Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Race Preview
Two weeks ago, we witnessed the first Australian GP since the track received a makeover. Charles Leclerc won decisively after leading the entire race. Sergio Perez finished second and George Russell third. Carlos Sainz suffered an early retirement after beaching his F1–75. Verstappen also suffered his second DNF in three races after possible overheating. Sky track reporter Ted Kravitz said, “I’ve been asking the question about what exactly happened … we know liquids were omitted that weren’t meant to be omitted, Max said the car effectively had a moment to itself, and then he was told to shut it off.” Red Bull advisor, Helmut Marko later revealed it was a fuel leak that led to Max’s DNF.
A Brief History of Imola The season waits for no man, and it certainly won’t give Red Bull time to sort its bearings before round 4 of 2022. The Emilia Romagna GP is to be held at Imola. It was held for the first time in 2020 after the sport scrambled to organize as many races as possible within the pandemic. However, racing at Imola was on hiatus since 2006. The first time a race was held in Imola was in 1980. After Nelson Piquet won the event, it returned due to popular demand under the name San Marino GP.
The track was later changed after Ayrton Senna’s fatal crash in 1994. Since then it has gone on to deliver Ferrari and Williams eight wins each. Schumacher has the most wins (seven) at Imola while Senna and Alain Prost come in joint second with three wins.
Sprint Race Rules for 2022 This weekend, Imola is hosting a sprint weekend. The calendar changes from the three practice, three quali then main race format.
During a sprint weekend, one free practice is held on Friday. Two and a half hours later, a qualifying is held to determine the grid for the sprint race on Saturday. Three hours before the sprint race, a second and final free practice is held. The sprint race determine the grid for Sunday’s race. In 2022, the sprint race rules were changed. Points are awarded to the top eight drivers (up from the top 3). The winner gets 8 points (up from three). The leader of Friday’s qualifying gets the title “Pole Position”. The other sprint events will take place in Austria and Brazil.
To Upgrade or Not to Upgrade
Ferrari Ferrari has had a strong start to their title campaign this season with Leclerc being in the podium on all three races and a commanding championship lead at 71 points. Ferrari has still opted to bring limited upgrades to their car in Imola. Sainz recently revealed that the car they tested in the wind tunnel has improved from the first three races. Ferrari Ambassador, Marc Gene explained that the upgrades brought to Imola will be limited due to the nature of the sprint event. One practice session before the cars go into parc ferme isn’t conducive to testing new features. It was also announced that Carlos Sainz has signed a contract extension with Ferrari until the end of 2024.
Mercedes The defending constructor’s champions have been struggling with unlocking the pace of the car. The potential of the car has been visible but the car’s definitive porpoising and struggling through high-speed corners has hampered its ability to mount a significant fight for the title. Currently, behind the title leaders by 39 points, Mercedes concede it’s roughly 0.9s off the pace. Team principal Toto Wolff spoke at a recent press conference saying there would be no need to bring upgrades in Imola due to the nature of the sprint event. “Nothing we did [in Melbourne] unlocked the aerodynamic potential or reduced the bouncing, we’re still in the same place,” Wolff said, “That’s why it doesn’t make any sense to bring updates because you’re confusing yourself even more. Maybe the more updates, the worse the bouncing gets?” All Wolff alluded to was there would be improvements to the car. These have been visible since Bahrain with Mercedes eking out whatever they can from the car. This has resulted in two podiums and a second-place position in the standings for George Russell.
Red Bull Considered a title protagonist, Red Bull’s chance at beating Ferrari has been hampered by the unexpected fragility the car has been experiencing. The RB18 suffered dual DNFs in Bahrain and as mentioned earlier, Verstappen had to park his car in Australia. While it isn’t as definitively fast as the F1–75, it has shown significant pace to at least solidify second place — or at least, it should. The fuel problems plaguing Red Bull should be sorted as early as possible for Verstappen to climb from sixth place in the standings. However, Horner seems to be following the way of Ferrari and Mercedes by forgoing any upgrades to come in Imola. “I wouldn’t say a big package planned, it’s all part of [an] evolution,” Horner said, “And of course, being a sprint race, you get very little time to evaluate these things. So we’ve got one session, and then you enter qualifying.”
McLaren A far cry from the position they shared last season, Ferrari’s rivals, McLaren have suffered a plague of brake issues, lack of pace and a mechanical DNF in Jeddah. McLaren will be displaying a special car in honour of 3X world champion Ayrton Senna that has been modified by French artist Jisbar. This will be commemorating his death anniversary. Senna died May 1st 1994 after a crash at the Imola circuit. The team will not be bringing any major upgrades to Imola.
Alpine Alpine has shown considerable single lap pace in Qualifying. While Ocon and Alonso were responsible for some of the most dramatic racing from the Jeddah GP, Alpine is still suffering pace and reliability issues. The team will be bringing a new chassis in Imola that they plan to test during the solo practice on Friday.
Alfa Romeo In the same line as Alpine, Alfa Romeo Racing will be introducing a new floor in Imola. This will help keep them competitive in the midfield. The team has been largely impressive with Bottas bringing home P6 and P8 finishes and Zhou bringing in a P10 finish. However, the team is aware that they have a lot of work ahead of them following Bottas’ DNF. Team principal Fred Vasseur told Motorsport, “I know also that now the development is starting from Imola and Barcelona, and so we have to be there at the right moment. We have some updates in the pipe, as everybody does, but they have to work, and they have to work as planned. We will have a new part on the floor for Imola — it will only be the floor this week. So far it looks OK.” Alfa’s strategy is to bring in upgrades as soon as possible rather than waiting for more opportune moments to test upgrades, such as Barcelona.
Haas After showing impressive form in Jeddah, Haas struggled to show similar results in Australia. Both cars were out of the points in the race down under. Team principal Guenther Steiner explained Mick Schumacher’s car had mechanical issues and Kevin Magnussen was unwell. Steiner hasn’t revealed or denied any plans to bring tweaks to the car at Imola but had earlier in the year downplayed playing fast and loose with upgrades that don’t pan out.
Alfa Tauri AlphaTauri will be bringing a new, floor and custom brake ducts to Imola. Gasly recently told The Race, “It’s not like we’re dead slow. I don’t think we’re missing much but definitely need to come up with some developments if we want to keep up with the other guys.” This will be team’s first major upgrade for the season. They will also have small aerodynamic updates and modifications to the floor stiffness and profile. The hope is that this will provide a significant boost for the team.
Williams Williams plans to come with a little less paint on the car to help it shed weight. There is no news as to whether Williams will bring upgrades to their vehicle or not.
Aston Martin Aston Martin has had a very dismal start to its 2022 campaign. They are dead last in the constructor’s championship. 4X world champion Sebastian Vettel had to miss the first two races due to a COVID infection. He was replaced by Nico Hulkenberg. Aston Martin has yet to score any points. Team principal Mike Krack admits Vettel’s dismal performance in the Australian GP may have been due to the crash from FP3. A power unit issue led to Vettel’s woes. He said that the capacity of the team is divided between repairing the damaged front wings and suspensions and developing the car to finish within the points. No announcements have been made regarding upgrades.
Expectations Cloudy weather and rains are expected on Friday. There is an 80% chance of rain. Weather forecast predicts that Saturday and Sunday will be sunny with no chance of showers. Pirelli has provided C2, C3 and C4 tyres this weekend.