Tough but possible? Drivers expect overtaking will be a challenge at Imola

2020 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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When F1 last raced at Imola in the mid-noughties it had a deserved reputation for being very tough to overtake on. The last two grands prix at this track ended with two drivers nose-to-tail at the head of the field, one unable to find a way past the other.

On the championship’s return to the track many drivers praised Imola’s fast, flowing and undulating layout. Still the prevailing view is that overtaking won’t be easy.

“It’s going to be hard to overtake,” reckons Kevin Magnussen. “It can be too hard to overtake of course – Monaco and Singapore, they’re often not very exciting races because of that. But I don’t think it’s as bad as that here.”

Much the same was said back in September when they visited another unfamiliar Italian track, Mugello. On that occasion the long straight and DRS zone meant passing wasn’t as tough as many feared.

Could the same be the case this weekend? In its current guise the track has a much longer, faster run to the Tamburello chicane than it did in 2005, and drivers can trigger their DRS for part of it.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Imola, 2020
Imola will be a hard track to pass on, says Magnussen
The general consensus is this is the only point on the track where overtaking is likely to happen. “It is quite a long, long, straight,” said Lando Norris.

“We don’t know 100% what the racing is going to be like, how easy it’s going to be to overtake. I don’t think it’s going to be maybe as unpredictable or as exciting as what it was in Portugal last weekend, just because it’s a bit more normal this weekend with how the tyres are working on the Tarmac and the wind and everything.

“Turn one on lap one is our best opportunity. And turn one is the best opportunity on every other lap as well.”

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Despite the unfamiliar course and limited practice running, teams will likely converge on the usual one-stop strategy, says Pirelli’s head of motorsport Mario Isola. However he believes all three compounds could come into play.

Esteban Ocon, Renault, Imola, 2020
Tamburello will be the key overtaking opportunity
“I’m expecting a one-stop strategy with a combination of the three compounds,” he said. “For the cars starting on the soft it is possible both the soft and medium or the soft-hard strategy, they are both very close.”

The Mercedes pair on the front row and Max Verstappen behind them will line up on the medium compound tyres.

“For the cars starting on medium they have the opportunity to do medium with a soft at the end,” said Isola. “With a lighter car, that is probably an advantage.

“Or medium-hard. Medium-hard is slightly slower compared to the other two strategies. But that strategy gives the opportunity to have a much wider window for the pit stop.”

That long run to the first corner will be Lewis Hamilton’s best chance to wrest the lead from his team mate. While Valtteri Bottas should have the benefit of the inside line for the curved approach to the first corner, his starting position is slightly off the racing line.

If he can preserve his lead into the first corner, it’s not going to be easy for Hamilton to find a way ahead. That said, he’s won from behind in both of the last two races.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Qualifying times in full

DriverCarQ1

Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Valtteri BottasMercedes1’14.2211’14.585 (+0.364)1’13.609 (-0.976)
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’14.2291’14.643 (+0.414)1’13.706 (-0.937)
3Max VerstappenRed Bull1’15.0341’14.974 (-0.060)1’14.176 (-0.798)
4Pierre GaslyToro Rosso1’15.1831’14.681 (-0.502)1’14.502 (-0.179)
5Daniel RicciardoRenault1’15.4741’14.953 (-0.521)1’14.520 (-0.433)
6Alexander AlbonRed Bull1’15.4021’14.745 (-0.657)1’14.572 (-0.173)
7Charles LeclercFerrari1’15.1231’15.017 (-0.106)1’14.616 (-0.401)
8Daniil KvyatToro Rosso1’15.4121’15.022 (-0.390)1’14.696 (-0.326)
9Lando NorrisMcLaren1’15.2741’15.051 (-0.223)1’14.814 (-0.237)
10Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren1’15.5281’15.027 (-0.501)1’14.911 (-0.116)
11Sergio PerezRacing Point1’15.4071’15.061 (-0.346)
12Esteban OconRenault1’15.3521’15.201 (-0.151)
13George RussellWilliams1’15.7601’15.323 (-0.437)
14Sebastian VettelFerrari1’15.5711’15.385 (-0.186)
15Lance StrollRacing Point1’15.8221’15.494 (-0.328)
16Romain GrosjeanHaas1’15.918
17Kevin MagnussenHaas1’15.939
18Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo1’15.953
19Nicholas LatifiWilliams1’15.987
20Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo1’16.208

