F1 returns to Imola for the first since 2006, with this being the third time in as many races that F1 has visited a venue not on last year’s calendar. For many, this will be an opportunity to pay respects to Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger, who lost their lives at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
Imola is a thrill ride and the racetrack equivalent to a rollercoaster. It runs anti-clockwise and drivers will be leaving little on the table through famous corners such as Piratell and Acque Minerali.
Emilia Romagna Grand Prix predictions, betting tips and analysis
It was a very familiar pattern at Portimao last weekend. Valterri Bottas dominated the weekend, all the way up until it mattered. The Finn led every session bar Q3, where Lewis Hamilton took the all important pole position. Bottas did take the lead early in the race, but Hamilton regained control soon after and decimated his teammate to win by a landslide margin.
Bottas seemingly had no answers, but the lack of practice sessions this weekend may play into his favour. He’s gotten up to speed very quickly at these new circuits compared to Hamilton and with just one session before qualifying, there’s unlikely to be a case of Bottas “showing his hand too early”. Although Hamilton is unopposable in the race, Bottas looks the value to take the initiative in qualifying.
An early skirmish with Sergio Perez didn’t stop Max Verstappen last weekend. He drove his customary race to 3rd without further incident, as expected. Imola is a circuit that really suit his “on the limit” style, with the Red Bull further complimenting the track with its downforce set-up. Another strong weekend beckons for Verstappen.
This is the last chance saloon for a struggling Alex Albon. Red Bull’s second driver was given Portugal and Imola to turn the ship around, with his first chance resulting in a 12th-place finish last weekend. Albon needs a strong qualifying, with his races often ruined on Saturday. If he can get onto the second row with Verstappen, he can perhaps finally deliver a quite race to 4th that he desperately needs.
Ferrari have shown signs of improvement in recent races. Upgrades have finally had the desired effect and Charles Leclerc is dragging the maximum out of his machinery. A 4th-place finish in Portimao was the best he could have hoped for and Imola should be another strong weekend for him. Although unstable on occasion, the Ferrari will be suited by a venue with tight corners and minimal straights. Sebastian Vettel has seemingly focused his attention elsewhere, but Portimao was a sign of life from the German. Ferrari can certainly be hopeful of double points this weekend.
They’ll be stuck in a midfield squabble that is really heating up. With just six points separating Racing Point, McLaren and Renault, it’s all to play for. Racing Point certainly have the strong package, but have struggled to use it effectively. Renault are the form horse, while many would say McLaren have the best driver line-up. Given how well-balanced their car is, Racing Point are likely to be winning out that battle this weekend. That being said, McLaren have posted strong results at the last two events and will be looking to do so again.
Alpha Tauri are the dark horse, and namely Pierre Gasly. He drove a sublime race to 5th in Portugal and if given the right strategy, don’t discount him from the top six again.
Valtteri Bottas – Fastest Qualifier
If there is one thing Bottas is great at, it’s acclimatising to new circuits quickly. At both the Nürburgring and Portimao, he’s dominated the early weekend exchanges. Imola will be hosting just one practice session before qualifying, which could give Bottas the edge in that regard.
For much of the season, Bottas’ saving grace has been qualifying, and if he’s able to get in-tune with his machinery with lightening speed again, his Fastest Qualifier odds are going to look like extreme value.
Pierre Gasly – Top 6 Finish
Without a doubt, Pierre Gasly has been the driver of the season thus far. He’s been impeccable and his recent string of results prove that, backing up a 6th at the Nürburgring before a close 5th in Portugal. Imola is another track that should play to he and the Alpha Tauri’s strengths.
It’s a very stable package and Gasly has been excellent at executing alternate strategies. The surging Frenchman should be set up for another great result at a venue he tested at earlier in the year.
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