Despite rules complaints, Aston Martin are only 0.07s slower at Imola

Lap time watch: 2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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At the first race of the 2021 F1 season in Bahrain all 10 teams lapped slower than they did the previous year.

Three weeks later at Imola, the picture has changed: Two teams lapped quicker around the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari than they did when F1 visited the same venue just five months ago.

That’s impressive when you consider the steps that were taken to slow cars down this year. Various sections of the rear bodywork were cut back and revised tyres introduced.

Nonetheless, at Imola, McLaren and Williams became the first teams this season to post a year-on-year improvement in lap times. While both gained less than a tenth of a second, McLaren’s gain would have been greater had Lando Norris not had his fastest lap time in qualifying deleted for exceeding track limits.

Mercedes set the quickest lap time of the weekend so far courtesy of Lewis Hamilton’s pole-winning effort. But Red Bull know this was an opportunity missed. Max Verstappen made an error on his final flying lap – a rare one, he pointed out – costing him what Mercedes’ Toto Wolff reckoned was a solid shot at pole position.

Sergio Perez, Racing Point, Imola, 2020
Racing Point lapped Imola fractionally quicker last year
That pole for Mercedes came despite the team lapping eight tenths of a second slower than they did last season, the biggest year-on-year rise of any team. But the most intriguing year-on-year change is at Aston Martin.

The team’s CEO Otmar Szfnauer has complained bitterly over the change in regulations which he feels was intended to reduce the competitiveness of the teams running ‘low rake’ cars – i.e. Aston Martin and Mercedes. But while Mercedes have taken the worst performance hit of any team at Imola, Aston Martin are lapping within a tenth of a second of the times they set last year, when they were known as Racing Point.

The AMR01 is just 0.077s slower than the RP20 was around Imola. After Bahrain Szafnauer vowed to start “clawing back the deficit that was imposed on us by the FIA through their regulation change”. It seems they’re well on the way.

Aston Martin is one of several teams which has seen a significant change in fortunes at Imola compared to Bahrain. They, along with Williams and McLaren, have performed significantly better compared to their 2020 benchmark than many other teams. It will likely take a few more races at a range of different venues before we have a full picture of the balance of power this year.

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2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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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 “Despite rules complaints, Aston Martin are only 0.07s slower at Imola”

  1. Why no mention of the extended DRS zone? Not really a fair comparison year-over-year.

    1. Well it’s the same for all the teams and the article compares their comparitive performance…

      I’d say it’s a very fair comparison considering the high rake Red Bull which is supposed to be so much better is performing worse. The extended DRS zone has nothing to do with it.

      1. @spencer @skipgamer

        Well it’s the same for all the teams and the article compares their comparative performance

        Couldn’t have said it better myself.

      2. Agreed. The article does compare comparative performance.

        To be fair though, the article ‘title’ implies it is about AM’s year on year lap time as it references the time comparison to itself, not to other teams (perhaps I am in a minority, but when I read the title it read as “despite moaning about their handicap, they are barely any slower”), and in that case factors such as the DRS zones are relevant.

        1. petebaldwin (@)
          18th April 2021, 9:14

          Drivers are more relevant than the DRS zone.

    2. @spencer The zone isn’t massively longer than last time, so it doesn’t really have an impact, therefore, irrelevant to note.

      1. Fair point. Whilst I commented in support of the original comment, the 60M increase in zone is not going to make much of a difference.

    3. @spencer good point, we’re not comparing like with like. I’m sure the teams have clawed ball some downforce but this track is not a fair way to judge it. However, stuff like wind direction air and track temperature, driver error etc are all a hindrance to a true comparison of car performance, year on year.

  2. Tracing Point lying again, shock horror

  3. Contrived rules to stop Mercedes and make them lose about half a second to Red bull.

    1. Welcome to formula 1

    2. All rules are contrived….

  4. I still prefer mercs 2019 car over the 2020. I like the sidepods better.

    1. I am sure Aston Martin also feels the same way..

  5. mercs losing 8 10ths and still getting pole really just says how fast they were last year

  6. petebaldwin (@)
    18th April 2021, 9:12

    Stroll’s actually quicker than last year. The difference is that Vettel isn’t as fast as Perez so overall, the fastest lap by the team is slower.

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