock Stadium complex in Miami Gardens, Florida, will be the eleventh to be run in the United States since the world championship has been run since 1950. The circuit will measure 5 410 km and will consist of 19 corners, 7 right and 12 left, with three potential DRS zones, an estimated top speed of 320 km/h, and to be run anti-clockwise. Stefano Domenicali, CEO of Liberty Media, states:
“We are thrilled to announce that Formula 1 will be racing in Miami beginning in 2022. The USA is a key growth market for us, and we are greatly encouraged by our growing reach in the US which will be further supported by this exciting second race. We will be working closely with the team from Hard Rock Stadium and the FIA to ensure the circuit delivers exciting racing but also leaves a positive and lasting contribution to the people in the local community. We are grateful to our fans, the Miami Gardens elected officials and the local tourism industry for their patience and support throughout this process. We are looking forward to bringing the greatest racing spectacle on the planet to Miami for the first time in our sport’s history”.
Tom Garfinkel, Vice-Chairman, President & CEO, Hard Rock Stadium, added:
“The Hard Rock Stadium entertainment campus in Miami Gardens exists to host the biggest global events to benefit the entire greater Miami region and Formula 1 racing is as big as it gets. We have worked with specialist designers to create a racetrack that we, Formula 1 and the FIA believe will provide great racing and we hope to create best-in-class unique fan experiences that are reflective of the diverse and dynamic nature of Miami. I want to thank Formula 1 and the Miami Gardens and Miami Dade County elected officials for working to bring this hugely impactful event here for years to come”.
For this race Pirelli, only tyres supplier, brings tyres C2,C3 and C4, the 3 central compounds of whole.Pirelli's Motorsport Director, Mario Isola, declares:
"Announcing now all the tyres for 2021 would be an help for the teams and the drivers with their plans for the season, also allowing the maximum flexibility whether the calendar would have changed because of the restrictions connected to the COVID-19 pandemic. The selection is really similar to the one made in 2020, or in 2019 regarding the races that were not hold last season. First is Azerbaijan, where the C2 Hard tyres were not used last time. That's why we talked about C3, C4, C5. Then its Brazil, where we will bring the C2, C3 and C4 considering that the C1 didn't bring huge advantages compared to the medium ones.In both cases the new choices should guarantee a great variety of strategies in the race".
For the Emilia Romagna's Grand Prix, the FIA expects only one section in which the Drag Reduction System can be used, meaning the straight of the box,confirming the decided choice for the debut season in 2020. The discussed zone, compared to last edition, was stretched; now the drivers operate the mobile device before the last turn of the track, instead of operating it on the finishing line.Because of this, also the point for the determination of detachment between drivers has been modified; now it is located before the Rivazza (turn 17). The federation also establishes 3 points of the track in which the drivers are forced to respect the limits of the latter, on penalty of the time lap. The points chosen regard the exit from the Piratella (turn 9), the string point of the Acque Minerali (turn 13) and the exit from the Variante Alta (turn 15).
Before the start of the 3 session of free tests of Saturday, the Federation removes the limits of track established in the string point of Acque Minerali.(turn 13). The Danish driver Tom Kristensen is appointed deputy commissioner from FIA; he already played the role in the past, last time during the Italian Grand Prix 2020. For this Grand Prix the German car maker Mercedes is the one to provide the safety car and the medical car. Before the beginning of the first session of free practice of Friday the mechanics of Fernando Alonso's car replace the exhaust system. The Spanish driver of Alpine is not penalized on the starting grid because the fitted unit is the second of the eight expected by the rules for the season. At the eve of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, the Dutch driver of Red Bull Racing, Max Verstappen, speaks about his desire of redemption, after having lost the chance of winning in Sakhir, in Bahrain:
"Naturally there are always things that we can do better, but it is always easy to say after a race weekend. As a team we always try improving, but this is a constant thing on which we are working, we always think about the future. Even if we had won the race in Bahrain, there are areas to improve, especially when we are fighting against a team which is 7 times World Champion, so this is what we will continue doing in Imola. I'm ready for the fight and the season is still long".
Then the Dutch driver adds:
"Let's hope that between me and Lewis goes in the opposite way compared to Bahrain, but the first weekend was positive. The race was a bit delusional because we didn't win, but if that is the negative result, I look forward doing the other 22 races. I don't see the reason why the car shouldn't competitive. Am I calm after Bahrain? But I have always been really calm, what am I supposed to do? It's no sense breaking things or going crazy. I repeat, if being second is a bad result so I look with optimism at the next 22 races. Obviously, when I crossed the finish line I was disappointed, but during the years I have learned that nothing is lost at the first race. The important thing is to bring points home, unlike last year when we were behind in terms of pace and we didn't get points. This year we have a great car and we have arrived second. They are close, even if at times they say they are not. In Bahrain it surely was a wasted opportunity, but if we have the fastest car it won't be important. We will have other 22 chances to beat them".
In the end the Red Bull driver tyres explaining some problems he had during the weekend in Sakhir, like the one at the differential:
"We had a problem of skidding in the first laps, but after a few passages it was solved".
Sergio Perez,at his debut with Red Bull, conquered a fifth place after having qualified eleventh. That's why in Imola he will try improving:
"My goal is to have a great race and I look forward to the weekend. Let's hope that in Imola we can come back and be in the fight for a podium or maybe for the victory. Unlike Bahrain, qualifying are crucial in Imola, because it's difficult to overtake, but I like it".
Then, going back with the mind to Sakhir, the Mexican admits:
"The strategy in Bahrain? I was pretty sure that I'm able to do the needed time. We had a little problem with the brakes, that we understood only later. Without that, we would have carried on.But the strategy was correct. If you have a great car we also need to take some risks. We had some mishaps, but the car has an amazing potential and we should be in the fight for the championship. Here my goal is to make another step forward in terms of adapting to the car, in a really different track from Bahrain for this aspect. I have Max as a great example to understand how to make the car go. I don't have to stand apart from this.He has a great pace and I think we have to keep in this operative area".
The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix will be crucial for the ambitions of Scuderia Ferrari, which in Imola races at home. In this regard, Charles Leclerc says:
"Here it is always special, especially when we have the fans.It's a pity that nobody can be on the stands, but obviously is the best thing to do now. We are only at 90 km from our head office, we will give everything, let's hope to have a great weekend ahead of us. This car is a step forward compared to last year, we have improved more than the other teams but we are not yet in the positions we wanted. So we have to commit to get back where we want, meaning fighting for victories.We have to keep working like this. The car has improved in the complex in every sector: we have more power and a better balancing in turns, we have more grip. All the package gives better sensations and this is positive for the future.I think the realistic aim is to be right behind Red Bull and Mercedes. It's too difficult to fight with them, we are too far. We are in the fight with 5 other teams for the third place in the constructors' ranking. It will be a tight fight but if we'll do everything perfectly, I think it's a attainable goal".
The driver from Monaco also talks about the gift he had from Ferrari, the SF90 with which he found his first victory in Formula1, in Spa:
"It was in the requests of the contract and Ferrari was so generous honouring it. It's a very special car for me, thanks to them. It will be in the collection of the prince of Monaco, it's in good hands. I didn't have too much space in my garage, I need to widen the space in my home. This is my first Formula1's car, at home I have the first car for the karts, nothing more. Regarding the team, the beginning of last year was very difficult.It has been difficult realizing we were behind, but we faced the process in a positive way. I think that the mindset is right. I think everyone is well aware that we have more to gain preparing in the right way the 2022, because these cars will last for longer time. We don't get carried away by this battle for the third place, I'm not worried, we are preparing well. This year we started well, I was very happy of my lap in qualifying in Bahrain, I putted together a fantastic lap, thing that I did not manage before in the weekend. On Sunday we worked harder but we have learned. Maybe we could have done something more, on a personal level and on a team level, but we will learn. On Sunday we were slower than on Saturday but we are working on it and we are trying to improve. I would not say that there is a particular aspect that made us go slower during the race".
His teammate, Carlos Sainz Jr., is thrilled and ready to race in Imola:
"It gives me shivers, it is always more special and emotional to race the first Grand Prix in Italy as a Ferrari driver. Unfortunately there will be no fans because of the pandemic, I'm surely going to miss them. I will miss the aspect of added enthusiasm that can be given to a Ferrari driver. But it is possible to feel that the atmosphere of this circuit is special. I felt it at Monza last year, there was a special bond because the fans knew that I would have been with Ferrari.It's a pity not having them on the stands, however, it will be emotional. Regarding Bahrain, it was a positive race, I managed to push a lot from the beginning,I express the pace of the car. The fact that there has been a test allowed me to repeat the procedures and the drive I showed in the tests, and this favoured me. Imola is tougher on this aspect, because it is a track where a lot of confidence with the car is needed. However, at the same time, I think I quickly adapted to the car in Bahrain. I learned from Charles's data, I tried to learn who to manage the race to get lap as good as his. But I have to say I'm surprised by how I controlled the car during Q1 and Q2. This route of learning will for sure meet mistakes: from them I will learn and we will grow".
