On Imola, Carlos Sainz announced that it would be more complicated than in Bahrain. On SakhirThe fact that the preseason tests were held there, and that it was a circuit with many loopholes, gave Carlos more facilities to start adapting to the car. But three weeks later, in his second race with Ferrari, the Spaniard reached the Emilia Romagna GP, to an old school track like the one in Imola, in the process of adapting to his car. The challenge was great when having to face a circuit in which it is essential that the pilot has the maximum confidence in his car to find the limits of the track. But as he did in Bahrain, where he was surprised by his rapid tuning to his new machine, this time the Madrid native again left everyone with their mouths open, rolling from the start as if he had been riding a red car his whole life, always being among the first free in Imola, going down to the final sixth position tied for one thousandth with fifth, Gasly.
“I hoped that today at least it would cost him a little because it is a circuit that does not allow errors, a very narrow track and even bumpy at some points, where we have seen that there have been some riders who have had some difficulties. And the truth is that with Carlos, from what I’ve heard on the radio, it seems that everything is going quite well. It is a normal Friday, we are not doing a qualifying program yet. We are going to do exactly what we did in Bahrain, which could indicate that the start of the session has been positive, but this has only just begun ”, he commented Marc Gené in DAZN F1, surprised by what Carlos was doing at the beginning. And at the end of the session, the Catalan could not do anything other than take off his hat for the good start of the Madrid.
On the other side of the box, Charles Leclerc had an engine problem that kept him in the garage for most of the session, but finally, after several checks, the Monegasque was able to go out on the track to set the fourth fastest time, surpassing the Madrilenian by one tenth.
Alonso, I work with the new pieces
Equally remarkable was the end of the session of Fernando Alonso, who achieved a creditable seventh position. Considering that he is still adjusting to the car and that it is his second race on his return to F1, In a hands-on track, the Spaniard started like a charm, showing that his car can fight again this weekend to be among the top 10. On this occasion, the Spaniard focused on perform aerodynamic checks with the new front wing and new soil brought to Imola, with which the French team wants to obtain greater downforce and improve air flow to the diffuser. While, Ocon rolled with the old setup for direct comparison between all parts.
And at the end of the session, when Alonso got the soft rubbers, he began to do his thing playing with the chrono to place himself in a good seventh place, even if half a second behind Sainz, making it clear that Alpine is still one step behind Ferrari and Alpha Tauri. However, there is still a long weekend to go and the image is still not clear. And is that Alonso’s seventh position could be worse if McLaren returns to perform as expected this weekend. At the moment, those of Woking began in a discreet way, with Ricciardo in the 10th square and Norris in the 13th.
The first free practice sessions are not yet representative in terms of times, and an example of this is seeing Latifi with Williams in tenth place. But they are key for the drivers to gain confidence on a track so difficult and full of traps. In these FP1 is where the shortcomings of many are uncovered, and in that sense we must once again highlight Mazepin, who went to the gravel at the start and finished the session against the wall of the last corner. The ‘rookie’ seems to be giving reason to those who said that he came to F1 without having enough money but the necessary millions.
Mercedes and Verstappen, fight very even
In the lead, what is clear is that qualifying on Saturday is going to be sheer madness. On a track where conditions are totally different from those of Bahrain, with cold, and where the main problem could be to place the tires in the correct temperature window, for now Mercedes started sending a nice battle for the final time with the Verstappen Red Bull, whom the black arrows had placed as a favorite for this race. Bottas, author of the pole in 2020 on this track, led the session with a 1’16 ”564, 41 thousandths ahead of Hamilton and with an advantage of 58 thousandths of Verstappen. Things seem very even in the fight for pole and victory, and on a track where it is so difficult to overtake, qualifying looks like an exciting fight between the three contenders for everything.
In this session we were left with the doubt of knowing the time that Verstappen’s teammate could have marked in Red Bull, Checo Pérez, who suffered an incident with his former partner (and former enemy) Esteban Ocon that prevented both from looking for their chronos.