While Red Bull was having a big party after the Imola race, Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton fans were getting frustrated. In the race analysis, we explain what went wrong with the red and silver.
Why was Red Bull suddenly faster than Ferrari?
Even long-standing experts find it difficult to explain the current form fluctuations in the Formula 1 field. In Melbourne, Charles Leclerc was still in a league of his own. Two weeks later, there was suddenly no herb against Max Verstappen in Imola. The pendulum swings wildly from one direction to the other.
There were many reasons for Red Bull's resurrection. Sports director Helmut Marko praised the courage of his squad after the race. The engineers had some technical innovations screwed onto the car, although the sprint format meant that only one rainy practice session was left for testing. The result was a few points more downforce and around five kilos less weight.
Team boss Christian Horner saw the key to the one-two in the set-up, which two weeks earlier was completely wrong. "Here in Imola, we treated the tires much more gently than Ferrari," said the Briton. Verstappen added: "The best car doesn't work without the right balance."
With the Italian competition, the gap was not as big as the result suggested at the end. The poor starts put Ferrari on the defensive early on. "We examined the data. The drivers didn't do anything wrong. There were probably a few more wet spots on the right lane," analyzed team boss Mattia Binotto.
The fact that Leclerc couldn't get past Perez at the decisive moment was partly because the Ferrari switched to the charging mode of the hybrid system earlier at the end of the straight. In addition, Binotto regretted that the race control only released the DRS folding wing on lap 34. After the violent crash of Valtteri Bottas and George Russell last year, the FIA referees played it safe here.
Were the Ferrari tactics right?
After Carlos Sainz was maneuvered into the gravel bed by Daniel Ricciardo in the first corner, Ferrari only had one iron in the fire. The Spaniard then lamented his bad luck: "I left extra space inside and still got hit." After Melbourne, it was the second early failure in a row. Sainz lost further ground in the team-internal duel. But he didn't want to blame his opponent in the accident: "Daniel came into the pits afterwards and apologized. That's the end of the matter for me."
Ferrari tried to prevent the Red Bull double victory with a poker tactic. On lap 48, Leclerc was surprisingly asked to pit for the second time to switch to fresh soft tires. Although the service went smoothly, Leclerc got back on the track behind Lando Norris.In retrospect, one has to say that Ferrari would have been better off waiting two laps before stopping in order to increase the gap to the rear.
Horner believed that the high tire wear dictated this tactic. Binotto contradicted this thesis: "We saw a chance to attack and hoped that Red Bull would follow us to the pits." The first part of the plan worked. Because Leclerc was stuck just behind Norris, Perez was also called to the pits. After that, the gap was actually a little smaller than before. But the attack shouldn't come again.
When trying to reach his opponent's DRS window with power, Leclerc slipped into the gang in the Alta variant. The faux pas broke the front wing. The repair stop initially threw the Ferrari back to ninth place. In the end it was still sixth place. "I just wanted too much," Leclerc apologized. "I would have secured the podium better. The seven lost points can be valuable again in the World Championship fight. I'm sure I won't make a mistake like that again."
Why did Hamilton end up so far behind Russell?
Lewis Hamilton experienced one of the worst race weekends of his career at Imola. In 13th place, the seven-time world champion missed the points for the first time this season. After crossing the finish line, Nico Rosberg fired a few poisoned darts in the direction of his old team-mate: "The car is definitely not where it should be. But George Russell still finished fourth with the same equipment. Of course, that raises questions."
Toto Wolff tried to take his superstar out of the line of fire. The team boss personally apologized to Hamilton for the blunt silver arrow weapon over the radio. "The car was undriveable. Lewis is the best driver in the world. He deserves a better machine with which he can show what he's capable of. As the team boss, I have a responsibility. If things go badly, I have to slap in the end plug in."
But why did Russell finish so much further up? And that despite the fact that the adjustment of his front wing to the dry setup during the pit stop did not work, which cost a few tenths every lap. "George got ahead thanks to his good start. Lewis got stuck in a DRS train," explained Wolff. "He was significantly faster than Gasly or Albon. But you can't overtake here without the top speed advantage. Especially when there's only a dry track. He just got stuck." In the end, Hamilton even got the maximum penalty when he was lapped by Verstappen on lap 40.
How did McLaren turn the tide?
McLaren was still miles behind at the start of the season in Bahrain. In Imola, Lando Norris celebrated with the two Red Bull drivers on the podium. While there haven't been any major upgrades yet, the McLaren looks like a completely transformed car. "We now believe that Bahrain was just a blip.Due to the problems during the test drives, we simply didn't have enough data on the new car," analyzed team boss Andreas Seidl.
Norris himself doesn't trust the roast yet: "The car feels good. The balance is right. But we lack speed in all types of corners. We lose a second per lap to Ferrari and Red Bull." In the difficult conditions at Imola, however, the raw pace was not decisive. It was more important to have confidence in the car. And that is the case with McLaren. The drivers could fully Attack. And in the end there was also luck from the Ferrari slips.
Where would Bottas have ended up without the pit breakdown?
The race in Imola was a complete success for Alfa Romeo. The aerodynamics package with new underbody and rear paneling worked right away. A chassis change after an exhaust fire at Valtteri Bottas and an accident repair at Guanyu Zhou did not faze the team. The reward was two points in the sprint and ten points in the main race.
There could have been more could have been if the pit stop hadn't gone totally wrong. The wheel nut jammed in the front right. Bottas was 11.8 seconds. "With a normal pit stop we would have fought for third place because we would have passed Russell early in the race." , sports director Beat Zehnder is convinced.
The mishap increased the gap to George Russell from 1.4 to 11.5 seconds. It took 35 laps before the gap to the Mercedes was closed again. "Valtteri has an incredible feel for the tyres. He approached them carefully and was then sometimes the fastest man in the field on the medium tyres," says Zehnder.