Formula 1 Racing

Do Red Bull finally face a real rival? Five Emilia-Romagna GP talking points · RaceFans

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Imola, 2022

Formula 1 prepares for its first grand prix in Europe of the season in Imola this weekend after one of the most remarkable results of recent times in Miami.

McLaren did not just win last time out, but Lando Norris pulled away from Max Verstappen who could not keep up.

Now both Norris and team mate Oscar Piastri will have the same upgraded McLaren this weekend and will arrive at Imola with high hopes of making a bid for victory.

Here are the talking points for the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix.

Do Red Bull have competition?

In Miami, for only the third time in the last 29 grands prix, a team other than Red Bull took the top step of the podium. And for the first time in that span, it was McLaren who achieved that victory.

Verstappen won F1’s last race at Imola two years ago

Although Norris certainly gained an advantage from the timing of the Safety Car, allowing him to jump into the lead of the race for the restart despite not having overtaken anyone on track, his pace over the second half of the race. Max Verstappenhad no answer for the McLaren’s lap times over the final 30 laps of the race – a sentence that hasn’t been applicable for a long, long time.

While Verstappen’s Red Bull was damaged when it clobbered the bollard at the chicane, Norris was also benefitting from McLaren’s first major upgrades of the season. Focusing on the car’s suspension, Norris was the only one of the two McLaren to have the full package on his car last weekend, while team mate Piastri had only a partial set of upgrades.

Miami has not been a strong circuit for McLaren in recent years and they could be even stronger at other circuits. Amore conventional track like Imola should reveal just how much of a threat theytruly are to Red Bull and Ferrari. If they prove themselves genuine contenders, then the dynamic of the 2024 season and the remaining 17 rounds will change dramatically.

A return to Imola

After over a decade off the calendar, Imola made a welcome return to Formula 1 during the pandemic-struck season of 2020. But after that, it has been on the calendar ever since.

Sadly, however, there was no race in 2023 as planned as a result of the horrific flooding which struck the Emilia-Romagna region last year, making this the first grand prix at Imola since 2022, when the event formed the first sprint round under the new technical regulations.

Naturally, Ferrari can expect to have vocal support across the weekend with the Tifosi there to cheer on Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz…

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