It is practically home race also for AlphaTauri, its head office is in Faenza. Yuki Tsunoda, at his debut with the Italian team in Formula1, talks about the previous Grand Prix and about his initial expectations:
"I would give me a 5 for the race in Bahrain, I have contrasting sensations. I'm very happy to get points in my first race, but at the same time I hope in a better position, I thought I could get in the first six. I learned a lot of things, I started the weekend not in an excellent way, especially during Q2, and also in the race I started really bad. I lost some positions in the first laps and I had to reassemble as soon as possible, but after all the comeback was a positive aspect and the team showed to be competitive. We'll see if also in Imola, our home race, we can do good:I already drove here during the pre-season tests, so I will try to do my best.I think I received many texts from Japanese fans for the first points in my career, but maybe after the results of last year the fans expect something more, so I hope to satisfy their expectations. For what concerns me, the sensations are the same of Bahrain: I want to focus on every race and every session, I don't want to have too exaggerated goals. At the moment I'm trying to grow step by step, building also my confidence. I want to show the Japanese that I'm able to obtain great results and also at Suzuka I want to have a great race. Now I want to prepare for every aspect to do good at Suzuka but I want to focus on bringing home the best results possible for the team and for me, because I want to improve my drive, learning also from Pierre. The call for AlphaTauri? I received it after the F2's race in Bahrain.It was like a goal came true, but my real dream was not to race in Formula 1, but to be a champion. So this is just a step of my journey: obviously, luck is needed to be a Formula 1 driver, and you also have to obtain great results in the junior categories".
And also Pierre Gasly for a moment comes back with his mind to the Bahrain's facts:
"Bahrain was a wasted occasion. All weekend was pretty positive, we had a great pace on Friday and Saturday, I did my best qualifying ever. But everything was ruined after the restart of the Safety Car. It was obviously delusional, I think we could have obtained a lot of points, but the races are like this. It's a bit difficult to swallow, but looking behind we have a lot of positive aspects to collect also thinking about the season. That's why we focused from the beginning on the race in Imola with the team. We have this and other 21 races available to bounce back. If I think we have the third fastest car? No, I don't. But we have seen that in Bahrain the car went very well in all sessions. However, it was just the first race and we have to make sure that the car goes well also on the other tracks of the championship. We are in the fight and this is what matters, we were competitive on Friday and on Saturday, indifferent conditions. But we were competitive also in the race, as Yuki Tsunoda showed. Now we have to work, because everyone will grow and develop the car, but we have a good base. Every weekend we try to do our best, but we are not in the position to fight for the podium, because Mercedes and Red Bull have still a too big advantage. But in Bahrain we qualified in Q2 on the medium tyres, only Mercedes and Max Verstappen managed to do so. This confirmed our aggressive approach, we had the performance to enable us. We have to keep improving as a team and having this approach every weekend".
It was not a sensational start for Sebastian Vettel, who in Bahrain didn't shine. However, the German driver doesn't loose his high humour:
"The one in Bahrain was not a great weekend for us, for the things happened, and for the result. But I think we have examined what happened and the reaction was positive. We understood a bit better the car and what we can do. Obviously at the moment we are not where we want and where we expect to be: we are far from the podium, but we make a step at the time and we hope to get closer. In Bahrain Max was faster than Hamilton in the last laps, he had better tyres but Lewis was clever, he did what he had to do. He had nothing to loose, and this race showed his value. For what concerns the track limits, in the past we talked about the gravel, but I think it would be difficult. It is clear that like this we would have no more penalties, because the gravel is penalising in itself, but we share the track with other categories with their own preferences. The accident with Ocon? I think frustration is the wrong word, it doesn't bring to anything. The key is to understand what happened and I think I did. I'm sure that it won't happen again. I surely want to have clean races with nothing to interrupt the learning".
While Lance Stroll explains in details what didn't work:
"The car is not as competitive as last year's, compared to the others. We brought home some points in Bahrain, it was a complicated weekend for us. But it's still early days, we have ideas to improve our package. I think there is a lot of potential, the season is just starting, we have seen many of our weaknesses and we will start here at Imola. The rake? It's a question of pure aerodynamic load, there are differences between these two philosophies. I don't really know what we can do on the drive side, the problem is that we have lost a lot more load compared to cars with a higher rake, and that gives us less grip. As far as track limits are concerned, I think it's tricky not to respect them here, especially in the Variante Alta chicane. I don't know how we will do it this year, it's not easy - also because of the kerbs - to stay within the track limits. I think in Bahrain the situation was clear and straightforward: you could not go out with all four wheels outside the track limits, the important thing is that there is uniformity of judgement".
Going back to talk about the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso re-proposes arguments connected to the history of the circuit of Imola:
"Imola is one of those places that has so much tradition and history. This was one of those races where it was great to race, with all the red in the stands, but we will try to have a good race and entertain the crowd at home. It's never a good thing to beat Ferrari in Italy: I experienced it here in 2005 and at Monza in 2007. It's totally the opposite of when you win with Ferrari in Italy, which is one of the nicest things that can happen to you. I think we have seen substantial changes in the cars, and the same goes for Alpine. We have to understand the car, which is giving different results depending on the configurations we use. We have to extract more performance from the car: hopefully, in the next races, with the updates, we can exploit the potential. The middle group is very compact, three or four tenths can take you to fight for sixth position - which is our goal - or they can relegate you to around 14th. As far as Indianapolis is concerned, I don't care what others say: if I have to try again it's because I have the dream of a triple crown, but if I don't it won't be because someone said I can't win. I learnt from that experience, because Formula 1 is a very closed environment, you always repeat the same things every weekend. The attention to detail you have to achieve to prepare for an Indianapolis 500 is much higher, because the cars are the same and so you have to take advantage of every little opportunity you have in front of you".
While Esteban Ocon for a moment goes back talking about the Bahrain Grand Prix:
"In Bahrain we didn't have the pace we wanted, but there were a few episodes that disadvantaged us. It was a weekend to forget, but we come here with new things that we are looking forward to trying. Hopefully we can find more pace and get back to a more normal weekend. I wouldn't say there were any surprises in terms of performance in Bahrain, but there are some areas we need to prioritise, we know where to focus and how to improve. Am I treated the same way compared to Alonso? Yes absolutely. We are equal in terms of what we have and how much we are listened to. That's very important, it was a very clear point: I always said I wanted to be listened to as much as Fernando, obviously he brings a bonus for his experience, which is great. I certainly feel comfortable at Imola. But it's been a long time since I won Formula 3 here, now we have to think about our objectives and what we have to do this year. It is a very smooth track, I really like it, it is unique in many ways".
Kimi Raikkonen is rather confident,thanks to an Alfa Romeo quite competitive:
"Our race pace seen in Bahrain was decent, we had good tyre management and this allowed us to get close to the points zone. We looked for the compromise between tyre management and performance. It was a step forward, hopefully we can at least be in the fight for the top ten. We concentrated on all areas during the winter. It's difficult to understand because we are at an early stage of the season, you also have to interpret this year's regulations where you could make very few changes. I think the fact that the others are focusing on 2022 doesn't change much about our current position on the grid: we are all focusing on 2022 and it is too early to say whether we can be scrum package. As I said, we are only in the second race, let's wait and see what happens. It will be better for us if there is less wind. I don't know the differences between us, Haas and Williams in that respect. We had a race on a track where we have already lapped in testing. Now at this track we will start to see the real hierarchies: we only think about improving".
The Finnish driver also expresses an opinion on the issue of track limits, which caused quite a bit of discussion after the first duel of the season between Verstappen and Hamilton:
"I think the situation has been like this for several years, nothing will change any time soon. At some tracks it will be more difficult than at others, here the chicane is the same as last year, these things have been happening for years. When there is gravel or grass there is no reason to give penalties. The rules in Bahrain were very clear about what could be done; there was a lot of fuss about it, but I don't think it was justified".
Team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi confirms the car's improvements:
"For sure we have improved a lot. The tests and also the first Grand Prix have shown that we are very close to Aston Martin and Alpine, even though we still have a long way to go to catch the AlphaTauri. We can certainly have a lot more fun than last year and raise the bar a bit".
Who faces the next Grand Prix with great enthusiasm is undoubtedly Lando Norris, who declares:
"We started the season with a good team result in Bahrain. Our goal is to continue to progress and maximise our performance in each race. There are still areas where we need to work to try and unlock that bit of potential that can make us even more competitive, but we are pushing hard to make that progress. The first race showed how strong the competition is this year, which will make for some exciting battles on track. And I'm looking forward to them. It is great to be back at Imola this season. As always, we will aim to maximise track time to get the most out of the car in preparation for qualifying and the race. Grid position is important at Imola, a circuit with limited overtaking opportunities. The first corner will be decisive, it is the best opportunity to make a manoeuvre on those ahead of you, it might be difficult elsewhere with the track being so narrow. We will push to make the most of the weekend and find some good points".
And Daniel Ricciardo is also looking forward to redeeming himself:
"I am looking forward to getting back in the car after a positive start in Bahrain. We had a good result in my debut for McLaren. I was a bit unlucky with the damage we found on the car after the race. There are still a few things to learn and to come to terms with, which takes some time. But I am confident, we have potential and performance ahead of us. We worked hard in the factory to figure out how to continue on this pace. I expected that it would take a few races to feel comfortable in the car, but I already feel good, certainly better than in my beginnings with other cars. Imola is the next round and we will give it our all. It is an iconic track, one of the 'old school' ones, with a fast and flowing layout that allows little room for mistakes. I am really excited to be back there after last year's race where I finished on the podium. I'm definitely going to bring last year's experience to help the team this weekend and fight for that kind of result".
