Imola GP, a crucial crossroads: from Ferrari news to the long-awaited McLaren | FB – Technical Analysis

Imola GP, a crucial crossroads: from Ferrari news to the long-awaited McLaren |  FB – Technical Analysis

Written by Carlo Platella
Finally, Europe. After six rounds, Formula 1 reaches the Old Continent, opening a championship bracket that is poor in city tracks and full of tracks that are relatively similar in layout and asphalt, more so than from Bahrain to Miami. Moreover, with his arrival in Europe We get to the heart of single seater developmentWith the aim of Ferrari and McLaren closing the gap with Red Bull.

From Miami to Imola

In Santerno we return to the track after the unexpected win for McLaren and Lando Norris in Florida. Far from the Briton’s first career success, favored by safety car timing, this was expressed in America by Lando and the MCL60. Best racing pace ever, faster every lap with a clear path from the Verstappen-Red Bull duo. However, in Miami, the world champion was slowed by damage to the lower diffuser assembly when passing over a demarcation pin, and he also complained throughout the weekend about poor convergence with the RB20, whose setup was far from optimal.

Added to all this is awareness of the unusual nature of the US circuit, particularly with regard to the poor grip of the road surface, as well as minimal tire degradation in the race, an area where Red Bull keeps its superiority secret. Despite all the mitigating circumstances of the case, the impression remains from the trip to Florida that the important package of updates introduced by McLaren has been updated. Ensures an important jump to MCL60. Imola will be the best opportunity to measure the benefits on both cars, given that Oscar Piastri in Italy will also have the full new features available for the first time.

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Norris is busy with McLaren in Miami © Copyright: Staley / XPB Images

Ferrari’s turn

In Emilia-Romagna, it will be up to the Maranello Scuderia to deliver the first updates, the last of the major teams to have yet to introduce any new features. SF-24 update It already made its debut at the Fiorano circuit last Friday, anticipating a significant package of new features on the floor and bodywork, work on which began even before the single-seater was introduced last February. Even more than the new shapes, the interest will be entirely in understanding the performance areas to target, with the red color having so far seemed lacking above all in low-mileage corners and in warming up the front tires.

However, Red Bull itself is also promising updates. More news about the RB20 arrives At Imola, after the one already brought to Suzuka, it shows how the world champions continue to benefit from the extra time invested in developing the 2024 project over the past season, which also has repercussions for the first new packages. Finally, all eyes turn to the Santerno MercedesAlso with updates coming soon. However, more than the changes, they indicate how team leaders say they are beginning to understand the physical reasons behind the unpredictable behavior of the W15, which has so far suffered from a very narrow operating window. Thus, evidence of progress will not be found in absolute time on the stopwatch, but in increased consistency of performance from one session to the next.

Miami It's time for the Sprint Playoffs
Carlos Sainz engaged for Ferrari in Miami in free practice © Copyright: Price / XPB Images

Imola is magical

The test track will be the Italian track, one of the tracks most appreciated by drivers for the driving challenges presented, which has been made more serious this year by the return of gravel escape roads at various points of the track. Except for Piratella The circuit is bad in high-speed turns From speeds of more than 200 km/h, areas where Ferrari and McLaren looked closer to Red Bull at the start of the season. On the contrary, sections such as the Tosa hairpin or the Rivazza double bend reward mechanical stability at low speeds, while the Variante Alta and the Tamburello compound are excellent indicators of the suspension’s ability to attack and digest restrictions. Therefore, Imola constitutes an excellent test for Ferrari and McLaren, who will be able to test their own updates in areas of performance in which Red Bull has shown solid superiority since the beginning of the season.

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The Santerno circuit also rewards aerodynamic efficiency, with average lap speeds approaching 230 km/h, in line with seasonal averages, while limiting the weight of the DRS system, which can only be activated when starting on the straight. As for the braking system, the risk estimated by Brembo is 3 out of 5. The main point is rivazza brakewhich is considered the most demanding on the road with a maximum deceleration of 4.6 g, with a steep slope that makes it even more dangerous.

Critical qualification

At Imola, a high level of tire degradation is expected during the race, thanks to the average asphalt roughness and moderate tire pressure. In fact, in the 2022 edition, the last edition held on the banks of the Santerno River, the tire’s limiting factor was grain, so much so that it prompted Pirelli to do so. Switch to the softest compounds in the range: C3, C4, C5. Their brilliance in the qualifying session will be crucial, in environmental conditions that promise to be cold again. Another test for Ferrari, who in Miami found some timid improvements in tire setup in qualifying, a session that will be doubly important at Imola given the historic difficulties of overtaking in the race. Therefore, in Emilia-Romagna, there will certainly be no shortage of interesting topics, for an event that will say a lot about the scenarios we will face during the European season.

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