The biggest test of F1’s new rules

This weekend’s race at Imola will be the biggest test of F1’s new technical regulations.

Imola is tight and twisty which has made it notoriously difficult to overtake over the years.

Other than the start-finish straight (with the use of DRS), it’s incredibly rare to see any overtakes during the rest of the lap.

Bahrain and Saudi Arabia had plenty of entertainment but given that both circuits had three DRS zones and several long straights, it was no surprise to see two great grands prix.

Melbourne wasn’t as action-packed but the various changes to the circuit layout improved the show.

With Imola remaining identical to last year, it’s the perfect test to see what impact the new rules have had on racing.

2022 saw the introduction of simpler front wings, a ground effect floor and wider tyres to allow drivers to follow more closely and overtake more easily.

So far at least, drivers have been allowed to follow more closely but there are still question marks over whether overtaking is more likely. 

Imola is one of the more difficult circuits to race on and with sprint qualifying giving us an extra race this weekend, it will be interesting to see how the new cars perform. 

Sprint qualifying returns

Sprint qualifying returns for this weekend’s Emilia Romagna GP with a shorter race on Saturday taking place to determine the grid for Sunday’s grand prix.

The format remains similar to how it was last year with conventional qualifying happening on Friday after a single practice session.

In a bid to appease fans and give drivers more incentive to be aggressive during Saturday’s sprint race, points are now being awarded out to the top eight finishers rather than top three.

The pole position accolade is also being given to the driver who finishes fastest in qualifying, rather than the winner of the sprint race.

Hopefully the changes made for this year will have the desired effect.

Ferrari on home soil

Ferrari will be looking to win its first race on home soil since the 2019 Italian Grand Prix at Monza

The Italian manufacturer is best placed to do so after making an impressive start to the year, winning two of the opening three races.

Charles Leclerc is in fine form and has a commanding 34-point lead in the championship over George Russell, with the F1-75 seemingly capable of performing at all types of corners.

With just one practice session ahead of qualifying due to it being a sprint race weekend, Ferrari will surely be the favourite given that it tends to hit the track running, relative to Red Bull.

With the Italian fans out in full force, it could be another weekend of celebration for F1’s greatest-ever team.

Waiting for Mercedes’ revival

According to reports in the German media, like Ferrari, Mercedes is focusing on extracting the most from its existing package despite its tricky start to the year rather than introducing major upgrades.

On average, Mercedes has been 0.8s slower than Ferrari in qualifying this season but strong reliability has allowed it to remain in contention, sitting ahead of Red Bull in the constructors’ championship.

With just one practice session before qualifying, it makes sense for teams to opt against introducing new parts.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has revealed there has been ‘a lot of hard work’ during the Easter break.

“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,” Wolff said.

“Of course, we must be realistic, it will take time to make the gains we want, but we're learning as much as we can from each race and finding avenues to push us forward.”

Redemption for Alonso?

Fernando Alonso was enjoying his best weekend for some time last time out at the Australian Grand Prix.

Remarkably, the two-time champion was on course to challenge for provisional pole position after going quickest of anyone in sector two before spinning at Turn 13 due to a hydraulic issue.

The misfortune continued into race day as an untimely Safety Car ruined his strategy and cost him a shot of finishing in the points.

After a mediocre start in Bahrain, Alpine appears to be the class of the midfield and it will be hoping to reduce the gap to Mercedes. 

Alonso has enjoyed some of his finest drives at Imola, defending hard from Michael Schumacher in 2005 to take the win for Renault.

The Spaniard will be looking for redemption as he looks to get his season back on track.