Expectations regarding the Haas drivers are low, due to the car's lack of competitiveness. However, Nikita Mazepin focuses on his team's programme:
"We have to stay focused and learn the programme, that is the most important goal. For me it has been crucial to use these two weeks to reflect on the Bahrain weekend and note down the things on which I need to improve a lot. And these are obviously a lot, because I am a rookie. Also, it was very nice to come home and see my family. Knowing that there is a very demanding programme during the year, these two weeks were very important. I raced at Imola already in Formula 3 in 2016. It's a very old school circuit, where it's not easy to overtake, and it was very special to race there in the memory of Ayrton Senna, despite not having experienced him. Driving now in Formula 1 there will obviously be a lot of changes, but I can't wait to be back on track. To prepare myself I drove a bit on the simulator, I haven't raced here for five years. It is a circuit where the qualifying lap is very important because there are very few opportunities to overtake. Getting a good qualifying lap is a key factor, we will have to do well on Saturday".
And Mick Schumacher adds:
"I think in general I learnt a lot of new things, it also came out from the meetings we had within the team. There are a lot of things I have learnt about tyres, which is probably the biggest new thing for me. Also, I've learnt about aspects like the downforce we lose at the start of the race. It's like going from 100 per cent to 20 per cent downforce the moment you're entering a corner. There was definitely a lot to learn and we have a lot of data to look at before we go to Imola. I feel I have a lot more knowledge, but I was also very surprised at how quickly the weekend was over. Everything happened in the blink of an eye. We had a few team meetings after the Bahrain weekend to take stock of what we learned and try to prepare for Imola. I prepared physically, I stayed 100 per cent focused. I have good memories here, I raced there in F4 and did some testing in F3. The track is incredible, even though it can be quite difficult in the race, it has very few overtaking points. Once you get into a rhythm and set a good lap it's amazing, it fascinates you how one corner follows the other. There are fast corners, others are technical, in others you have to attack the kerb. I'm pretty sure I'll have fun here in a Formula 1 car".
Haas team principal, Günther Steiner, speaking about his drivers states:
"We knew what the performance in Bahrain could be. Expectations were not high, at least in terms of results. I think the two drivers did a good job over the weekend in Sakhir. In the race Nikita spun and damaged the car, and Mick also spun once - but the whole weekend for them was a kind of continuous learning. We need to do as many races and as many laps as possible, in Bahrain we were just at the beginning of a long 23-race calendar. We have to keep improving, keep working, keep doing more laps and keep learning - those are the goals. Racing again at Imola is useful above all for the tuning of the car. Even if the cars have not changed much, they are still the result of some regulatory changes, so they have slight differences. In any case, it is always good to have already raced on a track. Everything you know, everything you have learnt, is useful. The more you have raced there, the better. It will certainly help the team and our rookie drivers".
Finally, the Williams drivers. Nicholas Latifi, despite the initial difficulties, is confident:
"Despite the difficulties we faced, with the main problem clearly being the engine, the car pleasantly surprised me. In several respects it was better not only than last year, but also compared to the winter tests. I think we can have a pinch of hope and optimism, then, ahead of Imola. I think and hope that we will have more stable conditions from a meteorological point of view".
And George Russell adds some technical details to the topic:
"We hope that the wind will not torment us, also because I think Imola has a conformation that particularly lends itself to our car. We are curious to see how we will perform, also because from this weekend we will be able to get a more realistic forecast on our position in the World Championship hierarchy".
In the first session on Friday, 16 April 2021, the two Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton set the best times. The Finn is 0.041 seconds ahead of the reigning World Champion. At 0.058 seconds is Max Verstappen, who was also forced to interrupt his last fast lap when, just moments before the end of the session, the track marshals were forced to stop practice after Nikita Mazepin went off the track at the second corner of the Rivazza. The session is also interrupted in the first phase, after about twenty minutes, due to contact between Sergio Pérez and Esteban Ocon, at the Villeneuve Variante. Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, after missing the first part of the session due to a power unit problem, finished with the fourth fastest time, ahead of Pierre Gasly, and the other Ferrari driver, Carlos Sainz Jr. who set the same time. Yuki Tsunoda, Gasly's team-mate at AlphaTauri, ran only eleven laps, interrupting the session after an exit at the Variante Tamburello. At the end of FP1 Sergio Pérez and Esteban Ocon are summoned by the stewards for the incident that caused the first red flag to be shown. The stewards, however, do not consider the behaviour of the two drivers during the contact to be punishable. Fifteen times were cancelled for drivers for exceeding the track limits at Piratella (Turn 9) during the first practice session, including one for Sergio Pérez, Pierre Gasly, Nicholas Latifi, Antonio Giovinazzi, Fernando Alonso and Charles Leclerc, two for Kimi Räikkönen, Max Verstappen and Mick Schumacher, and three for Sebastian Vettel.Before the start of FP2, the mechanics of Yuki Tsunoda's car replace the energy recovery system and the electronic control unit. The Japanese AlphaTauri driver is not penalised on the grid as the components fitted are both equivalent to the second unit. The Friday afternoon session also confirms the competitiveness of the Mercedes, with Bottas still ahead of Hamilton, this time by just 0.010 seconds. The Briton set his time after two warm-up laps. In third place comes Pierre Gasly, who manages to do better than the Ferrari duo. Charles Leclerc is also the author of an off-track incident, which leads to damage to the front wing and right front suspension. Verstappen completes just five laps, before being stuck in the pits by a gearbox failure. Mazepin, after his morning accident, has to wait several minutes before taking to the track to allow his mechanics to complete the repair of his Haas. Fifteen times were cancelled for drivers for exceeding the track limits at Piratella (turn 9) and two times were cancelled for exceeding the limits at the exit of the Variante Alta (turn 15), during the second practice session.In the first case, Yuki Tsunoda, Sebastian Vettel, Sergio Pérez, Daniel Ricciardo and Lewis Hamilton (once), Mick Schumacher, Charles Leclerc (who had set the session's best lap time), Lando Norris, Pierre Gasly and Antonio Giovinazzi (twice) had their times cancelled; in the second case, George Russell and Kimi Räikkönen had their times cancelled. At the end of practice on the cars of Pierre Gasly and Nikita Mazepin the transmissions are replaced. Both drivers will not be penalised on the grid because they finished the previous race in Bahrain early. Before the start of FP3 the mechanics of Fernando Alonso's car will again be forced to replace the exhaust system, fitting the third unit; Esteban Ocon will also have the same component replaced, but fitting the second unit. Both drivers will not be penalised on the starting grid. Given the results, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff is calm and confident:
"Much better than in Bahrain, certainly the low temperatures helped us. The car responded well both in the morning and in the afternoon and the drivers' debriefing was very positive. Our low rake concept we knew would be a problem to reckon with this season, but it does not emerge on every track. It won't be easy to find the right window this weekend to get the most out of the car, those who do will be rewarded chronometrically".
A thesis, that of the Mercedes team principal, confirmed by the words of Lewis Hamilton:
"In the last race we were weak in some places, but I think this track is also more suited to us. We started from the beginning with a very good set-up, we haven't had any particular problems, so far we've had a great pace. The track has evolved consistently, with no particular problems, the track has always had good grip, the tyres have worked very well. We still haven't seen the Red Bulls at their best, I think we've had some pretty messy sessions, with a lot of traffic, so I think they'll bring out the potential tomorrow. As for the tyres, they certainly suffered less today than they did in Bahrain. It's cooler and the temperatures certainly help to increase their endurance. I can't answer that at the moment, I don't know how much difference the compound can make. I don't think there are big differences with the tyres, but I'm sure the specialists will tell us today. I am sure there is still room to gain, but we will see".
Valtteri Bottas also joined the idea that the Mercedes team had a good start to the weekend:
"The weekend has started very positively, the car has improved a lot, that's good for sure. But you also have to say that the track is different to Bahrain, and there is definitely a lot more grip when driving. The car wasn't far from ideal in terms of set-up, there are still things to tweak and optimise, overall the balance is more satisfying for me than it was three weeks ago. There has been a sort of evolution as far as grip on the track is concerned, but there was already plenty of it at the start, so I felt good right from the start. It might rain, though, so we'll see how things turn out. The sensations are better: it's true, there are still the same kind of problems (evidently referring to the unstable rear end, ed), the car is not perfect, but it's only the second race and we have already seen some good progress".
Sergio Perez, on the other hand, faced a few more difficulties, limited by the malfunctioning radio with which to communicate with his team:
"We didn't have a radio, so I think there was a communication error and it was just a timing problem. It was definitely good to get a good amount of laps completed in the second session today and to get a feel for the car on a different track, the track conditions are obviously very different here to Bahrain, so I'm learning how the car performs on different tracks. We learned a lot today as a team and every lap I do I learn a few tricks. The race pace seems to be good and the car was going well, hopefully we can put it all together in qualifying tomorrow".
Given Red Bull Racing's good start, Max Verstappen is asked whether he feels more pressure and whether the role of prey, rather than predator, is better or worse:
"Do I feel more pressure on me? Not at all. Having a better car makes everything easier. It's easier to put together a good lap in qualifying, it's less complicated to manage the race when you're in the lead, and at the start if you start from pole position you're certainly less nervous than in other positions. I like being the one to hunt. I much prefer the role of the prey to that of the hunter".
We said it: it's the home Grand Prix for Scuderia Ferrari. Which seems to have started the race weekend well. Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto is happy with Leclerc's race pace:
"The car has improved in every respect compared to 2020, but it is too early to judge. We are also very curious to see the performance here at Imola in very different conditions. It is certainly a track with a lot of straights, but compared to Bahrain it has colder conditions. As far as the 2022 car is concerned, there is a separate issue. This is a very difficult season for priority management, not only for 2022 but also for the budget cap. It is the first year when we have to face the spending cap, limit ourselves in what we want to do and decide where to put our efforts and resources. We are working towards 2022, that is our top priority at Maranello: it is a car that is already progressing in the tunnel, we are seeing the first shapes of it, but it will be the aerodynamic details, the suspension and everything else that will make the difference".