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Valtteri Bottas23.432 (1)25.464 (2)24.699 (2)
Lewis Hamilton23.488 (2)25.411 (1)24.683 (1)
Max Verstappen23.750 (4)25.477 (3)24.949 (4)
Pierre Gasly23.749 (3)25.612 (4)25.069 (7)
Daniel Ricciardo23.800 (6)25.783 (9)24.937 (3)
Alexander Albon23.825 (9)25.616 (5)25.084 (8)
Charles Leclerc23.910 (11)25.737 (7)24.969 (5)
Daniil Kvyat23.813 (8)25.784 (10)25.036 (6)
Lando Norris23.790 (5)25.647 (6)25.225 (13)
Carlos Sainz Jnr23.867 (10)25.766 (8)25.202 (11)
Sergio Perez24.004 (12)25.825 (11)25.206 (12)
Esteban Ocon24.028 (14)25.934 (13)25.182 (9)
George Russell23.812 (7)25.975 (14)25.524 (18)
Sebastian Vettel24.056 (15)25.922 (12)25.198 (10)
Lance Stroll24.100 (16)26.042 (15)25.325 (14)
Romain Grosjean24.260 (19)26.097 (16)25.508 (17)
Kevin Magnussen24.281 (20)26.105 (17)25.459 (16)
Kimi Raikkonen24.138 (17)26.143 (18)25.409 (15)
Nicholas Latifi24.021 (13)26.199 (19)25.678 (20)
Antonio Giovinazzi24.200 (18)26.230 (20)25.589 (19)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Valtteri BottasMercedesMercedes299.5 (186.1)
2Esteban OconRenaultRenault297.7 (185.0)-1.8
3Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes297.6 (184.9)-1.9
4Daniel RicciardoRenaultRenault296.7 (184.4)-2.8
5Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari296.1 (184.0)-3.4
6Nicholas LatifiWilliamsMercedes296.0 (183.9)-3.5
7Daniil KvyatToro RossoHonda295.8 (183.8)-3.7
8George RussellWilliamsMercedes295.8 (183.8)-3.7
9Romain GrosjeanHaasFerrari295.6 (183.7)-3.9
10Pierre GaslyToro RossoHonda295.5 (183.6)-4.0
11Alexander AlbonRed BullHonda294.9 (183.2)-4.6
12Carlos Sainz JnrMcLarenRenault294.5 (183.0)-5.0
13Charles LeclercFerrariFerrari293.6 (182.4)-5.9
14Lando NorrisMcLarenRenault293.4 (182.3)-6.1
15Lance StrollRacing PointMercedes293.2 (182.2)-6.3
16Max VerstappenRed BullHonda293.1 (182.1)-6.4
17Sergio PerezRacing PointMercedes293.0 (182.1)-6.5
18Kevin MagnussenHaasFerrari292.7 (181.9)-6.8
19Antonio GiovinazziAlfa RomeoFerrari292.2 (181.6)-7.3
20Kimi RaikkonenAlfa RomeoFerrari291.8 (181.3)-7.7

Over to you

Will Hamilton stop Bottas converting pole position into victory? Can Verstappen keep up with the Mercedes at Imola? And can his team mate claim a result which will save his place at Red Bull?

Share your views on the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix in the comments.

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2020 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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16 comments on “Tough but possible? Drivers expect overtaking will be a challenge at Imola”

  1. How long is the DRS section? That’s the key.

    1. 9-10 seconds I think…. when I tried to count it when watching Bottas’ pole lap. I think that is almost the same time as Portimao’s zone.

    2. @davidjwest @krichelle
      It starts from the timing line.

      1. Yea, the drivers have 8-9 seconds use of the system, and that is similar to the time use of the drs in Portimao.

  2. It’s ~700m with a ~600m lead in to it. Much better than the disgrace we had last week

  3. I’d like to see either the Villeneuve chicane or Variante Alta removed to increase overtaking possibilites. Thoughts? They would need to re-profile the straight after Tamburello back to how it was pre circuit overhaul in 1995, as it now heads further to the right than it used to

    1. If the straight between Tamburello and Villeneuve was angled slightly to the left then Villeneuve could become a long sweeper with decent runoff and crash angles. The problem with removing Alta is the speed of cars entering Rivazza. The wall there is perpendicular to the direction of traffic and has houses behind it preventing any modifications.

      1. In 2001 there were some proposals where they would remove Variante Alta and change Rivazza into a chicane-ish section followed by a double left-hander, that would ensure enough runoff area.

  4. The first chicane needs to go so they get a strong slipstream.

  5. Will Hamilton stop Bottas from converting pole position into victory? – Yes.
    Can Verstappen keep up with the Mercedes at Imola? – Not on pure pace.
    And can his teammate claim a result which will save his place at Red Bull? – I doubt.

  6. I think its incredible how close Lewis and Bottas have been in Qualifying this season. Litially 100ths and 1000ths each sector – I hope Bottas can manage his tyres better and run an error free race – if he survives the first corner! If Lewis pips him to the first corner he will be be so vulnerable to Max. So Bottas will have to hope Lewis will be busy defending Max instead….

    Russell is incredible 7th in the first sector, 14th in the middle sector – were his tyres gone by the third? Could better out lap tyre management elevated him in Q3? Or a little further up the grid?

    1. Interestingly, he was still faster than Latifi in the third sector, so it may be set-up related. Or maybe Latifi had the same tire issue, who knows.

  7. Meh, main straight with DRS… Booring.

    Everyhere else however will be mighty impressive. I am driving the track several hours per day last two days. Just amazing the challange over all the bumps and slopes.

    It used to be my favourite track for years. I cannot see why overtaking would be impossible, but for sure inbetween gravel and grass, there is potential for proper racing.

  8. I don’t quite understand Mahnussen’s comment. I always liked Singapore, overtaking is possible, but the walls are close, thus keeping the drivers accountable.

  9. All this talk of overtaking not possible is just so we hail them as heroes when they do. As in, “O Lewis, what a driver! Making passes count even where it’s impossible!”

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