F1 2021
Round 2

Formula 1 Returns To Imola For Round Two

it Imola

2020 saw Formula 1 return to Imola for the first time in 14 years. Previously known as the San Marino Grand Prix, the 2020 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix saw a strong Saturday performance for Honda power, with four cars starting inside the top 8 on the grid.

Formula 1 Returns To Imola For Round Two

Max and Pierre locked out the second row, however the elation didn't last long with neither driver seeing the flag in a heart-breaking race for our Honda powered teams. On our first trip of the year to Italy, we'll be hoping for a strong home race with Scuderia AlphaTauri. It's early days in the 2021 season, but with everything to play for, you never know what will happen.

Toyoharu Tanabe
Toyoharu Tanabe
Honda Racing F1
The opening round of the season produced encouraging results for both our teams with the Honda PU being fastest in all practice sessions, taking pole and then finishing second, fifth and ninth in the race. However, the Bahrain weekend was not entirely trouble-free, therefore we have been working hard with both teams in this relatively long break before Round 2 to analyse all the data and take countermeasures where required. 

Formula 1’s return to the Imola circuit last year proved very popular with drivers, viewers and fans and it produced an exciting race. It was a busy weekend, run over just two days as an experiment, but this year we return to the usual three-day format. The Scuderia AlphaTauri factory is just 15 kilometres from the track, making it their home race, which is a further reason why we at Honda and their team members will be highly motivated to have a strong weekend. Last year, qualifying went very well for them and Red Bull Racing, but the race result did not reflect their true potential, so this time we hope we can have a smooth weekend leading to an excellent performance on Sunday.

Yuki Tsunoda
Yuki Tsunoda 22
Scuderia AlphaTauri
I very much enjoyed my first experience of a Formula 1 race weekend in Bahrain and now I’m looking forward to the second one in Imola. There was not so much that surprised me about Bahrain, except the large amount of media work I had to do. I was not expecting that! Of course, the race and Qualifying was new, but nothing was too surprising.
In our Qualifying in Bahrain, I have no regrets about our strategy, because being committed to trying to get through to Q3 on the Medium tyre was a good experience and for the team it was a new challenge to try and use that tyre. I learned a lot from that, even if I had expected I could have been higher up the grid with the potential to be top five or top six.
I was always focussed and didn’t feel tense or under pressure or feel I didn’t have enough time. It probably helped that we had our pre-season test at the same track. I think when we come to tracks that are new to me, like Portimao and Monaco, that will be tougher than Bahrain.
It won't be a problem in Imola, as I have driven there a lot and so I can work in a similar way to what I did in Bahrain. I will use the experience from the first race and I already have confidence in the car in Imola. The circuit has a lot of medium speed corners, as well as a few quick ones. I like the fast chicanes like turns one and two, which is something I don’t think I’ve ever experienced before. It really is a special feature of Imola. The track also goes up and down quite a lot and I really like it. I think this is why so many drivers enjoy driving there, because it is different to other tracks. I also enjoy the Acque Minerali section at turns 11 and 12 where the track goes downhill and right-right. In fact, I like all the corners, but those especially.
I will start the weekend gradually building up my pace. That will be the key, because you don’t want to make a mistake in FP1 which will make you lose your confidence. Because we have driven there before the season, as a team we can just focus on car set-up and try and maximise that advantage and hopefully we can have a good result. It’s important as it is a home race for the team and even for me, it feels like home.
It was interesting that after Bahrain, I think I got a bigger reaction from European fans than from those in Japan. It’s a cultural thing: Japanese fans want to see what I do in a few rounds before getting a proper impression. I was surprised at that reaction in Europe. I didn’t expect it, because for me, Bahrain was not a perfect weekend and I was hoping to finish higher. I am happy about the fans’ support, but I don’t feel pressure because of it, I take it as something positive and this weekend I will just get on and do my job.

Pierre Gasly
Pierre Gasly 10
Scuderia AlphaTauri
Apart from the collision with Daniel, the Bahrain weekend went well, with a lot of positives to take from it. In all the free practice sessions we were front runners and a top five in Qualifying was one of our best ever results. Overall, in terms of performance and speed, it is very encouraging for the rest of the season, starting with Imola this weekend. From what we saw in Bahrain, it seems we have a package that will allow us to fight for the big points and there is no reason for that not to be the case for the coming races.
One example of the team’s confidence was the decision to tackle Q2 at Sakhir on the Medium tyre as apart from us, there was only the two Mercedes and Max Verstappen who did it. It was a risk, but it proves our belief in our car and our performance level. Now I hope we will be able to do that again at other circuits.
With all the restrictions still in place and the need to be very careful, I have not done much since the last round. I spent a couple of days in the simulator and over the Easter weekend, while obeying all the rules, I spent a bit of time with my family.
Now we head to Imola, which is one of my favourite circuits. I love it. It is technical with a lot of fast corners which allows you to get into a rhythm and you are always busy as it is quite twisty. Last year at this track I got my best ever Qualifying with the team, on the second row. Unfortunately, that race ended early with a problem while I was lying fifth, but it was a very good weekend up until then, so now I’m keen to get back there and make up for last year’s disappointment.
The team has worked hard since the first race, as there are still areas where we can improve, even if we are clearly on the pace at the moment. But this early in the season, we can expect everyone to make progress as they get to understand their cars better and how to optimise them. So, we have to work hard to keep moving forward. Honestly, I can’t wait to go racing again as this three-week break has seemed quite long. From now on, the races come one after the other and I’m keen to see what results we can get.

Sergio Perez
Sergio Perez 11
Red Bull Racing
I thought the race was over before we even started, but we were lucky to get the car going. It’s always important to maximise the ‘bad days’ and get the most out of them and in the end it was a very positive race recovery with some good points scored for the Team. I think it was also very important to drive those kilometres and complete the race distance in order to get up to speed quickly with the car, the Team and all of the processes. I had no clue what was going on but I stayed calm. Everything just shut down, the radio, the telemetry, everything was fully off and for a moment I couldn’t do anything. I was about to get out of the car and then that second, we managed to turn the car back on. In the end I think we were very lucky I stayed in the car and we managed to get going again, even though we had to start the race from the pit lane.

I think it’s going to be very tight with Mercedes and we’re going to see if the fight is circuit related. It will be interesting to see how we are in Imola, on a very different track to Bahrain, and see how we compare against them. I learned a lot. I learned more about Max’s driving style and how the car has to be driven to extract the maximum from it. I think that was the biggest learning, I know what balance I need from the car throughout the weekend. My goal is to have a good race and I’m looking forward to the weekend. Hopefully in Imola we can come back and be in contention to fight for a podium and hopefully the win. Unlike Bahrain, qualifying is very important at Imola as you can hardly overtake there but I like it.

Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen 33
Red Bull Racing
Of course, the race in Bahrain was a great start to the season, it was a positive weekend in terms of performance but there are no guarantees heading into Imola. We had a positive start to the season so hopefully we can keep that up but it won’t be easy and we need everything to work perfectly to beat our main competition.

Of course there are always things we can do better, but that’s always easy to say after a race weekend. As a Team we always look to improve but that’s a constant thing we are working on, we always want to be thinking ahead. Even if we had won the race in Bahrain, there are always areas to improve, especially when you are fighting a seven-time world championship winning team, so that’s what we will continue to do in Imola. I’m up for the battle and it’s still a very long season.

I don’t think you can compare both cars because there are a lot of different factors such as the tyres and the aero changes but the RB16B definitely handles well so far. We’ve also only been to one track so every single weekend you have to try and find a good balance in the car again but everyone enjoys that challenge of Formula One.

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