Grand Prix™


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Formula 1® returned to Imola this weekend, greeted by sunshine and blue skies after sudden floods in the region saw the cancellation of the 2023 Grand Prix at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari.

It’s always an emotional weekend too, with everyone (and I mean everyone) involved in the sport – from F1 through to its feeder series Formula 2 and Formula 3 – paying their respects to the great Roland Ratzenberger and the legend Ayrton Senna, who both lost their lives in fatal accidents at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, held at the circuit. Sebastian Vettel, who broke everyone’s hearts when he retired at the end of at the end of the 2022 F1 season, returned to the paddock to lead a tribute to Ratzenberger and Senna, having organised a track run for drivers and team personnel from F1, F2 and F3 to take part in on Thursday evening.

The tribute broke everyone’s train of thought from the biggest question on our tongues: where will Adrian Newey, Red Bull Racing’s Global Chief Technical Officer, end up when he leaves the powerhouse at the end of the year? Rumours are suggesting he’s off to Ferrari to work with seven-time Champion Sir Lewis Hamilton from 2025…

Formula 1 wasn’t the only on-track action in Imola. Formula 2 and Formula 3 raced on Saturday and Sunday too, and gave us the chaos we can always expect to warm us up ahead of the Grand Prix. F3’s Saturday Sprint Race was led mostly by the Safety Car, which came out four times for different incidents, before a brief Virtual Safety Car towards the end of the race. The young Mexican driver, Noel León, took his first F3 race win but only briefly, after receiving a penalty after gaining a sporting advantage by weaving and warming his tyres prior to a Safety Car restart. The five second time penalty left him in third, behind winner Oliver Goethe and second place Tim Tramnitz. The F2 Sprint provided just as much chaos, with the Safety Car out once again after first lap contact between Roman Stanek and Isack Hadjar which created a domino effect and led to other on-track collisions. Estonian driver Paul Aron led the majority of the race, with Franco Colapinto close behind until the penultimate lap, when the Argentinean passed his fellow rookie for P1. Colapinto’s move secured him his maiden victory in F2.

Sunday morning’s pre-Grand Prix warm up was brought to us by the F3 and F2 once again, this time with the Feature Race for both categories. Another maiden victory of the weekend for Trident’s Sami Meguetounif in the F3 feature race came after multiple overtakes on the eventual winner, who battled with his teammate, Santiago Ramos, on lap 12, after Ramos started the race on Pole. On lap 17, Meguetounif moved to within DRS range of race leader Goethe, only to take the lead himself with five laps to go. A race win for Megeutounif on home soil for Trident. The F2 feature race was nothing but chaotic from lights to flag; a slow start for Pole-sitter Bortoleto saw him drop down the order to P4, allowing Oliver Bearman to take the lead, but the Brit stalled twice in the pit lane which sent him to the back of the pack. By lap 30, drivers on the alternate strategy filtered into the pit lane; both Cordeel and Martí had tyres come off their cars as they tried to re-enter the track, forcing them both into an early retirement. Isack Hadjar took his second F2 race victory with McLaren junior driver Bortoleto close behind him in second and Joshua Duerksen in third.

Formula 1®

The Italian national anthem always goes down a treat, and this weekend, it was performed by a children’s choir on the grid. There’s always the hope of Ferrari doing well at home, for the Tifosi to see their heroes in red go well, but with the dominance of Red Bull and the recent resurgence at McLaren, it was difficult to predict who might take the top step on the podium.

The pre-race feeling never gets old. It’s either nerves or excitement or a bit of both, sitting down in front of the television and watching the Italian fans waving their Ferrari flags while the mechanics get the cars ready on the grid, then the clock ticks to three and the Formation Lap is go. The tyre strategy expected to see the drivers in the pit lane once throughout the race, but with dramatic races at Imola in the past, anything can happen. All 19 drivers lined up on the grid, with Fernando Alonso the only driver starting from the pit lane.

