Nowhere evokes memory and emotion quite like Imola – a circuit steeped in triumph and tragedy. Absent from the Formula 1 calendar for 14 years, it made a welcome return last season. The ferocious challenge it presents has not been dimmed by time; high speed and incredibly unforgiving, Imola demands bravery. After a rip-roaring season opener, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix promises to pick up where we left off in Bahrain.
To get up to speed ahead of this weekend, check out our latest race preview to hear from McLaren F1 drivers Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, as well as Team Principal Andreas Seidl; discover why the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari presents a very different challenge to the Bahrain International Circuit; get the lowdown on a brand-new McLaren cap that’s laden with tech; and find out how you can ask the team anything you like.
How to follow
|Where||Enzo e Dino Ferrari (Imola)|
|When||16 - 18 April|
|Start time||15:00 local, 14:00 BST, 09:00 EDT|
|Follow||TEAMStream and the McLaren App for exclusive commentary and insight|
What they say
“We’ve started the season with a good team result in Bahrain. Our aim is to keep progressing and maximising performance at each race. There are still areas we need to work on to try and unlock that extra bit of potential that can make us more competitive, but we’re pushing hard to make those steps. The first race really showed how strong the competition is this year, which is going to make for some exciting on-track battles that I’m looking forward to.
“It’s great to be back at Imola again this season. As always, we’ll be aiming to maximise the time on-track to get the most out of the car in preparation for qualifying and the race. Track position is important in Imola with limited chances for overtakes. Turn One will be the best opportunity to make a pass, and it could be tricky elsewhere with the track being so narrow. We’ll be pushing to make the most of the weekend and score some good points.”
“I’m looking forward to getting back in the car after a positive start in Bahrain. We secured a good result in that first race, and it felt amazing to make my debut for the team. I was a bit unfortunate with the damage we found on the car after the race, and there’s still a few more things to learn and get to grips with which takes a bit of time. But given that, I’m confident we’ve got a lot more performance left to unlock. We’ve been working hard back at the factory to understand how we can build on that solid start. I completely expected it to take a few races to feel comfortable in the car, but I’m feeling better after race one than I had done at the same point in previous years, so that’s really promising.
“Imola’s up next and we’re going to give it plenty. It’s an iconic old-school track with a fast and flowing layout that provides little room for error. I’m really excited to be heading back there after last year’s race where I finished on the podium. I’m definitely planning on bringing that experience from last year to help the team this weekend and fight for those points.”
“We head to Imola this week after making a strong start to the season in the opening race, but it’s crucial we stay focused and consolidate it. The team and our Mercedes colleagues are working hard as always to optimise our package and give us the best chance to fight for good points this weekend. At the same time, we continue to concentrate on our reliability and operational effectiveness to deliver to our full potential.
“It’s clear that several of our competitors have taken a step forward, although it’s difficult to be certain of the true running order from one race. This will only become clearer as the season progresses, with different conditions at circuits with different characteristics.
“We’re looking forward to racing at Imola for a second consecutive season, this time with three full days of running that will allow us to optimise the setup. Imola poses a fresh challenge from the previous race, with different cornering profiles and a narrower track layout. There are fewer overtaking possibilities than at Bahrain, which increases the importance of track position and our performance on Saturday. On Sunday we’ll need to be ready for an exciting race which will pose a number of opportunities and challenges, just as we saw last year. We’re looking forward to another thrilling weekend of Formula 1.”
What the stats say
Imola’s recent return means Lando and Daniel have only raced here once in F1 machinery. But it holds great memories for Daniel who qualified fifth last year and then went on to a bag a podium. Lando has never finished outside the points for McLaren when racing in Italy, he has a fourth and 10th place to his name at Monza, a sixth at Mugello and eighth at Imola. Of the 28 grands prix held at Imola, McLaren has contested 27 of them and featured on the podium 19 times – six of them victories.
What to watch out for
Qualifying matters, it always does, but at Imola it’s particularly important because, while the racing will be close on Sunday, there will be less opportunity for overtaking than we saw in Bahrain. Imola isn’t quite like Monaco and Singapore where qualifying is effectively king, but grid position is likely to have a huge bearing on the outcome of the race.
“Expect the field to be tight and potentially shuffled around because the nature of the circuit is very different to Bahrain International Circuit: less power sensitivity with a different make-up of corner types and speed,” says Director of Strategy and Sporting Randy Singh. “The tyres will behave differently too because of the circuit nature, but also because it’s going to be much cooler.”
That’s not all that’s different this weekend. When F1 made its eagerly anticipated return to Imola last season, no Friday running and just the one practice session on Saturday morning only added to the challenge. This year teams have the full complement of free practice sessions to play with and that means there’s lots to be learnt in the two hours of running on Friday to prepare for qualifying and the race.
Track limits were a hot topic at the season opener but are less likely to be topic du jour at Imola. This is a properly old-school circuit that punishes mistakes with its minimal run-off areas and narrow track. The fact it’s one of the few circuits on the calendar that’s anti-clockwise only adds to the challenge for the drivers, whose necks can take a hammering as a result. On the bright side, Imola’s abundance of medium to high-speed corners should suit the MCL35M and you can get to grips with the challenge that awaits by checking out our track guide with McLaren test and development driver Oliver Turvey.
What to wear
To succeed in F1 you’ve got to give it everything and, here at McLaren, that extends to our teamwear. We believe style has to be married with substance and there’s no better example of this than our 2021 Team Cap. In collaboration with New Era, we’ve packed this cap with enough technology to ensure it performs any place, any time. We’re talking Outlast moisture wicking hex heat management tech, an IceSkin sweatband designed to keep you comfortable in extreme heat and SPF 50+ UV sun protection. It all adds up to a cap that puts all others firmly in the shade.
Got a burning question for the team? Make sure you send it over to the #TheFifthDriver in the build up to the race weekend and we’ll answer the best ones during live commentary on McLaren.com and the McLaren App. Not only that, all the questions answered will make it into our new ‘Question Time’ feature on McLaren.com: the ultimate, living, breathing McLaren F1 FAQ.
Oh, and did we mention the prizes? Yep, there are plenty of those too, with the ‘question of the week’ earning some serious swag, ranging from signed caps to driver prints. The Bahrain Grand Prix question of the week came from @kerrxsmxth, who wanted to know how we decide which side of the garage belongs to Lando and which belongs to Daniel – spoiler alert, it’s not decided by Andreas going ‘eeny, meeny, miny, moe’.
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