The team principal also emphasises how important this historic moment is for the Maranello team:
"2022 is an opportunity to open a new cycle. Because big changes start winning cycles. There will be a discontinuity in the regulations, the single-seaters will be very different. In addition, we already have to deal with the budget cap. Literally. We are forced to think about every expense, to decide priorities, to establish where to concentrate efforts and resources. The understanding between Sainz and Leclerc is one of our strengths. Carlos has integrated well with the team and gives Charles the right boost. There is a constant competition between the two of them, whether they play padel or chess. Next year we will ask them to win".
Then, talking about Carlos Sainz, Mattia Binotto adds:
"Carlos is very experienced. It's not just about his ability to drive, but also to give feedback to the team. His way of integrating with the team and his ability to communicate with the engineers and the whole team is motivating. I think our work is always based on Maranello, and not just on race weekends. Carlos is really good in this respect, it's a big boost for us. And it's also important for Charles, because I see that they are integrating well. I think they are pushing each other, which is very positive, not just on the track. At home they play on the simulators, at chess, these things show a very positive spirit. And then Carlos is fast, but it's no surprise that he is fast in the race. He can also be very fast in qualifying, we have seen that in recent years".
Despite the accident in FP2, Charles Leclerc is very satisfied of the feedbacks obtained from the first tests:
"There are a lot of positive aspects today, it was not an easy day but the performance was fantastic for me. We did not manage to do a complete session of FP1 because of a small problem but the car gave optimistic sensations. During FP2 we were very competitive, they cancelled us a fast lap time because of the track limits at turn 9 but the most important thing was that the performance was there. And the car was good also in the race pace. It has been my mistake while I was pushing in race mode,I'm sorry the boys but fortunately only two minutes were left. The car didn't change at all, but it gives way better sensations in these conditions. The car is fast, it goes well compared to last weekend, I like the set-up. Especially compared to last year, the grip is way better. Obviously only tomorrow we will find out what the real values on field are, also because someone maybe hasn't shown all the potential, but in qualifying I think that a great result can be available".
Also Carlos Sainz Jr. seems hopeful:
"It was a more promising start than in Bahrain. Today I didn't know what to expect, with colder weather and a less abrasive tarmac. I didn't know how to push but I saw that the car let me push a lot more than in Bahrain. It let me go closer to the limit without understeer/oversteer. I improve every time I go in the car. I had much more grip in the car than in Bahrain, a Grand Prix that I was not particularly happy with in terms of results. At Sakhir I finished eighth, I want more and I think the team wants more. But honestly when we look at the pace I had all weekend and how I got on with the team, with the engineers, how fast I went in all the sessions, then I am happy. I feel closer to the limit than I expected three months ago. With Charles Leclerc we are loaded, we both want to do well but we have a lot of respect for each other. We have a good relationship, honestly. I've known him for two-three years, he's a good guy. We're having fun. We go to the track, we play paddle together, but he doesn't want to play golf because he knows he's still a bit behind".
Also scuderia AlphaTauri has a great start, which behaved good with Pierre Gasly:
"I think this was one of the best Fridays for the team: P4 this morning and P3 this afternoon, very close to the best. From the very first lap I felt comfortable with the car and I was able to push quite hard, as well as drive as I wanted to. So, I think this was a very good day. Initially we concentrated on short runs on soft tyres, in which we showed good pace, then we completed some laps with plenty of fuel on board, to prepare for Sunday's race. We are continuing to work hard to improve against our main rivals in the middle group and I think we have shown good pace so far. Tonight we will have a chance to analyse the data we have collected and hopefully we can find some more performance for tomorrow's qualifying".
Yuki Tsunoda had to face more difficulties, but nothing impossible to solve:
"During FP1 I wasn't able to complete many laps due to a problem and only completed four fast laps in total, but while I was on track the car gave me a good feeling. During the break the team fixed the problem and so I was able to get back on track in FP2, gradually increasing my pace. I hope I can continue like this in tomorrow's final free practice session. I did a lot of laps here in the pre-season, but I think I still managed to learn a lot today, especially about tyre management. Now I have a lot of interesting data on the softs that I can go and analyse".
It's the first of two home races for Antonio Giovinazzi, who lingers to talk about the problems faced during the first day:
"We need to adjust a few things to make the car better ahead of qualifying, because we know they will all be close - even closer than they were in Bahrain. It's hard to say where we expect to be, because a small variation between laps can make a big difference. We have to put together a perfect lap in qualifying".
While Kimi Raikkonen adds:
"It wasn't a bad day for us, even if the time sheets don't show it. We couldn't put a lap together in the qualifying simulation, so I'm not too worried. Let's see what we can do tomorrow. There are things we can improve a bit tonight, as always, so hopefully we can get a bit more performance out of the car. The goal is the same: to get through Q1 and fight for as high a place on the grid as possible".
At Imola, also Fernando Alonso is in search of redemption.And looking at the start, it looks like the Spanish driver is in the right direction:
"It was a good Friday and today we completed our programme without any problems. Apart from the red flags and other incidents that stopped the two sessions, I was happy with the updates we installed on the car; I felt an improvement in performance. Let's see where we are tomorrow and hopefully there will be more to polish up. As we suspected, the scrum pack will be very compact again, so qualifying should be interesting. It was nice to drive at Imola again and to drive the car in these high-grip conditions".
A positive route confirmed by Esteban Ocon:
"We had a positive start to the weekend despite the incident this morning. Fortunately, neither Sergio nor I lost too much time, which is quite important considering the one-hour sessions. The accident was unfortunate, but we were able to put it behind us and tackle the afternoon. The mechanics were great in repairing the car in time, thank you for their work. I think we have a solid base to work on. There are still a few things to fine-tune with the balance, but the car is behaving quite well here and I'm looking forward to pushing it over the next two days".
Sebastian Vettel is in facing more difficulties with Aston Martin, who was focused on the aerodynamics studies:
"Part of this Friday we dedicated to studying aerodynamic innovations that convinced me and help me in terms of driving style. They should help us take a step forward this weekend and be more competitive than in Bahrain. We have the data to be more effective tomorrow in qualifying".
Instead Lance Stroll says he feels comfortable at the drive of his car:
"I felt good behind the wheel today, the track is nowhere near as good as Bahrain. We have done a lot of work and we will try to make the most of it tonight to be faster tomorrow. Driving here at Imola is great, especially being aggressive on all the kerbs. I feel like I'm back in my karting days".
Aston Martin's team principal, Otmar Szafnauer, instead focuses on talking about rules that penalised the british cars:
"I think the right thing to do is to have a discussion with the FIA and find out exactly what happened and then see if there is anything that could be done to make it fairer. I think this year you should [change the rules], because next year these will not apply. I think it's the right thing to do. As a team we have to work hard to try to salvage everything we can, but at the same time we should have discussions with the FIA. When we had the front wing change a couple of years ago, it really hurt us. We voted against it, but you have to accept it. So it would seem a bit naive to me to think that suddenly the rules are changed after just one race and after you've followed the whole process. I have a hard time understanding that".
Definitely more wait list from this point of view is Mercedes's team principal,Toto Wolff:
"I think this is a difficult subject, you need to have the full picture before making any comments. At this stage, I don't think it would be fair to point the finger at anyone, so I prefer not to talk about it for the time being".
Behind, Nicholas Latifi shows to be happy about the work done:
"I think it was a very positive day. For the most part we ran smoothly and were able to follow the day's plan perfectly. I expected the car to run much better than in Bahrain, but the results were even more surprising than expected. We still have work to do, you don't get anything from lapping hard on Friday. It's important to get the results tomorrow afternoon, but we are preparing well to get them both in qualifying and in the race".
While George Russell gives more indications on the situation of the team:
"As a team we are relatively fast, but personally I am a little off the pace. Nicholas is riding really well, it was probably the best day's work I have seen him do. I need to improve a bit to close the gap with our competitors and Nicholas. As a team we are in a good position, we have a lot of data to review, but I'm sure my engineers and I can analyse it".
Despite the low expectations, every Grand Prix is important for Nikita Mazepin, at his debut in Formula 1:
"I think the day was positive, I learnt a lot about the car today. In FP1 I was very happy with my time in qualifying simulation conditions. I made a mistake without being able to save the car, but when I go out on track I don't want to leave any stone unturned, I always give everything to make sure I go to sleep with no regrets. Obviously the goal is to reach a point of balance, but there is time to get there. Now I am focused on the next sessions ahead of us tomorrow".
The same discourse is for Mick Schumacher:
"I had a lot of fun today, the track hasn't changed particularly from 2016 when I raced here. The low temperatures allowed us to do longer stints and push more consistently, although it's obviously more complicated to warm up the tyres and get them up to temperature. I'm happy with my pace on the hard tyre and with the soft tyres I made steady progress. It will be very important in qualifying to be able to put together a clean lap".
