04/20/2021 at 6:10 PM CEST
Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton saved the lead ‘in extremis’ at Imola. The champion went to the gravel on lap 31 and only providence allowed him to continue in the race, minimize ‘damage’ and climb to a second position that was worth its weight in gold. “My first mistake in a long time,” Lewis lamented. Specifically, the first in three years. The advantage of Red Bull and the pressure of Max Verstappen, relentless since the preseason, have given maximum excitement to the first two races. And F1 is ‘rubbing’ its hands with the new rivalry. With one victory for each, only one point – the fastest lap in Italy – separates Hamilton from the Dutch in the World Cup. In Mercedes, after seven years without opposition, they already know that ‘the wolf is coming’.
Red bull, a nightmare for the champion
After the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Mercedes engineering director Andrew Shovlin admitted his “relief & rdquor; for continuing to lead the drivers and constructors classification. He insisted again that Mercedes’ problems are real and that they have a performance deficit relative to Red Bull. “They will win this championship if we don’t improve our car very quickly. For now, we certainly continue as pursuers & rdquor ;. notice. The rear instability that the W12 exhibited in winter tests, as a result of downforce cuts introduced in 2021, seems fixed. Not so the tendency to warm up the tires, precisely one of the strongest areas of the RB16B, which allows Verstappen to arrive in better condition at the end of the race. In Bahrain, Hamilton won by an error by Verstappen in his last overtaking, but at Imola the Dutchman dominated at pleasure after an anthological start.
F1 enjoys its ‘War of the Titans’
Ross Brawn, F1 sporting director, believes that the current season “has all the characteristics of a titanic battle, especially since I don’t think the teams can invest a lot of resources in this year’s car with the 2022 in the works. What we see now is what we will see throughout the season. This could be a golden year & rdquor ;, augurs. The managers of F1, the American group Liberty, have seen their profits significantly reduced with the pandemic and they need the show to flow. What seemed like it was going to be a year of transition in anticipation of the drastic regulation changes in 2022, may be the most intense World Cup in recent seasons. Max goes for it all and Hamilton wants the eighth crown. Two geniuses face to face. Y_for the first time in years, balance of forces.
Mclaren and Ferrari, a duel with ‘vintage’ AIR
Long ago, not so long ago, Ferrari and McLaren were synonymous with power in F1. Two of the teams with more history and more successes. But the Red Bull millions arrived and later, Mercedes returned to the grid to establish its hegemony in the hybrid era. And both Ferrari and McLaren experienced their lowest hours. Now both teams have seen their progress and seem destined to fight for third place in 2021. At Imola, Norris (3rd) and his Mercedes-powered MCL35M, superior on the straights, beat Leclerc (4th) and Sainz ( 5th), although Ricciardo (6th) lagged behind with the other McLaren. Nobody better than Carlos Sainz, who has changed Woking for Maranello, to assess the situation: “It’s very tight. McLaren has its strengths and weaknesses and so do we. When more favorable circuits come we can be ahead & rdquor ;.
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Bottas, against the ropes in Mercedes
Valtteri Bottas is running out of credit at Mercedes. The Finnish driver avoids conflicts with Hamilton and almost always settles for a secondary role, something his critics do not forgive him. If Lewis decides to stay in F1 next year, Valtteri will have a very difficult time renewing. The strongest candidate to replace him is George Russell, who already left him in evidence in Bahrain 2020, when he relieved Hamilton by Covid. Bottas and Russell’s accident in Imola, which ended amidst insults, has not benefited him either. Attention to the reading of the boss of Mercedes, Toto Wolff: _ “I’m not sure who was to blame, but the race did not go well for Bottas, who is taking steps backwards. It really wasn’t quick, although Russell’s reaction was over the top. For me it was a career incident & rdquor ;.
Alonso and Alpine, forced to react
Fernando Alonso slipped into the top 10 on Sunday for Raikkonen’s suspension, but did not enter Q3 – as he did in Bahrain – and finished behind his teammate Ocon. “Fernando’s talent is still there, we just need a few races & rdquor ;, analyzed his boss at Alpine Davide Brivio. Alonso did not look for excuses either: “I have not performed well. Being 100% with the car will take time. I’m here to work and improve & rdquor ;, he assumed. The rain and an “old-fashioned” circuit, with no loopholes or margin for error, did not help him either after two years away from F1. The A521 incorporated new features that worked, but the road will be long and difficult.