Why Mercedes isn't confident it's really ahead of Red Bull at Imola
While Mercedes struck back against Red Bull by topping the times at Imola on Friday ahead of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, the overall picture remains incredibly close. Despite having a possible edge this weekend, the reigning Formula 1 world champion squad is not taking anything for granted...
Formula 1 practice sessions are rather different in 2021. It was known going into the season that a quarter of the overall practice running had been cut with the Friday sessions trimmed to one hour each, but just how they’d play out remained a mystery.
But opening practice at Imola for the second Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, alongside what was witnessed in Bahrain three weeks ago, suggests a pattern is emerging. The terser sessions are more eventful – particularly in the opening 15 minutes. The teams have the same number of tyre sets as they did before, but have no incentive to wait for track conditions to improve, so they hit the track earlier with something of an explosion of on-track action. But this also makes the form book picture cloudier overall, as the long runs are shorter and there is more chance of disruption if things go wrong, as Charles Leclerc's late FP2 crash proved today.
Red Bull led the way after the first two practice sessions for the 2021 French Grand Prix, but only just ahead of Mercedes. There was all the usual practice skulduggery complicating the performance picture, but one aspect seen at the world champion squad gave it a ‘surprise’ lift, as it looks to leave its street-circuit struggles firmly in the past.
After its worst campaign in 40 years, the famous Italian team had to bounce back in 2021 – and it appears to be delivering. Although it concedes the pole positions in Monaco and Baku paint a somewhat misleading picture of its competitiveness, the team is heading into the 2022 rules revamp on much stronger footing to go for wins again
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OPINION: An interloper squad got amongst the title contenders during Formula 1’s street-circuit mini-break, where Red Bull left with the points lead in both championships. But, as the campaign heads back to purpose-built venues once again, how the drivers of the two top teams compare in one crucial area will be a major factor in deciding which squad stays in or retakes the top spot
Two tenth places in recent races have lifted Alfa Romeo to the head of Formula 1's 'Class C' battle in 2021, but longer-term the Swiss-based squad has far loftier ambitions. With the new 2022 rules set to level out the playing field, team boss Frederic Vasseur has good reason to be optimistic, as he explained to Motorsport.com in an exclusive interview
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