Ferrari and McLaren chasing Red Bull in Emilia-Romagna

Beaten in Miami two weeks ago, Max Verstappen (Red Bull) will try to regain the spotlight this weekend for the Formula 1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, but beware of Ferrari and McLaren, in pole position to upset the three-time reigning world champion.

At the wheel of his powerful RB20, hasn’t the time come for “Mad Max”, championship leader, to watch his back? Arch-dominator for two years, the Dutch defending champion has “already” missed two victories in six rounds this season – during the Australian GP in March and the Miami GP at the beginning of May.

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Facing him, the Ferraris of Spaniard Carlos Sainz, winner in Australia (Verstappen had to retire with a mechanical problem), and Monegasque Charles Leclerc are in the mix.

They will try to be even more so this weekend, since they are playing at home in Italy: the Imola track, where rain could appear on Sunday, is less than 100 km from Maranello, its historic headquarters, the perfect opportunity for the Scuderia to make its fans dream.

For the return of the paddock to Europe, the legendary Prancing Horse team will make a series of improvements to its SF-24 which, according to some commentators, could greatly reduce the deficit against Red Bull.

Expectations that Charles Leclerc preferred to temper on Thursday, in front of the press: “these are “updates” which were thought of quite a while ago (…), we drove on a simulator, we felt some differences which we will now confirm on track but we should not expect a revolution.”

Before the 7th round of the season, the Italian team (187 points) is 52 points behind its Austrian rival (239 pts) in the constructors’ championship.

“Need more” for McLaren

Among the drivers, if Verstappen (136 pts) still monopolizes first place overall ahead of his Mexican teammate Sergio Pérez (103 pts), Leclerc, third, is only five points behind Pérez (98).

Behind the trio, Briton Lando Norris is 4th with 83 points. Having become the 114th driver in Miami to win a GP, the McLaren driver certainly benefited from a helping hand from destiny (an error by the race management with the safety car) to win his first GP in the elite (ahead of Verstappen, 2nd), but he also showed all the power of the MCL38 against the Red Bulls.

This victory “does not mean that our mission is over”, however, recalled the Team Principal of the team Andrea Stella.

“We need more if we want to challenge Ferrari and Red Bull more regularly,” Norris also admitted. “We won’t be there every weekend (…) I was lucky (in Miami) with the safety car and the strategy which worked perfectly, but that’s how the races sometimes take place.”

To catch up with the leading pack, Mercedes (64 pts) will also be banking on an improved W15 this weekend. Enough to challenge Red Bull and its champion?

If the boss of the German team Toto Wolff admitted that “we will have to wait several races before seeing [les] results”, the team has now “well understood what[elle devait] improve “.

Tributes to Senna

Returning to the calendar after being canceled at the last minute due to flooding in the region last year, the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix will be an opportunity for the paddock to pay tribute to Ayrton Senna, who died thirty years on this same Imola circuit.

Frenchman Pierre Gasly (Alpine) will wear a yellow helmet in homage to the Brazilian legend, “one of [s]he sporting heroes – who [l]’instigated [s]and launch into car racing.”

Sebastian Vettel, recently retired from F1 circuits, will drive the Brazilian’s 1993 McLaren MP4/8 on the circuit on Sunday morning.

On May 1, the day of his death, a ceremony was already held in the Italian city in his memory and that of the Austrian Roland Ratzenberger, who died a day before the Brazilian in another accident.


AFP

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