In a certain sense, in Imola we saw the best of Motorsport as an offer or a product, a theme very dear to Liberty Media after the big problems of last year. We see a great light at the end of the tunnel towards 2022, both for the sporting aspect with a championship that promises to be extremely tight and not at all obvious ( F1 2021: Mercedes is the favorite, but will it be less easy? ), and for the financial aspect that we cannot underestimate.
It is clear that if these are the events, it becomes easy for Formula 1 to be attractive to new investors, engineers, sponsors and Pay TV . It may seem like a speech far from the interests of fans, yet the well-being of the category coincides with that of the smaller teams, which one year ago were exposed to risks that were difficult to foresee and sustain. Of course, a very important piece is missing: the fans in the stands. But they will come back.
The Pirelli Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna and Made in Italy was a race that we can define as two-sided. Basically we have two very distinct races thanks (so to speak) to the red flag resulting from Russell’s move on Bottas. An accident in which, even after reviewing the images, it is not entirely clear to identify a responsibility.
The race management did not intend to investigate further, considering it a race accident. I would say with good reason, even if from one point of view we can attribute to the British driver of Williams a certain frenzy in trying to find the passage on Valtteri’s cover. He may have been a little surprised by the limits of the track on the right. There is no Bottas onboard to exonerate him completely on a slight shift but who is ahead always has the right to choose his trajectory. It is up to the pursuer to evaluate the maneuver well.
There is no doubt that Russell was not at all happy to stay for another year in Groove, after the many promises, always unfulfilled by Toto Wolff. What happened at the crash site is also due to the Austrian manager’s unhappy handling of the young driver.
To Russell it didn’t seem true that he could attack a W12 especially if it is what he thought should be his car and to finally aim for the real points with a Williams, which in any case has made real progress. A problem that leads us to the rather embarrassing performance of Bottas, a discomfort on some problems of the car which we will discuss in more detail separately.
The many variables on Sunday played a fundamental role in analyzing some performances in the best possible way. We said that Imola, due to its characteristics, would certainly have offered different and in some respects more reliable ideas when evaluating the real values on track ( Because Imola can show more clearly how much the aerodynamic cut has affected ).
In part it happened, in qualifying more than in the race because of the weather.
According to what has been learned, in Imola the technical equipment of Honda proved to be superior to that of Mercedes, albeit in a less evident way due to the progress made, also on the PU side, by the Anglo-German team which has also granted a few more HP to the customer teams.
Mercedes has optimized the package available, also thanks to a track that “was better for us more than Bahrain” . At the moment it still doesn’t seem quite enough.
Ferrari played the role of third force well.
The SF21 showed up on the track that bears the name of Enzo and Dino Ferrari with good hopes of performing strong. The engineers with a newfound clarity (compared to 2020) have rightly decided to qualify with a higher load on the car (new floor and heavier set-up on the Ferrari SF21 to convince even in the race), being able to have a much better Power Unit. This choice in view of the race paid off despite the excellent Norris and a very efficient Mclaren on the podium.
In the first part, Charles Leclerc’s pace was clearly enough to manage the podium , not strong enough to attack Hamilton and Max but clearly more consistent than the rest. It is clear that the red flag has changed the situation.
At the moment of the interruption Charles was in control: he had practically accumulated an advantage over Norris (27 sec) with Perez and Carlos Sainz (the Spaniard at that point was making a surprising time similar to that of Hamilton and 1.6 second better than Norris) in strong recovery on Mclaren.
Has Ferrari changed front wing incidence?
During the break, let’s remember, it is allowed to make only small adjustments of the wing, the parc fermé remains in force for everything else.
However, you can replace the tires (you will remember Melbourne 2016 when Mercedes took the opportunity to mount a new set and Ferrari which was in the lead didn’t, with the Maranello team losing the race).
The problem in that phase was purely one of setup: it is true that the conditions were improving because it hadn’t rained for a while, so the long break would have helped to improve the track a lot, but the SF21 being more loaded at the rear could not afford to decrease too much the front incidence in order not to unbalance the behavior in conditions that are not completely clear in view of the return to the race. You would have risked generating a lot of understeer and making the front tires work incorrectly. One possibility could be to mount the soft (used), hoping to make them last almost 30 laps. Exactly what the orange team guessed well.
However, it should be emphasized that for the MCL35M, from FP3, a set-up with dry hopes had been opted for. Which favored this decision having found an optimal behavior on this compound between Friday and Saturday in order not to stress the soft too much.
During qualifying, Norris was the fastest in terms of top speeds on the straight from Rivazza to Tamburello. Two tenths faster than the Ferrari cars, one and a half to Mercedes, one to Alpha Tauri and a few tenths lost to Red Bull.
Charles Leclerc’s radio wasn’t working.
During the lap behind the Safety Car pre ‘rolling start’, track engineer Xavier Marcos made an attempt to warn his driver towards the high variant of the starting procedure which will not be stationary. There is no answer, nor will there be further tests from then on until the finish line when you can hear Charles thanking the team and giving a brief summary of the performance.
It is also probable that Max’s excursion to Rivazza (the only thrill for the Dutchman) did not, however, encourage Charles to take a position precisely because, having seen him come back, he needed to take advantage of his slipstream knowing the possible advantage of Lando on the straight as well as mix.
A regulatory note: had Charles Leclerc taken the first position, he should have had to give it back to Verstappen since the first lap in a restart after the red flag is evaluated as the alignment one that is covered before the start of the race.
As soon as he went full gas again, however, there was a heavy skidding in second gear for Leclerc’s SF21 which exposed him to the attack of Norris who with greater grip and aerodynamic efficiency, even without Drs, gains him 17 km / h towards the first turn.
Nonetheless, the performance of the SF21 satisfied the team, even without the podium, both in terms of driveability in the wet, something that had been partially improved at Istanbul Park with the SF1000, and in terms of consistency between qualifying and the race. A figure on which the technicians of Maranello worked for a long time, successfully, during the break.
At Maranello, they are convinced that if a lighter configuration had been chosen, for example the one used on Friday, an even better qualifying time would have been obtained, but hardly beyond the fourth position, this thought led in the direction of trying to have a certain margin in the first part of race, waiting rather difficult given the weather forecast.
Last important note: since the correlation between the track / simulator output data and vice versa has greatly improved, the first phase of updates, which will be completed in Portimao with other measures between floor, diffuser and front, immediately gave positive results. A fact that we return to see after a long time and on which the change of method desired by Mattia Binotto was based – not without risk. In the next races we will understand more, for now the big improvement is not only having reduced the gap, more than a half of it, but having understood how to manage those outgoing data.
A problem that Ferrari had been carrying around for years and that delayed or damaged developments.