The green flag was waved, the five lights came on, followed by lights out. A great start for the first two drivers, but reigning World Champion Max Verstappen flew ahead, with Lando Norris following closely behind, the two Ferraris – Leclerc then Sainz – the filling in a McLaren sandwich. Hamilton gained a place on the first lap, Hulkenberg gained two, and Perez moved one place up, securing the final spot in the top 10. By lap three, Verstappen had secured himself from any DRS threat from Norris, who was over one second behind him. Quite the DRS train began to build throughout the pack, but overtaking was proving difficult no matter how close, particularly for Oscar Piastri, who used his DRS to get as close to Sainz. After McLaren’s success in Miami and their new upgrade package, Oscar’s mission was to stick with Sainz and pull off a move as soon as he could.

On lap eight, Alonso pitted to remove his soft tyres for some hard compound tyres and as he left the pits, he reported back to his team of his brakes being on fire. Alex Albon followed shortly after for the hard tyres too, but on his out lap, he communicated with his Williams team telling them of an issue with a tyre; he was slowing on track and he returned to the pits for some new mediums, then found himself a lap down. The unsafe release of his Williams saw Albon penalised with a 10 second stop-go penalty.

George Russell pitted on lap 22 for some hard tyres, with the majority of the grid still on the same tyres they started the race in. Norris followed suit and exited the pit lane to lose track position, with Perez’s Red Bull passing him. However, one lap later, Norris regained his position after overtaking Perez on the main straight. McLaren also pitted Oscar Piastri, ending the battle between the Aussie and Carlos Sainz, with both Ferraris still on track. These pit stops were vital in McLaren sealing finishing positions ahead of the Ferrari teammates, but they also started a spate of pit stops for the rest of the grid.

A trip to the gravel trap for Lewis Hamilton saw him slowing on the approach to the Variante Alta, but he recovered and his pace increased although still sitting in P9. Yuki Tsunoda pulled a fantastic move from the bag to pass the Williams of Sargeant, and Hulkenberg was quick to follow, both the Japanese and German drivers inching closer to the points positions. Sainz then passed Perez into Tamburello for fifth place. Tsunoda continued his exceptional form and pulled a move on Zhou Guanyu for P11, with the Haas of Kevin Magnussen in the final spot for points just past the halfway point in the Grand Prix.

On lap 37, after a short while close behind the Red Bull, Hamilton cleared Perez for P7 on the main straight. By lap 38, all drivers had completed their mandatory pit stop, with the majority of the grid on the white hard tyres.

Just after lap 40, Leclerc seemed to be closing the gap between him and Norris ahead of him in second; the race for the Ferrari and McLaren drivers was with each other. Leclerc’s pushing between lap 40 and 43 saw him open DRS for himself to further close the gap to Norris, the battle for second heating up as Leclerc’s engineer came over the radio to tell the Monegasque driver that he is the fastest on track. On his mission to overtake Norris, Leclerc crossed the gravel trap and cut the grass on lap 48 but only lost half a second, although fell to over two seconds behind Norris on track.

Verstappen hit traffic on lap 50, with the gap to Norris down to under five seconds and the McLaren was eight tenths quicker than the race leader, who then came over the radio to his engineer Gianpiero Lambiase, informing him that his tyres “don’t work”, but with no panic to suggest he couldn’t hold his lead.

Albon received a message from Williams to retire the car, returning to the pit lane on lap 55. After the earlier incident with his tyres, he remained at the back of the pack for his entire race. Meanwhile, the gap between Verstappen and Norris, with seven laps to go, fell to just over two seconds. With set up issues since day one at Imola for Verstappen, he reported that his car wasn’t turning how he expected.

The battle for the win saw Verstappen battling to keep the lead, despite complaining of having a low battery level, and Norris continuing to push for first, reaching Verstappen’s DRS range on the final lap. With a 0.725 second gap between the two drivers, Verstappen just reached the chequered flag, with Norris almost crossing the line alongside him. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took the final spot on the podium, with Piastri and Sainz completing the top five. Surely everyone – whether they were watching the race at the track, at home or at F1 Arcade – were on the edge of their seats during the final few laps.

Mercedes’ George Russell took the fastest lap of the race, and an extra World Championship point, with a lap time of 1:18.589. Norris took the fan-voted Driver of the Day, with 31% of the vote.

The European F1 season has only just started and it’s definitely started with a bang. The excitement is only just growing and with the iconic Monaco Grand Prix next weekend, we are more than ready for what’s to come.

All the action from Monaco can be watched LIVE from F1 Arcade Boston. Find out more about our watch parties and race weekends here


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