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Formula 1 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix 2024

Why the Imola event will be the most important weekend yet

The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix will be a crucial weekend for all of the top teams. Forming the importance of the event is the many upgrades that will appear, as well as a glimmer of hope that a title race will follow after all.

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Analysis
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Max Verstappen has enjoyed a strong start to the season with four wins in six races and currently sits atop of the Formula 1 championship standings.

The Dutchman has mirrored his stats from the beginning of 2023, as, like last year, he has been beaten twice after six grands prix. The only difference is that now he had to contest drivers from other teams. Carlos Sainz won in Australia, while Lando Norris took his first victory in Miami. 

Ideal safety car timing and floor damage to Verstappen did not change the fact that Norris had strong pace on race day in Miami, giving Red Bull's competitors hope ahead of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix this weekend.

But why do they have hope? The answer lies in updates, and lots of them. McLaren brought a major upgrade to Miami and now, at the first European race of the year, Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes and Aston Martin are set to follow suit, while Oscar Piastri will be fitted with McLaren's entire update package for the first time.

Crucial

All of these updates make the Emilia Romagna GP crucial. The circuit in Imola falls under the 'old-school' category, which usually does offer a clearer picture of the pecking order. Red Bull was beaten in Australia early this year but knocked back hard in Japan, on the same type of circuit as Imola.

It is not certain, however, that it will happen again. McLaren has visibly made a step forward and expressed the expectation that the updates would come into their own at Imola. At the same time, Ferrari and Aston Martin also expect an awful lot from their updates.

Imola will offer a clear picture over whether McLaren and Ferrari can really challenge Red Bull. For the first time since the Japanese GP there will also be a 'normal' weekend with three free practice sessions, with Red Bull hoping to strike back and prevent a title battle.

Of course, Verstappen is the towering favourite and Norris pointed to 2025 for a real battle, but if Ferrari or McLaren manage to win this race convincingly, anything can still happen. The first quarter of the season is only now coming to an end.

Mercedes and Aston Martin

Mercedes and Aston Martin have not featured much in this story yet, partly because they have so far been unable to keep up with the other three teams. Yet here too there is hope that the brand-new updates will bring about a turnaround. 

Aston Martin has always claimed that the high tyre wear in the race could be solved with new parts, and now is the time to reap the rewards.

Mercedes is still somewhat reserved. The update for Imola should be a step in the right direction, but Toto Wolff indicated that no miracles should be expected yet. The Silver Arrows will therefore want to storm the top in the second half of the season, although question marks remain over how realistic such a scenario is.

All in all, McLaren and Ferrari appear to be Red Bull's main challengers, if the updates work in Imola. 

So sit back and relax on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, because all the top teams will have to show their true potential. Will we have a battle every race from now on or will Verstappen command the field once again?

Also interesting:

In the latest episode of the RacingNews365.com podcast, Ian Parkes, Samuel Coop and Nick Golding look ahead at this weekend's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. The trio discuss last season's cancelled race at Imola, whether McLaren's Miami pace is genuine and if Mercedes teenage sensation Andrea Kimi Antonelli will make his debut before he turns 18.

Want to watch the podcast instead of just listening? Check it out here.

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