WORLD champions Mercedes are looking forward to battling Red Bull once again in the bid for glory at Round 2 of the F1 season at the 2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Imola, this coming weekend
Team principal Toto Wolff says it’s an Italian challenge he is relishing but admits the Mercedes car lacks pace over a single lap and that this season’s likely arch rivals have the ‘edge’ despite an encouraging result in the opener in Bahrain.
The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was added to the calendar last year to bolster the calendar in Europe after the Covid-19 pandemic caused fixture chaos. Last year’s race was won by Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, with team mate Valterri Bottas finishing second and Daniel Ricciardo of Renault third.
But nothing can be taken for granted this time out.
“The 2021 F1 season certainly began in spectacular style,” said Wolff. “It was an encouraging first race, coming away from Bahrain with a double podium, and hopefully the duel in the desert between us and Red Bull is a sign of what’s to come this year.
“We may have won the first round, but we’re under no illusions that this will be a straightforward season. The car is still lacking pace over a single lap and Red Bull appear to have the edge right now. We’re pushing hard to close the gap, and this is a challenge we relish.
“We’ve been eager to get back on track over this three-week break and round two, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, is just around the corner. Imola is such an historic and iconic venue and it’s a track the drivers really enjoy, with its sweeping nature, high speeds and variety of corner types.
“It’s quite a narrow track, which makes overtaking more difficult, but this puts more focus on strategy and makes qualifying even more crucial. We all enjoyed returning to Imola in 2020, after a 14-year gap, and it was made more special by the fact we secured our seventh Constructors’ championship on that weekend. We’re looking forward to being back there again this weekend and seeing what the 2021 race has in store!”
After a nail-biting final five laps, world champion driver Hamilton won the season-opening Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix, just 0.7 seconds ahead of Max Verstappen, putting a stopper on the Red Bull’s charge.
Bottas set the fastest lap of one minute 32.090 seconds, while taking third place, nine seconds ahead of Bahrain-owned McLaren’s Lando Norris.
Sergio Perez of Red Bull took fifth, followed, in order, by Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren), Carlos Sainz (Ferrari), Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) and Lance Stroll (Aston Martin).
With his fifth Bahrain Grand Prix win, Hamilton now has the record for the most number of victories at the Bahrain International Circuit … and he’s looking to make it a double delight at Imola.