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Event: Emilia Romagna Grand Prix
Date: Sunday, May 21, 2023, 9:00 a.m. ET
Circuit: Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari
Location: Imola, Italy
Circuit length: 4.909 Km
Race length: 309.049 km
Driver: Lewis Hamilton Mercedes (2020), Max Verstappen Red Bull (2021, 2022)
Constructor: Mercedes (2020), Red Bull (2021, 2022)
Fastest lap: 1:15.484 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes (2020)
HOW THE EMILIA ROMAGNA GRAND PRIX SETS UP
After just five complete races on the 2023 F1 calendar, Red Bull has already surged ahead of the field to hold first place in the Constructors Championship (224 pts.), while Max Verstappen (119 pts.) and Sergio Lopez (105 pts.) are a respective 1-2 in the Drivers Championship. Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso is in third with 75 points and already has four podium finishes in 2023.
Ferrari, Mercedes, and Aston Martin are racing each other for points in the next tier, while Haas, Alfa Romeo, Alpha Tauri and Williams continue to make up the back of the grid. We should see a number of technical upgrades in Imola, with contractors leveraging the off week to introduce vehicle adaptations.
In key storylines leading up to Imola, Dutch driver Nyck de Vries is on a short leash after a poor start to the season for Alpha Tauri, Mercedes is promising a plethora of much-needed upgrades to try and climb into second place, and recently retired driver Sebastian Vettel may be mulling a return to F1.
A SHORT, FAST TRACK WITH HIGH-SPEED CORNERS
The Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari is a proper F1 track circuit with a long history of exciting racing. Though there is only one DRS Zone on this counter-clockwise track, the long front straight and multiple high-speed corners leave room for overtakes in Imola. Drivers love this track for the thrill ride it is.
The lap begins with a high-speed charge through a gentle, right-leaning Turn 1, before the critical high-speed Turn 2 back the left, and through a quick right lean to carry Turn 3. Speed must be carried to the left through Turn 4 before a quick right/left lean again through Turns 5 and 6 leading into the low-speed hairpin at Turn 7.
The drivers must then immediately build speed again, setting up an ideal race line to navigate the high-speed Turn 9, before throttling up for the famed Acque Minerali, where drivers must struggle to get the cars down to speed for the tight right-hander before blasting back up the hill to the Variante Alta chicane. Beyond Turn 15, it’s onto Imola’s only DRS Zone – a short and furious affair – before again gearing down for two 90-degree left-hand turns and then turning back up the home straight.
WHY FERRARI AND ALPHA TAURI MUST PERFORM HERE
The Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari is the home track for both the Scuderia Ferrari team and Alpha Tauri, aka Red Bull’s junior team. This is where they train, test and do much of their development work. If there is one race this season where both teams need to put their best foot forward, this is it. Anything else would be a massive disappointment.
Ferrari is under particular pressure in Imola. A legitimate title contender in ‘22, the Italian manufacturer has simply not made the technical or race strategy adaptations to get the most from their vehicles in 2023. A struggling fourth in the Contractors Cup standings with 78 points, Ferrari must surely set their sights here on third-placed Mercedes (96 pts.) Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc have proven incapable of consistently beating Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and George Russell this season, let alone scoring podiums, but that is exactly what they must do in Imola to get Ferrari’s season back on track.
While Alpha Tauri faces no expectation of a podium, it is essential that the team find a way to finish in the Top 10 and record points in Imola. Yuki Tsunoda looks better in 2023 and has recorded 2 points for the season thus far, but the aforementioned Nyck de Vries has been a major disappointment. Failure to improve his individual performance over the triple-header series, which opens in Imola and will run through Monaco and Spain, may mean De Vries loses his ride with Alpha Tauri by mid-season. Certainly, there is rampant speculation that this seat is in-play.
EMILIA ROMAGNA GRAND PRIX RACE PREDICTIONS
The current odds to win outright in Imola are as follows: Max Verstappen -250, Sergio Perez +275, Fernando Alonso +1400, Lewis Hamilton +2000, and Charles Leclerc +2500, though I think Carlos Sainz at +3300 will place higher than his Ferrari running mate.
For the rest of the Top 10 points finishers, I like Lando Norris in the Mclaren, Lance Stroll in the Aston Martin, and Pierre Gasly, who knows this track well from his time with Alpha Tauri, in the Alpine. Once again, I will pick Nyck de Vries, or Williams driver Logan Sargeant, as the first to crash out or otherwise retire from the race.
Also, don’t be surprised if you see Mercedes driver George Russell make a late tire stop to go for the fastest lap near the end of the race in a bid to maximize Mercedes’s point differential over Ferrari. Williams, Alfa Romeo and probably Haas will not score points in Imola.
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