2021 Formula One Emilia Romagna Grand Prix preview: Filling in for the Chinese Grand Prix

Round two of the 2021 Formula One World Championship takes us to historic Imola in Italy this weekend, where a special race, the Made in Italy and Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, is being held.

The race fills in for the usual Chinese Grand Prix which was canceled this year due to disruptions caused by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. This will be the second year in a row that the Imola racetrack, officially the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, hosts an F1 race.

The anti-clockwise circuit, which in previous times has hosted the Italian and San Marino Grands Prix, has been in continuous use and updated considerably over the years. For instance, the old Variante Bassa is gone and the long straight heading into Tamburello is now broken up by two right-hand corners. More run-off areas have been added, especially at Variante Alta.

As for the track itself, it stretches 3.08 miles and is quite narrow in places, which adds to the challenge of overtaking and puts an emphasis on strategy. Although it was given fresh asphalt prior to last year’s race, it is still quite bumpy and there are some big curbs, placing notable demands on the cars and drivers.

Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari (Imola)

Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari (Imola)

Just over 70 percent of a lap is taken at full-throttle, the third-highest percentage of the 2021 F1 tracks. This includes 15 seconds of foot-to-the-floor lap time from the exit of the final corner to the braking zone for Turn 2.

Looking at the weather forecast, we should be in for fine conditions for most of the weekends. However, there’s a chance we could see some rain during Sunday’s race. Pirelli has nominated its mid-range C2, C3 and C4 tires for the race.

Following the first practice session on Friday, Mercedes-Benz AMG’s Valtteri Bottas was the quickest, followed by fellow Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton. Rounding out the top three was Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen who hopefully will challenge the Mercedes duo for victory like he did in the season opener in Bahrain.

Going into Saturday’s qualifying and Sunday’s race, Hamilton leads the 2021 Drivers’ Championship with 25 points. Verstappen is second with 18 points and Bottas is third with 16 points. In the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes leads with 41 points, versus the 28 of Red Bull and 18 of McLaren. Last year’s winner at Imola was Hamilton driving for Mercedes.

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