In FP3, which takes place during the morning of Saturday 17 April 2021, the fastest is Max Verstappen, who is also the only driver to set a lap time of less than 1'15"0. The Red Bull Racing Dutchman trails, by 0.5 seconds, Lando Norris, who was able to keep Lewis Hamilton behind him.The Mercedes seemed competitive on Medium compound tyres, but found it more difficult to exploit the Soft tyres. The session is interrupted by the display of the red flag after Nicholas Latifi goes off the track, crashing into the barriers at the Villeneuve Variante: the Canadian driver manages to return to the pits in his Williams. Antonio Giovinazzi is, on the other hand, the author of a spin, without consequences. At the end of FP3, AlphaTauri is fined €300 by the FIA as Yuki Tsunoda exceeds the set speed limit in the pit lane. Eighteen times were cancelled for drivers for exceeding the track limits at Piratella (turn 9) and three times were cancelled for exceeding the limits at the exit of the Variante Alta (turn 15), during the third practice session. In the first case, Kimi Räikkönen (three times), Mick Schumacher and Lando Norris (twice), Nikita Mazepin, Sergio Pérez, Charles Leclerc, Valtteri Bottas, Max Verstappen, Yuki Tsunoda, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Lance Stroll and Pierre Gasly (once) had their times cancelled; in the second case, Fernando Alonso and Nikita Mazepin (twice) had their times cancelled. The stewards decided not to penalise Pierre Gasly for overtaking Antonio Giovinazzi during the red flag. The number 5 light panel lit up after the French driver had passed Giovinazzi just before it. Once the overtaking was completed, the working light panel number 6 was noticed by Gasly who immediately reduced speed. The next qualifying session took place without the presence of rain, but with a very low temperature (12 °C the air and 27 °C the asphalt). In the first phase, after only a few minutes, and without many drivers having set significant times, Yuki Tsunoda loses control of his AlphaTauri at the Variante Alta (turn 15), and ends up against the barriers, irreparably damaging his single-seater.
The race management decided to suspend the session. At the restart Lance Stroll took the lead in the time classification, with a time of 1'16"082; his time was beaten by Sergio Pérez, who was in turn overtaken by Charles Leclerc. The arrival of the other Red Bull driver, Max Verstappen, revolutionises the ranking, although the first driver to drop below the 1'15"0 limit is, shortly afterwards, Valtteri Bottas; his team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, is third, ahead of Pierre Gasly, whose time is, however, cancelled, for having crossed the track limits. This also happens to Pérez and Latifi. Lando Norris then climbs to second, while Pérez, in order to secure passage to the next stage of qualifying, sets the fifth fastest time. Bottas improves again, while Hamilton knocks Norris out of P2, and Gasly moves up to P7. With two minutes to go before the end of Q1 George Russell enters the qualifying standings, while Nikita Mazepin, after a driving error, restarts without a problem, but remains far from being able to continue qualifying. Esteban Ocon improves to fifth, Nicholas Latifi is in P11, while Fernando Alonso, only thirteenth, is in the danger zone. The other former World Champion, Sebastian Vettel, takes P9. Kimi Räikkönen manages to set a valid time to enter Q2, but this is before the arrival of Russell, who improves his time and brings the Finn back into the elimination zone. At the end of Q1 the two Alfa Romeo Racing drivers, the two Haas drivers, as well as Tsunoda are eliminated. In Q2 the Mercedes drivers, as well as Verstappen, opt for the medium tyres, to try this type of tyre at the start of the race. The classification changes quickly as the various drivers arrive, with Lewis Hamilton setting the benchmark time of 1'14"817. The three drivers at the top of the leader board are, incidentally, the very three who are on Medium tyres. Pérez, on Soft tyres, is fourth, 0.287 seconds behind.
The two Alpine cars are in P7 (Alonso) and P8 (Ocon) respectively. Norris, on Soft tyres, took the lead, while Leclerc made a comeback in P4, with Carlos Sainz Jr, the other Ferrari driver, in P8. Gasly, after a lap cancelled at the start of Q2, gets P10. Sebastian Vettel then takes P7, followed by his teammate Lance Stroll. Pérez, still on soft tyres, beats Norris' time, becoming the fastest on the track. Leclerc, Gasly, Ocon and Daniel Ricciardo enter the top ten with their last attempt. Sainz Jr., Russel, Vettel, Latifi and Alonso do not advance to Q3. In the decisive phase the first driver to finish the lap, Stroll, sees his time deleted, again for exceeding the track limits. Lando Norris finished in 1'14"875, 0.5 seconds better than Gasly. The Briton's time is beaten by Pérez (1'14"665). In turn this was lowered shortly afterwards by Hamilton (1'14"411). In second place is now Verstappen, while Valtteri Bottas is only in P6, also beaten by Charles Leclerc. The Finnish Mercedes driver is not even competitive in the second fastest lap, only managing to climb to P5. Hamilton is unable to put in a better lap than the first, as is Lando Norris, who finishes in P2, but sees his time erased. Gasly is in P4, before the arrival of Pérez, who beats Verstappen, and is placed in P2. Hamilton takes pole position number 99 on the 30th different circuit. The Briton also takes pole position for the 15th consecutive season. For Sergio Pérez it is the best practice performance of his career. At the end of practice, Aston Martin is fined €600 by the FIA as Lance Stroll exceeds the set speed limit in the pit lane. Six times were cancelled for drivers for exceeding the track limits at Piratella (Turn 9) and four times were cancelled for exceeding the limits at the exit of the Variante Alta (Turn 15), during qualifying.In the first case, Antonio Giovinazzi, Sergio Pérez, Mick Schumacher, Pierre Gasly, Lando Norris and Lance Stroll have their times cancelled; in the second case, Nicholas Latifi, Pierre Gasly, Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll have their times cancelled. Back in the pits, Lewis Hamilton can only be pleased with yet another pole position gained in his career:
"Great day. I definitely didn't expect us to be ahead of the Red Bulls. They were so fast this weekend. At one point they were six tenths ahead and we didn't know how to beat them. But the car went much better from the start. Great respect to the team and their hard work to close the gap. Alone against two Red Bulls? I love the challenge. I like finally having the Red Bulls there. It will make the strategy complicated. They have a great race pace, they looked strong in the long run, but ours is not bad either. I am happy, my first lap was very good and very clean. I could have improved on the second lap, it was not as good as the first. But when I heard I took pole I was very thankful. This track is all about medium and high-speed corners, I think that's why we closed the gap to Red Bull. The temperatures are much lower and that brought us closer Verstappen and Perez. But they are so strong. It will take absolutely perfect laps to stay ahead of them if we want to have a chance of victory tomorrow.What a great day. Really, I didn't expect us to be ahead of the Red Bulls. They were so fast this weekend. At one point they were six tenths ahead, I think, and we didn't know how to beat them at all. But the car was much better from the beginning of this weekend than it was the first weekend. I have great respect for the team and their hard work to close the gap. Alone against two Red Bulls? I love the challenge, I love finally having the Red Bulls up there, they will make the strategy complicated. They have a great race pace, they looked strong on the long run, but ours isn't bad either. I am happy, my first lap was very good and very clean. I could have improved on the second lap, it was not as good as the first. But when I heard I took pole I was very happy. Today was fantastic, I would say".
After P11 obtained in Bahrain's qualifying,Sergio Perez qualified P2 in Imola, at only 0.035 seconds from pole position obtained by Lewis Hamilton:
"Congratulations to the team, I made a mistake yesterday and I made them work hard throughout the day. Good recovery from me, we are showing progress, I never expected to be here today considering where we were yesterday. We've improved, it's important to start from second position. But I could also have been on pole, I made a mistake in the last corner. All positive, but we have to keep progressing. But what counts is tomorrow. Race? Anything can happen, we might have a different strategy to Lewis and Max. Let's see what we can do, the most important thing is to score points and keep learning".
The Mexican driver's teammate is logically less happy, Max Verstappen, who after having conquered pole position in Bahrain, didn't manage to put together the perfect lap in the third session of qualifying:
"I was not good in Q3, I had a botched lap. But you can't be perfect every time. We will see where I went wrong and what went wrong. But it wasn't the easiest Q3 for me. But third is always a good starting position. Tomorrow? It will be interesting. We have two cars on different tyres and we'll see how things go. We will try to make life difficult for Hamilton".
But Red Bull's team principal,Christian Horner shows himself hopeful for the race:
"It was a great team performance today, with our best qualifying result in Italy since 2013. Sergio Perez did a fantastic job in his second qualifying session for us and it was a shame for Max, who made an unusual mistake at the Tamburello corner on his final lap in Q3. But I have to say it is incredibly satisfying to see both drivers up there fighting for pole, especially in a gripping session where the top three were separated by less than a tenth. Sergio is really finding confidence and performance, and today marks his best grid position in Formula 1. With very little adaptation time he is doing a great job and is settling in very well with the team. We are in a good position and with both drivers on alternative strategies, we have some options we will work on this evening to bring home the best possible result tomorrow. It should be an exciting Grand Prix".
The Mercedes's team principal,Toto Wolff, is also satisfied, and at the end of tests he confirms:
"Pole was a surprise because we don't have the fastest car at the moment. Everyone was so close and Max, without the mistake, would have been on pole. But the loss compared to last year is huge: we were six tenths ahead and now we are two tenths behind. So, we have to roll up our sleeves and try to find the performance. It's a faster car than the one we saw in Bahrain, I think we had more balance, that's the main reason for the improvement. We had some handling problems in Bahrain and we are solving them: slowly we are getting to the solution. The fact that Red Bull has two cars in the top three is a big advantage for them, because - given the soft start for Perez - they can do two different strategies. Valtteri has to work his way through drivers who start on soft, he can do that but I think we're at a bit of a disadvantage".
