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Ferrari's raucous homecoming as Red Bull overcome failures - What to expect at the Emilia Romagna GP

Ferrari's raucous homecoming as Red Bull overcome failures - What to expect at the Emilia Romagna GP

F1 News

Ferrari's raucous homecoming as Red Bull overcome failures - What to expect at the Emilia Romagna GP

Ferrari's raucous homecoming as Red Bull overcome failures - What to expect at the Emilia Romagna GP

F1 returns to Imola for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix and the first sprint event of the season.

Charles Leclerc stretched his championship lead out to 34 points last time out in Australia by taking his second win from three races as main rival Max Verstappen again retired with mechanical problems.

Mercedes' struggles continued despite George Russell's podium pushing the British driver to second in the standings.

But with a format change threatening to mix up proceedings this weekend, here is what to expect from round four.

Raucous Ferrari homecoming

For the first time since 2019, Ferrari arrives at an Italian race track with a strong chance of a favourable result.

The Scuderia is the team to beat in F1's new era having gone through a bleak two years where podiums were celebrated with surprise.

Leclerc has been only just shy of perfect so far this year and with Ferrari entering the race weekend as the favourite, the party at the side of the track with a jubilant Tifosi will be a site to behold.

Imola is the spiritual home of Ferrari and bears the name of the team's founder and his son, Enzo and Dino.

A win for Leclerc or Carlos Sainz would be symbolic of the change in fortunes for the team.

Red Bull to get on top of issues

It may be early in the season to start worrying about potential disasters for any one team but for Red Bull, there will be serious concerns over its championship charge given the two retirements for Verstappen in the first three races.

Perez's failure to finish the season opener adds to the concern but having had two further weeks to investigate and find solutions, the team should be on top of the worries.

The facts are that Perez is 41 points adrift of Leclerc and Verstappen a further five away, whilst the team is 49 points down on Ferrari.

It is unlikely the Scuderia nor Leclerc will escape the remaining 20 races without any retirements, but with the gaps already larger between Red Bull, Verstappen and the top of both championships than they were at any point last year, the team cannot afford another slip-up.

Mercedes to take steps forward

It is unrealistic to assume Mercedes will be able to battle with Ferrari and Red Bull, but with the two-week build-up after the Australian Grand Prix, the Brackley-based team will hope to have closed the gap.

Both drivers would have been able to complete simulator work whilst the factory sought improvements to push the W13's performance closer to the top two teams.

Team principal Toto Wolff explained: "There's been a lot of hard work over the Easter weekend in the factory to bring improvements to the car and get it ready to head to the next race, and that shows the team's dedication to turning the situation around."

The key area of improvement will be around the aggressive porpoising that has been on display in the first three races and whilst there will be no quick fix for that, the team will be eager to at least take a step forward in order to provide much-needed morale.

Sprint returns to mix-up weekend

After the trails of 2021, sprint qualifying returns this weekend with some minor tweaks to the format.

Points will stretch to eighth position in Saturday's 100km to provide more incentive for the midfield battle but with more points on offer, the risk factor is multiplied.

It will be the first time F1's new breed of car is put to the test in the sprint format, which could provide the initiative with a more positive outlook than it had last year, given the racing action should be more exciting and less stagnant.

With the car changes, it feels like a trial 2.0. All we can do is wait, hopefully, enjoy and then form our opinions in the following weeks.

Rain to add extra intrigue?

Rain is expected for the first time this season and the first time with the new generation of F1 car.

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was artificially wetted in pre-season testing but the running time would have given little data given the evolution of machinery since February.

In the past, wet-weather running has offered a change in the order - think George Russell's immense second-place in Belgian Grand Prix qualifying last season for Williams.

Could this provide Mercedes with a chance to battle for the top three? Could there be a surprise podium in store for McLaren, Alfa Romeo or even Haas? Nothing is out of the question.

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