Scuderia Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has predicted the “true gaps” in performance between cars will be masked at Imola where Formula 1 will use the weekend to trial a two-day format.
A normal grand prix weekend is run over three days and consists of two 90-minute practice sessions on Friday followed by a one-hour session on Saturday preceding qualifying and Sunday’s race.
For the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola on November 1-2, the weekend will be condensed into a two-day schedule, with only a single 90-minute practice session available for teams and drivers to set up their cars ahead of qualifying.
At Mugello, where F1 had never previously raced, the order was jumbled after FP1, and Binotto sees no reason not to expect more of the same at Imola that has been off the calendar since 2006.
“If you look at Friday morning [at Mugello], for example, there were a lot of big gaps between drivers and teams,” said Binotto, who suggested they were not the “true gaps”, predicting it would be “a lot closer” at the end, and so it proved.
Mattia Binotto added: “So if you think we move that into Imola, it means that after only a session, I think that drivers will go into quali being less prepared. I think everyone tried the simulator, so everyone tried to prepare themselves to at least Mugello by learning the track on simulators. But when you come to the true track it’s certainly always quite different. So, I think Imola in that respect will certainly be very interesting.”
In practice one at Mugello, Charles Leclerc set the third fastest time for Ferrari but where there were drivers who benefited from being able to adapt quickly to a circuit, others struggled and fell away.
Racing Point set the second and third slowest times in that session, with the team typically spending more time than most focusing on race set up rather than outright qualifying pace.
Looking ahead to the return to Imola and what will be required, Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer said: “We’re going to have a significant amount of that [set-up time] removed from us.
“So we’ll have to learn much, much quicker and I think maybe we won’t see the grid as it normally is. Those that can learn quicker will have an advantage, and the simulator becomes more of an important tool.” – he concluded.