For what concerns Valtteri Bottas, qualifying session didn't go as expect at the eve:
"It was all a bit of a blur today and I still don't understand the performance in Q3. In the first attempt I suffered from oversteer and then in the second the rear was not so good. It's not what I was aiming for today, especially with the feeling I had at the start of qualifying. On the first timed lap of Q3 I came into Turn 2 and had a really sudden snap of the rear, losing a lot of time. The same on the second lap. I couldn't trust the rear end. This [problem] is not something I felt in Q1 or Q2 so it's hard to understand. We will have to investigate, overtaking here is difficult, but I will fight to give everything tomorrow".
Ferrari are more detached, with Charles Leclerc who closes qualifying in P4.The driver from Monaco admits Mercedes and Red Bull' superiority and pays for a little mistakes he made during qualifying lap, even if it didn't influence on the final position:
"Fourth place? Yesterday I believed it, this morning after FP3 less so, McLaren surprised us. They went very strong today and found something compared to yesterday. I had a good lap. We always say that Mercedes and Red Bull are on another planet, but being only three tenths away gives us hope that we can do good things in the future. I made a small mistake on my lap that cost 7-8 hundredths. For that I was frustrated on the radio. But looking at the classification I wouldn't have gained a position anyway. I am happy, the car is balanced well. The focus now is to find performance in general. The balance is good. There is nothing particularly wrong with the car. But we are still not at the level of Red Bull and Mercedes and we are working on that".
Carlos Sainz Jr is less happy, in the second qualifying with Ferrari he didn't manage to get into Q3, getting P11. As a meagre consolation, the Spanish will have the chance to choose the compound at the start of the Grand Prix:
"Honestly, I didn't put together a good lap for the whole session. I was fast in every single corner during qualifying, but I didn't put together a lap that was good overall. I also made some mistakes with the braking balance on the last lap of Q2.I know where I lost time, I know where I still need to improve. I can be fast in every corner, but I have to do it in the same lap, not use four sets of tyres and do one corner well and one badly. There is room for improvement: this circuit demands more confidence, which I lacked, and more laps, also in finding the right balance for the car".
Laurent Mekies, sports director of Scuderia Ferrari, is by all satisfied:
"It was a solid performance in this qualifying, just as it was in Bahrain in the first race of the season. This is important because we confirmed our level of competitiveness on a completely different track and in very different conditions to Sakhir. Obviously there is a touch of regret for Carlos, who missed out on Q3 by just 61 thousandths at the end of a very balanced session, with fifteen drivers within nine tenths of each other. We knew that the first few races would be necessary for him to fully immerse himself in his new team and get to grips with a car that is very different to the one he was used to: his growth path is going well, absolutely in line with expectations. Having said that, his placing also gives us the chance to evaluate all the options in terms of strategy for the race, so there is every chance of a good result. Charles confirmed the same position as in Bahrain thanks to another excellent overall performance: for him performances like this are becoming almost the norm, which is further confirmation of his great talent. Tomorrow the main objective will be to confirm in the race the competitiveness we showed in qualifying: if we succeed, then we will be able to aspire to occupy, at least in this Grand Prix, that position - the top of the middle group - which is our main goal of the season".
Also Daniel Ricciardo, getting P6 in qualifying, is very satisfied:
"Satisfied? More than yesterday. All weekend I was a bit slow. Finding the confidence was difficult, but in qualifying it went a bit better, even though I'm still not at the level I want to be. But for being the second race with McLaren it's not bad. Where can I go from here? First because if with my lap today I'm half a second off pole, that gives me confidence. My lap wasn't bad, but I need more laps in this car to grow. That's why I'm happy. I like Imola a lot, it is a beautiful circuit. You need confidence with the car, because it's a track where you have to take risks. But it's very fast, I like it. Tomorrow? I imagine there will be a race with a bit of a mess. I don't know if the rain will come, in which case it will be even more difficult, it already is in the dry... maybe I need it for a special result".
While Lando Norris is very disappointed for the P7 obtained in qualifying, feeling to have lost a good occasion to qualify higher:
"I am quite disappointed and quite angry with myself, I think it was a very good day until the mistake. The car really grew in qualifying, we made a lot of improvements from Friday. That was a lap where I didn't have to make a mistake, I made a mistake. In the end it was my mistake and I messed up".
Pierre Gasly is extremely happy, in Imola he brought his AlphaTauri in P5:
"I am very happy. Imola is an important race for our team. Today went very well. I did a really good lap in Q3 and in the end I am very happy to be fifth. For sure I have more responsibility this season, but I am ready and enthusiastic for the role I have to play. I want to fight at the front with the best drivers. The team has done a fantastic job this year, building a very fast car. We are only 3-4 tenths from Mercedes and Red Bull, we have to be very proud of that and keep pushing though because those behind are getting closer. Tomorrow we'll see if we can pass Charles, I'll try, track position is very important, we know that. Same tyres and same strategies, I will try to do a better job than them. Track limits? It's a mess. I can't stand it. It's the same for everybody, but I'm sure tomorrow in front of the television everybody will not understand anything. One corner there is the white line, another the kerb, another you can do what you want".
The same can not be said for Yuki Tsunoda, author of a mistake in Q1:
"I have no words, I am very disappointed in myself, I am really sorry for the team, the car was fantastic. I pushed too hard on the entry, up to that point the lap was fantastic. It was potentially easy to get through Q1 using one tyre. The damage looked pretty bad, I'm really sorry for the team. I have to reset and come back stronger tomorrow. I'm more worried about the car than myself".
On Sunday April 18,2021, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix starts under a light rain.Every driver has intermediate wet weather tyres, except for Pierre Gasly, Esteban Ocon and the two Haas's drivers, who go for the extreme wet weather tyres. In the recognition lap Charles Leclerc spins at Acque Minerali's turn, but manages to hit back the track and regularly place on the grid.Sebastian Vettel, instead, goes back into the pit lane, for some brakes' problems. The German starts from the box's lane. At the start Lewis Hamilton keeps the lead but can not resist Max Verstappen's attack at the Variante of Tamburello; behind, the other Red Bull Racing's driver, Sergio Perez, looses a position to Charles Leclerc. Always during the first lap Nicholas Latifi spins, then, when back on track, makes a contact with Nikita Mazepin: the Canadian driver ends against barriers.The race's direction sends on track the safety car. While the safety car is on track, Mick Schumacher spins on the starting straight, after trying to heat the tyres, but hits back the track.Perez is author of a track's excursion:the mexican takes back the position by overtaking 2 cars, action not permitted, so he will be penalised with a stop and go. Verstappen, at the moment of the restart, keeps the lead, followed by Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc, Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly, Carlos Sainz Jr. and Lando Norris. In few laps Lando Norris overtakes both Sainz and Gasly. The French of AlphaTauri, on extreme wet tyres, because of the track that is drying out, sees the covers deteriorate soon, and he has to suffer the attacks of many other drivers behind his back. At lap 12 he is in P12, before heading to the box, at lap 15, to fit an intermediate set of tyres. At lap 17 Ricciardo lets his teammate go past, Norris, faster then him. The first driver to mount dry tyres is Vettel, who also serves a penalty, for a delay in the mounting of the tyres, before formation lap. Verstappen control the race with 2.5 seconds on Hamilton, 16 seconds on Leclerc, 29.7 seconds on Perez and 41.9 on Norris. The Dutch from Red Bull waits lap 27 to mount Medium tyres. The next lap it's Hamilton's moment; the british goes for Medium tyres, but a small delay at the pit stop makes him go back into the race behind the dutch. In the same lap also Norris and Perez stops, who serves a penalty and changes the wheel. After getting back on track, in the course of some dubbing at Tosa, looses the car and ends in the gravel.
The British manages to get back in the race, but in P9. At lap 31 there is a contact between Valtteri Bottas and George Russell. Williams's driver, at Variante of Tamburello, puts a tyres on the grass and hits the Finnish's car. Both drivers exit the track, but without physical consequences. The race is interrupted with a red flag. After the track is clean from the debris left because of the accident, the race restarts behind safety car, with Verstappen at the leading, ahead of Leclerc, Norris, Perez, Sainz, Ricciardo, Stroll, Raikkonen and Hamilton, who took advantage of the pause to get the car going. The Finn of Alfa Romeo Racing spins and gives up several positions. Norris immediately passes Leclerc, while, at the back, Yuki Tsunoda and Esteban Ocon also spin. On lap 37 Sergio Pérez is the author of another track excursion that costs him several positions. A lap later Hamilton takes P6 Lance Stroll. The Briton is then able to pass Daniel Ricciardo as well, on lap 42. The comeback continued on lap 49, after an overtaking move on Carlos Sainz Jr. Charles Leclerc approached Lando Norris, but with no chance of passing. On the contrary, on lap 55, the Monegasque gave up his position to Hamilton. The Mercedes driver completes his recovery by passing Norris, on lap 59, and on lap 60 he also sets the fastest lap in the race. Max Verstappen takes his 11th career victory, ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris. With these two podiums the United Kingdom touches 700 podiums in the history of the World Championship. It had been since the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix that two British drivers had not finished on the podium in the same race (at that time Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button both in McLarens). For the British team, it is the first podium finish with Mercedes engines since the 2014 Australian Grand Prix (then Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button). Fernando Alonso wins his first rainbow points since his return to Formula 1, for the first time since the 2018 Singapore Grand Prix in a McLaren-Renault, finishing the race in P10. Charles Leclerc finished in fourth place, followed by Carlos Sainz Jr, Daniel Ricciardo in the second McLaren, Pierre Gasly in the AlphaTauri, Lance Stroll in the Aston Martin and Esteban Ocon in the Alpine, who finished the race in P9.
