There promises to be an exciting tussle for victory at this weekend’s Formula One Emilia Romagna Grand Prix (Race: 2pm Sunday; TV: Live on Sky Sports F1).
Lewis Hamilton topped the podium in the opening race of the season in Bahrain three weeks ago. Red Bull had a pace advantage over Mercedes for the majority of the weekend, but on race day, it was Mercedes and Hamilton who hooked things up to take the win.
Max Verstappen had to settle for second for Red Bull after being forced to give first place back to Hamilton after exceeding the track limits when overtaking him during the closing stages of the race. Valtteri Bottas took third and the fastest lap in the other Mercedes, ahead of the McLaren of Lando Norris and the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez.
How will things shake out this weekend at the Imola circuit in Northern Italy? Hopefully this Emilia Romagna Grand Prix preview can shed some light on that. The track was drafted in to host its first F1 Grand Prix since 2006 to fill a hole in last year’s calendar left by events called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has again been called upon to do so following the cancellation of this year’s Chinese Grand Prix.
Mercedes were dominant last year, qualifying and finishing first and second in a race in which no other team even led a single lap. Bottas took pole position but it was Hamilton who topped the podium on race day.
After all the talk of Red Bull’s likely superiority, it was still Mercedes and Hamilton who came out on top in Bahrain. That was at a circuit where Mercedes have generally been a bit slower than their average seasonal pace. With a further three weeks to get to the bottom of some of the issues with this year’s car, they can be expected to be closer to Red Bull on outright pace this weekend.
That raises the prospect of a tantalising wheel-to-wheel battle between Hamilton and Verstappen, the sort of rivalry the sport needs after so many years of domination from Hamilton and Mercedes. The perception that Red Bull are quicker means that Hamilton can be found at slightly more attractive odds to claim victory than he often has been in recent years, and that makes him a solid bet to triumph on Sunday.
Charles Leclerc took sixth for Ferrari in Bahrain, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren, the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, the debuting Yuki Tsunoda in an impressive drive for AlphaTauri and Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin, scoring a point for the marque on their return to the series.
With limited pre-season testing, it was notable that many of the drivers who switched teams in the off-season struggled to match the pace of the incumbents in their new teams. That was the case with Perez at Red Bull, even though he recovered superbly well from a pit-lane start to take fifth, Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin and even Tsunoda at AlphaTauri, who qualified some nine places lower than Pierre Gasly on the grid.
It was also the case for Sainz at Ferrari, although the difference wasn’t as big as in some of those other cases, and he drove a very solid race to come home not that far off Leclerc. Ferrari don’t have a front-running package, but it is certainly an improvement on last year’s car and should be capable of challenging for a top-six finish this weekend.
Sainz finished seventh at Imola for McLaren last year and has a decent chance of going one better for the home team Ferrari on Sunday.
Who might be a solid outside shout for a points finish? Kimi Raikkonen looks a viable candidate. His ninth-place finish for Alfa Romeo at last year’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix may have been a result of an attritional race rather than outright pace. It was aided by the improvement in their Ferrari power unit and a budget that seems more focused on the here and now than some of the other lower-midfield teams. Alfa look in decent shape this year.
Raikkonen and his teammate Antonio Giovinazzi came home 11th and 12th respectively in Bahrain, and Raikkonen might just be capable of sneaking his Alfa into the points at Imola.
So these are the betting predictions and tips for this F1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix preview:
Our Preview’s F1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Betting Tips Verdict
- Back Lewis Hamilton to win the race @ 6/4 with Betfred. You can check all the current F1 odds from the top UK bookies here.
- Bet on Carlos Sainz to finish in the top six @ best odds 15/8 with Bet365.
- Back Kimi Raikkonen to finish in the points @ a top price of 13/8 with William Hill.