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Early advantage Hamilton at Imola
As the second round of the 2021 Formula 1 season rolls into Italy this weekend, one of motorsport’s most iconic circuits again moves into view, as Imola hosts the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
With Lewis Hamilton sitting in a not all-too unfamiliar position at the top of the World Drivers’ Championship standings, the Briton does however, hold a lead after just a single race of the reason for the first time in six years.
Following Hamilton’s first victory on his debut at Imola last November, there will be an unseasonal nip in the air to meet the paddock and indeed the Briton this weekend, but the Stevenage driver and Mercedes, could yet use that to their advantage.
Verstappen keen to continue duel
For the all the talk of a Hamilton-Verstappen duel in 2021, the former’s 96th and earliest race victory in a season since 2015 would have left many in the Red Bull garage decidedly flat, but there was more than enough evidence for optimism.
Losing out after an 53-lap game of cat-and-mouse in the desert, Verstappen was less than a second from dealing an early blow to his likely title rival, as the Dutchman seeks to end the Hamilton-Mercedes four-year F1 monopoly.
But the Austrian manufacturer can rightly remain aptly bullish of their chances of redemption in Italy, however the Honda engine could have problems with the unexpected cooler conditions for this time of year.
Not only will Verstappen be eyeing another strong weekend, but cohort Sergio Perez also, who demonstrated his value to his new team in Sakhir.
After storming through the field to finish in P5, the Mexican cast aspersions on his opening-day car ailments, suffering a complete power failure on the formation lap two weeks ago.
Close to being without a drive this year, Perez is fancied to podium regularly in 2021, and coming sixth here last autumn, has realistic hopes of not only replicating his performance of Bahrain, but improving on it further.
Haas seeking improvement
For Haas F1, the second race weekend of the season presents a chance to re-write the early wrongs of opening day, where their optimism for the campaign ahead was given a sizeable reality check.
As both debutantes Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher failed to get to grips with searing conditions in Bahrain, the former’s bow lasted just three Turns, as the Russian crashed out.
Schumacher Jr. meanwhile, would have hoped for greater favour as the famous family name made its return to the grid, but after starting at the back of the pack with his teammate – both failing to escape Q1 – the German could only salvage 16th.
There is no doubt Schumacher Jr. will be a work in progress during transition from Formula 2, but for a driver still earmarked by Ferrari as a future player for Scuderia, could Schumacher rise to the occasion this weekend, on a track his father won at no less than seven times?
As F1 makes its return to Imola for the second season in succession, it would be hard to ignore the obvious emotions of a return to northern Italy, and the memory of Ayrton Senna.
Whilst the GP weekend is set to play out in the shadows of Bologna however, back home on British shores, thoughts will turn to Prince Philip‘s funeral, after the Duke of Edinburgh passed away last Friday.
Accordingly, sport in the UK has been shuffled around to ensure that no competition is being played during the Duke’s ceremony – either in the period before or after – and F1 has chosen also, to amend the Emilia Romagna GP timetable in respect.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral is set to take place on Saturday and the day’s on-track sessions have been moved forward an hour, with qualifying now starting at 14:00 local time (13:00 BST), with final practice at 10:00 BST.
Friday practice has also been moved as a result, to comply with timing regulations between sessions. The first hour-long session will be at 10:00 BST and the second at 13:30.
The 2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix takes place this weekend at Imola.
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