At the end of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, George Russell and Valtteri Bottas were summoned by the stewards for the incident between the two of them before the Variante del Tamburello, which led to the race being interrupted; Kimi Räikkönen is summoned by the stewards for failing to comply with the procedure for restarting the race behind the safety car after the latter had been suspended, while Pierre Gasly and Lance Stroll are also summoned by the stewards for an overtaking manoeuvre by the Canadian on lap 11.The stewards decide not to take action over what happened between George Russell and Valtteri Bottas, judging the incident to be a normal racing incident, also due to the difficult track conditions, which were still damp in some sections. Kimi Räikkönen, on the other hand, was penalised 30 seconds off his race time for failing to comply with the procedure for restarting the race behind the safety car after the latter had been suspended. The Finn, in P9 at the finish, dropped to P13. (In the following Portuguese Grand Prix Alfa Romeo Racing asked for a review of the penalty imposed on Kimi Räikkönen, believing that the driver had already been penalised by the spin itself, with which he lost two positions, despite not having entered the pit lane, following the procedure laid down by the regulations in the case of losing positions behind the safety car before the race restart; the FIA, after reviewing the penalty inflicted, rejects the appeal lodged by the Swiss team, confirming the Finnish driver's penalty; the rule is changed from the very next Grand Prix). Lance Stroll was penalised five seconds off his race time and one point on his super-licence for going off track and taking an advantage during an overtaking manoeuvre against Pierre Gasly. The Canadian, in P7 at the finish, moves up one position. At the end of the second Grand Prix of the season Lewis Hamilton is leading the Drivers' Championship with 44 points, followed on 43 points by Max Verstappen. Further back is Lando Norris, in third, with 27 points. In the Constructors' Championship Mercedes is first with 60 points, followed by Red Bull with 53 points and McLaren with 41 points. Max Verstappen managed to win a crazy race, which started with a wet track and was punctuated by a Safety Car and a red flag. These are his words at the end of the race:
"Today was a really tough challenge, especially at the beginning. Staying on the track was difficult, especially at the beginning because it was very slippery. Then the tyres... the graining in the wet, I chose well when to change the tyres. It's never easy. Then I had a little scare on the restart but everything else went well, I'm very happy. Restart? A little scare. I was trying to warm up the tyres with the accelerator, but I was lucky not to spin. First corner? I was surprised myself by the start. We worked hard to improve the start in these conditions and we succeeded. Classification? The season is long, we have to keep calm. I think the key to success was the start as we had a great sprint. I was surprised because it was always difficult to start in the wet last year, but we worked hard to try to improve that and it worked. The conditions were difficult, especially at the start, and it was very hard to stay on track. But we stayed out of trouble. I wouldn't call it a dominant performance because Lewis was following me quite well and the fact that he came back to second place at the end shows that they have a lot of pace on the car. We won because we made the right calls on the tyres at the right time and the team handled everything well. I had a little bit of a critical moment at the re-start, trying to warm up the tyres by giving a bit of gas, but luckily we didn't spin. We still have to work hard to improve because the performances are close, but for now I am very happy with the result. So far it has been a good start to the year".
Lewis Hamilton closes in second place,started from pole position but slided down to P9 because of a track exit at Tosa. A red flag and a sensational comeback in the second part of the race promised the english to end in second place:
"Congratulations to Max for the win and a very solid race, but also to Lando. To see the McLaren in front again is fantastic. Today was not my best day. I made a mistake for the first time in a long time, but I am thankful that I kept the car alive and managed to come back. Mistake at Tosa? There is only one good line there and I was in too much of a hurry. I realised I was making a mistake and tried to stop, but in trying to stop I went longer. I am thankful that I was able to restart, in the end I brought good points to the team. In the break I was trying to overcome the bitterness of the mistake. I got back into the spirit of the race. I didn't know if I could recover because there was the outside line in the wet. But I had some good battles against these guys. Considering I was against the barriers at one point and with a lap to spare, yeah, it was a tough day in that sense. I had a really good pace in the rain and was catching up, but maybe I was a bit impatient with the lapped guys. I'm human, so these mistakes happen. I'm thankful to be back in the race and to be able to start the chase again and get back to second place. The car had a difficult time today. I started first and should have been first at the finish. But these situations are sent to test us and we have a great battle on our hands. The game continues".
Lando Norris, started in P7, managed to do an excellent comeback, also taking advantage of the mistakes of the other drivers. The british driver managed to get to P2, but he had to give the position to Hamilton at only 4 lap to the end:
"I am happy. Good recovery from yesterday. Race was long and difficult. I didn't get a good start. I caught up because I had a good pace. I wanted to hold second place, but Lewis was too fast for me. I had the knee pad that went under the clutch, it was my mistake. We fitted soft tyres for the restart, I had a good pace but I knew I was going to struggle in the last laps. Having Lewis behind wasn't easy. I tried to keep him behind for 3-4 laps, but in the end I couldn't do it. But I'm happy. Driver of the day? I didn't think I had any fans, I'm happy. Obviously very happy to get a podium, at the end of a very well executed race by the team and myself. I think I drove very well, I made a lot of good decisions, but it was not easy. The start of the race was quite difficult. A bit of contact here and there, not a perfect start, but I kept my composure. I kept my concentration the whole time, because sometimes you know you have to expect red flags and Safety Cars. You also need to think that opportunities might come for you later in the race. I kept that in mind and had a solid race. Some people in front of me made mistakes and we took advantage of them, then we made the right choice by putting softs on the restart, creating the basis to overtake Leclerc. We almost kept second position, but Lewis was too fast. It was a difficult race but very rewarding for me and especially for the team, a big thank you to them for bringing in new components and working so hard on the car in the factory to improve it every weekend".
There is some disappointment at Ferrari for a podium finish that slipped away in the final laps. The Maranello cars seem to have suffered from a lack of top speed on the straights, compared to McLaren and Mercedes. Charles Leclerc's disappointment at the end of the race is therefore understandable:
"It wasn't the best possible restart on my part, but that's not what made the difference. We struggle on the straights and we paid the price today. Besides this element, which we know well and are working on, there are many positive things. The pace was very good, then when we have to battle, both in attacking and defending, we have more difficulty. Overall, though, the balance of the race is good. In the rain we were quite competitive, which we didn't expect because of the difficulties in previous years, but even in the dry we didn't do badly. Maybe we loaded the wings a little too much and suffered in the final, but it's always easy to say that afterwards. It helped us at the beginning though, that's for sure. Without the red flag we would have been in a slightly different position. Today is a fourth place, I would have liked to be first even though it was difficult. But it's a positive day considering the pace".
The red flag, after the accident between Valtteri Bottas and George Russell, led Race Direction to decide to carry out a rolling start, but Charles Leclerc did not know this: the reason is that the radio communication with the pit was not working, and this is the explanation why the Monegasque did not overtake Max Verstappen when the Dutchman momentarily lost control of the Red Bull at the restart behind the Safety Car. Scuderia Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto explains the incident:
"We had loaded the set-up and put more rear wing on. That didn't make it any easier to restart after the red flag. We know that on the straight we lack a bit, having said that we will try to improve. It was also a shame on the restart, Charles was missing the radio behind Verstappen, we couldn't get through to him. He didn't even know it was a rolling start, then he realised it as they were going. For a driver these are all conditions that complicate life. The whole team is disappointed today. We are convinced that without the red flag our value could have been even better. To see the team disappointed and bitter is a positive sign. We have always said that we need a mentality and a will to always win. Evolutionary step? Yes, we are happy with the performance, it must be a starting point. Good in qualifying compared to last year, good in the wet, good in the dry too, so we're happy. We have weaknesses but we know where to put our hands to solve them".
On Charles Leclerc's failure to overtake Max Verstappen at the start, Lando Norris says he saw what happened, adding:
"I saw it well, it was quite funny actually. In my opinion Charles could have passed. At that point Max was out of control and going left and Charles hit the brakes, slowed down and stopped. At one point he almost had to pass Max because he was turned towards the barriers for most of the corner. I don't know. Maybe we have to ask what the exact rule is in case you go off the track. Charles could have passed him at that point. But I'm not sure. I think if I had been second I would have gone for him. Because you have a chance to win in that case. It's a risk worth taking".
Regarding the incident involving George Russell and Valtteri Bottas, which among other things led the Williams driver to slap the Finnish driver's helmet, resulting in a reaction and middle finger from the Mercedes driver, the British driver goes into detail about what happened, reconstructing - from his point of view - the contact:
"The reason for the incident is that I went into the wet, spun and ran into him. That's what I did. But the reason I went in the wet was that he moved the steering wheel very slightly and pushed me towards that direction. Too bad we didn't see his on-board. You can only see mine. If you look at his I'm sure you will see that he, instead of going to the left as the corner suggested, went to the right. It was an unfortunate accident, but it could have been avoided".
Laconic, however, was the comment of Valtteri Bottas:
"When we were on the straight I saw that he moved to the right. From the replays you can see he left the space for two cars, but he lost control of the car, hit me and it was game over. I have no idea what he (Russell) is talking about, it was clearly his mistake. Obviously I'm not happy with what he did, but that's the way it went".
As for Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff:
"For me this was a racing incident. If you look at it from both points of view, I would say that both of them were wrong. For that reason I really wouldn't know what to say. Valtteri is going through a delicate moment. He wasn't going fast, but George was also a bit aggressive on a wet track. If the Finn is feeling the pressure from Russell for 2022? I'm not sure he knew George's Williams was behind him. It just didn't go well for him and that's why he tried to defend himself".
