By Fábio Mendes and Pedro André Mendes
Imola gave us fantastic images. With the grandstands full of Tifosi, who painted the grandstands of the circuit red in another flood in F1. The public missed seeing the cars on the track live and F1 gaining even more color with the fans. Inside the track, the show did not disappoint. The racing gods are still generous and have given us yet another good show. We highlight some of the best of the weekend in Imola:
# Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen was king and lord at Imola. Red Bull presented a package of improvements to the RB18, on a weekend when there was little practice time to fine-tune the updates, but Red Bull did an excellent job and put a competitive car at the disposal of Verstappen and Sergio Pérez. In wet conditions Ferrari seemed to have a slight advantage, but in dry conditions the scenario was reversed. Verstappen took pole on Friday, won the Sprint race after a bad start (Leclerc’s car wore out too many tyres) and in the race he started better and was never bothered again. An immaculate performance, perfect management of the race by the driver and his team, and an important response, keeping him in the fight for the title. Verstappen was always calm and at Imola he was above everyone else.
# Lando Norris
Norris likes the air of Italy and if last year in Imola he had already been noticed, also in difficult conditions, this year he repeated the dose. McLaren was more competitive this weekend and managed to improve the pace of its MCL36. Daniel Ricciardo was always close to Norris and the pair had similar gaits. But the big difference was that Norris had a good start and managed to guarantee his presence in the top 5 while Ricciardo made a mistake and got in the way. After the start, Norris could not stand Leclerc and gave up third place, but he was never bothered again. He rarely appeared on the broadcast but he always had a good pace and managed again well. In wet or mixed conditions, Norris excels. A great talent that awaits a car capable of bringing him closer to the struggles of Leclerc and Verstappen.
# Valtteri Bottas
After all, leaving Mercedes was a blessing. In addition to not suffering with what is happening on the side of the Silver Arrows, Bottas went from supporting actor at Mercedes to main character at Alfa Romeo. And this has been noticed in the rider’s posture on and off the track. Bottas was never a bad driver, his talent was always underappreciated, but the mental part was what stopped him from going further. Now without the pressure from Mercedes, Bottas was able to show what he is capable of and at Imola he again had an excellent race, also proving the potential of his car. The switch to Alfa Romeo might seem like a step backwards, but it brought him the calm and joy he might not have felt at Mercedes. Another good performance and proof that Alfa can be a serious case this year.
# Aston Martin
This weekend Aston Martin has reason to be happy with its drivers. After a disastrous showing in Melbourne, Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll were among the best of the weekend. Stroll does well in the rain and Vettel has a lot of experience and knows how to deal with difficult conditions like few others. It was thanks to them that Aston Martin managed to score points with both cars. In dry conditions, Aston is at the back of the field, but in the rain, the drivers’ ability made the difference. There is a lot of work ahead, but they have already scored the first points of the year, which is less of a pressure factor. Highlight for Vettel who, after losing two races, and a bad comeback, showed that who knows, doesn’t forget.
# George Russell
Alex Albon was an interesting option to be in these five highlights, but George Russell’s race deserves to be praised. With understeer problems since the start of the race, he knew how to deal with it, and when he switched to dry tyres, the team didn’t make the necessary changes. Russell had to deal with an understeer car, in addition to dealing with the oscillations that caused his back and chest pain. The W13 is anything but easy to drive, but Russell responded brilliantly to the challenge. He knew how to manage the tyres, attacked when he had to and defended very well against Bottas in the end. Russell is confirming that it was the right option for Mercedes and is gaining the respect of his team, while Lewis Hamilton seems lost.