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The race weekend for Red Bull-Honda was far from simple, but it concluded with a pole position and Max Verstappen’s fifth victory of the season out of seven races. The Dutchman faced numerous difficulties, particularly with the balance of his RB20 during free practice, making it challenging to interpret the behavior of the hard Pirelli tires. While the medium tires offered excellent pace, the hard tires presented several problems for Verstappen.

The last 20 laps were a real challenge for the three-time world champion, with Lando Norris pushing hard from second place. Norris’s McLaren-Mercedes demonstrated excellent performance on both medium and hard tires, allowing the Brit to close the gap on Verstappen by three to four tenths per lap. Despite some attempts by Verstappen to respond, Norris continued to gain ground, coming within a few tenths in the final two laps.

Verstappen remained focused and made no mistakes, securing another victory. However, this result raised questions about Red Bull's supposed invincibility, especially considering McLaren's significant progress with the MCL38, as evidenced by Oscar Piastri qualifying second and Norris third. A penalty given to Piastri (three positions for impeding Kevin Magnussen in Q1) prevented McLaren from potentially occupying two podium spots. Piastri, starting behind Carlos Sainz, managed to finish fourth thanks to a well-executed pit-stop strategy.

Sergio Perez was notably absent for Red Bull. An incident during the third practice session compromised his weekend, as it did for Fernando Alonso, who also crashed into the barriers on Saturday morning. Their cars were no longer in perfect condition, and both drivers fell away from the top positions. Perez, starting on hard tires, damaged them with an off-track excursion at Rivazza, losing pace while awaiting a delayed pit stop, eventually finishing eighth and losing his second place in the championship. It was his first real misstep of the season.

Regarding Ferrari, Charles Leclerc didn’t have the pace to challenge Norris in the early stages of the race, but after the pit stop, he showed faster pace, steadily closing the gap. However, a mistake at the Variante Alta ultimately compromised his chances of fighting for second place. Leclerc can still take solace in moving up to second in the overall standings. Carlos Sainz, starting fourth, lost ground to Leclerc and found himself defending against Piastri, who later overtook him with a better pit-stop strategy. Sainz’s fifth-place finish was disappointing, and the developments brought by Ferrari didn't seem to make much difference, as Leclerc finished eight seconds behind Verstappen, and McLaren proved to be more competitive than the SF-24.

Mercedes brought further updates to Imola after the ineffective ones in Miami, but the situation didn’t improve. Lewis Hamilton and George Russell consistently remained beyond fifth place, a disappointing result for a team that dominated the F1 World Championship for seven consecutive years. Lance Stroll, taking advantage of Alonso’s tough weekend, brought points to Aston Martin-Mercedes with a gritty ninth-place finish. Racing Bulls-Honda once again had to thank Yuki Tsunoda for finishing a GP (the fourth) in the top 10, while Daniel Ricciardo delivered a less convincing performance.

Haas-Ferrari deserved some points, with Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen racing well but finishing 11th and 12th, respectively. Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly fought hard as always, but the results were disappointing, not due to their efforts. The situation was similar for Sauber-Ferrari, and Williams-Mercedes, which fell back after a botched tire change.

A round of applause goes to the organization of the Imola Grand Prix. After the cancellation in 2023 due to the flooding in Romagna, everything worked perfectly, from the paddock area to the meticulously curated fan zone. Even the press room, set up in a container next to the main grandstand and within the fan zone, proved to be an excellent solution. The influx of fans from all over Europe demonstrated the great passion for Formula 1 that persists in our continent.

© Cavalieri Garage & Co.


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