The post-race themes certainly do not end here: in fact, there is much discussion about the regularity of the manoeuvre carried out by Lewis Hamilton to clear the run-off lane. But one has to take note of the fact that the only prohibition on using reverse gear is when in the pit lane. The FIA regulations also point out that it is permitted to use reverse gear in conditions where it is safe to do so. Was that the case? Yes, according to race director Michael Masi.
"Looking at the incident at the time, the reversing from the gravel, listening to Lewis' radio communications between him and his team, they were absolutely advising him all the time about where he was. So in that particular circumstance I wouldn't consider signalling him to the stewards. You need to review the complete set of circumstances surrounding the episode".
Masi refers to the radio communications that took place between Hamilton and his track engineer Peter Bonnington in those delicate seconds. Listening to the team radios you can actually hear the engineer giving the World Champion all the directions to get back on track safely. It is also interesting to note that, throughout the phase in which he is stuck in the gravel, Lewis Hamilton never communicates via radio. After some hesitation, the British driver opts to engage reverse and then lets himself be guided by his engineer:
"OK Lewis, see if you can move. OK, Alonso's on his way. Then Mazepin".
At this point Hamilton, having passed the first two drivers, begins his manoeuvre. He is later warned that Sainz, Gasly and then Vettel are coming.
"Ricciardo's car is coming".
It's the last indication, with Hamilton holding on the outside regaining the track, causing the Australian's McLaren to pull away on the inside of the corner. Andrew Shovlin, trackside engineering director at the Mercedes, commenting on the Anglo-German team's race adds:
"By lap 31 it was hard to imagine how things could get any worse, we had Lewis stuck in the gravel with a broken wing and Valtteri out with a huge amount of damage. So to leave Imola still leading both championships is a relief and I suppose we should be grateful for that. For Lewis it was a race split in two: the early part was defined by the front wing damage after contact with Max. He improved slightly when the wing came off completely, but there was still some load missing. That's why we were surprised when Lewis was able to close on Max towards the end of the stint on intermediates. The switch to dry tyres was OK, but because we didn't have time to change the wing we had to fight all the time to put Max under pressure. This became complicated when Lewis ended up long while overtaking the lapped drivers and lost a lot of time and positions. The suspended race gave us a chance to repair the car and in the final stint we saw what he was capable of. It was a great recovery by Lewis and he did an impressive fast lap. Valtteri's day was even more difficult. He struggled more than Lewis to warm up his tyres, struggling mainly with rear grip. This was the case on both intermediate and slicks, but the transition to dry went particularly badly. He was passed by several cars and ultimately, this was what started the events that triggered the accident with George and the end of this race. Overall it was a frustrating weekend for him. We have a lot of areas to look at to improve".
Red Bull Racing's team principal Christian Horner, on the other hand, is beaming. After the race with a new success he makes triumphant statements to the press:
"It was fantastic to win here at Imola and to get this victory for Max in Italy shows that you can also beat bad luck. He drove brilliantly today, without any particular mistake. He put everything together. We made good pit stops, the change from intermediates to slicks was perfect. Too bad Sergio wasn't there too: he was unlucky today but he'll come back strong. He made a mistake behind the Ferrari, he put one too many wheels on the kerb and then after coming out he also received a penalty. That forced him to chase at an early stage of the race. It was a tough afternoon for him".
Certainly not as happy is Sergio Perez, who started in P2 but only finished in P11:
"I have to make many apologies to my team, I just wasn't there today. The conditions were difficult and I couldn't get the tyres up to temperature. That's why the car was very difficult to drive. I also went off the track with the Safety Car and took a penalty as a result. Because of that I lost position on Norris and slipped back. In the end then I think we should have finished on the podium, but unfortunately I made another mistake and that cost us a lot. We have to learn from that and understand what we have to do better, because I basically couldn't get the tyres up to temperature".
And also for Daniel Ricciardo the result is certainly not exciting:
"One of those races where there's rain and you're not really sure how it's going to turn out. I managed to gain a position at the start and held fifth for a while. Just as the track started to dry out I suffered some graining on the right front and couldn't maintain a good pace. After the red flag we put on the soft tyre to make the most of a potential standing start. I tried to manage it to the top, but I couldn't, it was struggling. It certainly wasn't a great race, but I think coming home in sixth position is good for the manufacturer's standings, considering Lando's third position. Congratulations to him, he had a great race and it's great to see that the car has pace. My race pace was nothing special, I just have to keep working on it and improve".
Some bitterness remains when you think that this weekend had started with other expectations for Scuderia AlphaTauri. And Pierre Gasly does not hide this feeling:
"It was definitely a very difficult day: we started fifth and tried a different strategy with the tyres at the beginning of the race, which led to us finishing right behind. Obviously I was disappointed, but we kept fighting: after the red flag we managed to climb up to seventh position and gain a couple of points. It wasn't an easy race, so gaining points is positive, but I think we could have done a lot better, given the starting position. On Saturday we showed the potential of the car, next time we have to make sure we put everything together for the whole weekend".
For Yuki Tsunoda it was also a bad day:
"I think for the spectators at home it was a fantastic race, but I am disappointed in myself and want to apologise to the team. It is a real shame to have spun after the red flag, up to that point the race was going well and the pace was really good. It was my first time in the wet at the wheel of a Formula 1 car and I learnt that you have to be very careful, especially under acceleration. Starting on the intermediate tyre in the rain made everything a bit more difficult, but it was a great opportunity to understand how different compounds work in different conditions. I think I could have scored some points today, but this is an experience I will take with me to the next race".
RBR advisor Helmut Marko is unsparing in his criticism of the behaviour of the Japanese AlphaTauri driver:
"Yuki had a fast car on his hands, which would certainly have allowed him to reach Q3 of qualifying. It was a very stupid mistake and you cannot minimise it. I spoke to Yuki after the race and he understood. He set very fast partials in the first sector, but that doesn't mean anything. He was simply impatient".
It could also have been a positive day for Antonio Giovinazzi, but the result was not as expected:
"We were having a very positive race, we finally showed our potential, then we had a setback. At the start the track conditions were really difficult, they reminded me of those at Hockenheim in 2019. The visibility was really poor. Kimi and I were inside the top ten and finishing in the points seemed well within reach. However, we had a technical problem with the brakes which forced me to pit for an extra stop. I prefer to look on the bright side: we have a very good car and will be able to fight for a top ten points finish in many more races. We have a claim on good fortune, let's hope that luck will be on our side on future occasions".
And of the same opinion as the Italian driver is Kimi Raikkonen:
"It would have been really great to celebrate points after starting from sixteenth on the grid. The conditions were really difficult, the asphalt never dried out completely, it was really easy to make a mistake. With the intermediates I felt very good, I was fast. After the red flag, however, with the slicks I struggled a bit more to be competitive, but I also took advantage of the characteristics of the track to keep behind the cars that were following me, finishing in ninth place. The penalty, unfortunately, ruined everything. The performance remains, for the second time in as many races we were fighting for the points zone. We can still improve, the signs are positive".
On the other hand, Fernando Alonso, who has finally entered the top ten, is already decidedly happy:
"These are experiences that stay in my pocket, with every lap I do I feel more comfortable. I'm learning many things, finishing the race was very important. In these difficult conditions, this Grand Prix was worth two or three in terms of sensations. When you go to Roland Garros or Wimbledon, you train a lot beforehand, get familiar with the terrain, the track at that tournament. Here you have three days of testing in Bahrain, a day and a half for each driver, and then you race in the championship. So every race is a new experience and today I can say I learnt a lot from lap one to lap 63. Even in the race we had a lot of different conditions. First it was extremely wet, then we had the intermediates, there was the red flag and the restart. And we finished the race with good battles".
And Esteban Ocon also shares the joy of the Anglo-French team:
"I had some good fights with Fernando. I feel we could have got more out of this race. I think seventh or eighth position was potentially reachable, but we still went to the points and that is positive. It was an intense, demanding race right to the end. Even on the last lap I was pushing hard".
Lance Stroll, despite the final penalty, finished in the top ten again. the Canadian is keen to thank his mechanics, who were skilful in repairing the car:
"The guys did a good job repairing the car on the grid. It was a crazy race from wet to dry and we got a great result at the end. I had a problem with the gear changes and struggled a lot with that. I heard Seb retired at the end. I don't know if it's related, but I was struggling a lot with gearbox problems. Gasly was catching me towards the end of the race, but I'm glad I kept my position".
Sebastian Vettel also thanked his mechanics, but took the opportunity to comment on the actions of the FIA:
"The guys tried everything on the grid and I think they did very well. They were really careful, but I think we could have had a better race if the FIA had also been more careful. We broke a rule, that's why we got a penalty, but they didn't care until the end of the race and at that point the penalty cost more than it would have cost at the start. This is unprofessional. We had a lot of problems. It was not the trouble-free race we had hoped for, but a difficult day".
After an exciting Grand Prix held at the Autodromo Enzo and Dino Ferrari, and won by Max Verstappen, the Circus will move on to Portugal, to the Autodromo International do Algarve in Portimao, to take part in the third Grand Prix of the 2021 World Championship, where Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes team will try to return to success and extend the lead over the Red Bull driver. On the other hand, Max Verstappen is also looking forward to getting back on track, to try to continue the positive momentum by attempting another victory.