Why the Imola event will be the most important weekend yet


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

The Dutchman has reversed his statistics since the start of 2023, where, like last year, he has been beaten twice after six Grands Prix. The only difference was that he now had to compete with drivers from other teams. Carlos Sainz won in Australia, while Lando Norris took his first win in Miami.

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

But why do they have hope? The answer lies in updates, and lots of them. McLaren has brought a major update to Miami, and now, for 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 a full McLaren update package for the first time.

Important

All these updates make the Emilia Romagna GP decisive. Imola falls into the 'old school' category, which usually provides a clearer picture of the hierarchy. Red Bull was defeated in Australia at the beginning of this year, but it suffered a heavy blow in Japan on the same type of track that was held in Imola.

But it is not certain that this will happen again. McLaren has clearly taken a step forward and expressed its expectation that the updates will take effect at Imola. Meanwhile, Ferrari and Aston Martin are also expecting a lot of updates.

Imola will provide a clear picture of whether McLaren and Ferrari can truly challenge Red Bull. For the first time since the Japanese Grand Prix, there will also be a 'normal' weekend with three free practice sessions, as Red Bull hopes to strike back and prevent a title challenge.

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

Mercedes and Aston Martin

Mercedes and Aston Martin haven't featured much in this story so far, partly because they haven't yet been able to keep up with the other three teams. However, there is also hope that the brand new updates will bring about a turnaround.

Aston Martin has long claimed that high tire wear during racing can be solved with new parts, and now is the time to reap the rewards.

Mercedes remains somewhat conservative. Imola's update should be a step in the right direction, but Toto Wolff points out that miracles shouldn't be expected just yet. Therefore, the Silver Arrows will want to break into the top spot in the second half of the season, although question marks still remain over how realistic such a scenario is.

Overall, McLaren and Ferrari appear to be Red Bull's main rivals, if the updates at Imola are successful.

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



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