After a 14-year-long absence from the Formula One calendar, Imola made a return in 2020 for the inaugural Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, and it ended like many races of the season – with the Mercedes duo picking up the 1-2. Will we see a repeat result this weekend, or will Red Bull have something to say about that?
F1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix 2021 Race Preview
After a three-week-long break, the 2021 Formula One World Championship resumes on Sunday, April 18 with the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. The second race of the season will take place at the famous Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola, Italy, known for hosting the San Marino Grand Prix between 1981 – 2006.
Looking at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, the question on everyone’s mind is whether Max Verstappen can bounce back from his disappointing finish in Bahrain, or will Hamilton go two-for-two to kick off the 2021 season? And while both scenarios seem likely, there are a few reasons why we like one more than the other.
The 2020 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was a weird race, to say the least, as it featured a virtual safety car and a safety car later in the race, which has affected the drivers – some in a good and some in a negative way. Although it’s fair to mention who were the top three drivers – Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo – we wouldn’t overreact to the final results.
That is largely because there were five DNFs, including Pierre Gasly, Esteban Ocon, Kevin Magnussen, George Russell, and Max Verstappen. For that reason, it may make more sense to take a look at the qualifying runs, where Mercedes and Alpha Tauri shone the brightest, with a surprise fifth-place finish from Ricciardo’s Renault.
Yet even those results aren’t as important, given how much has changed ahead of the 2021 season and the differences of form the drivers have been displaying. And let’s not forget how much better teams that received power improvements have looked so far.
Weather forecasts are rarely spot on, so it’s hard to say how the weather will look on the day of the race. That said, we know for sure that the temperature will be fairly cool, with a very slim chance of rain.
The weekend forecast shows a mostly cloudy Sunday, with an expected temperature at around 14°C. There is a slim (25%) chance of rain, which could make the race interesting, however, even if there is any Precipitation, it won’t be heavy rain.
Like in Bahrain, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are the only two real favorites, priced at 2.25 and 2.20 respectively. Although there are definitely other capable drivers in the field who can steal the show, it’s only fair to focus more on the two and leave the rest for a later race.
The 23-year-old Dutch driver is priced at 2.20 (Bet365) to win the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix – only slightly below Hamilton – and that doesn’t surprise us. Nothing that happened three weeks back in Bahrain has made us believe that Verstappen in his Red Bull is anything short of the man to beat in 2021.
Verstappen didn’t win the Bahrain GP, but unfortunate circumstances (again) conspired against him to deny him the win. He a talented driver who drives a car with the best package – and you don’t really need much more to win the title.
Due to Red Bulls’ mishap in Bahrain, they’re now 13 points behind Mercedes, so they need to step up and make up the losses on Sunday. While we are high on Red Bull, they still have some reliability problems, and it seems like Perez is stumbling around a bit.
Now back to Verstappen – he will get the luxury of driving on a power-sensitive circuit, where the revamped Honda engines should cancel any power advantages the Silver Arrows had over the years. Much of Verstappen’s success will come down to his qualifying run – since it’s tough to overtake in Imola – but if his qualifying in Bahrain was any indication, you have to be optimistic about his chances to win.
Lewis Hamilton is undeniably one of the best F1 drivers in history, but he is no longer driving the fastest car. The new 2021 regulations have hit Mercedes hard and it’s not like they will manage to fix everything on short notice.
Although Mercedes have the tools to deal with the new problems faster than other teams, I wouldn’t count on them getting back on track until later in the season. This is a wild guess, but let’s just say it will take time – some might even argue Mercedes won’t catch up to Red Bull this season.
That is not to say Hamilton hasn’t driven well in Bahrain, but it was more Red Bull not being able to take advantage of their cars rather than Mercedes outperforming them. Of course, we have to go back to Verstappen’s mistake in overtaking Hamilton, which ended up costing him the win, however, the Red Bull driver still ended the race only 0.1 seconds too slow.
Hamilton is still the reigning Emilia Grand Prix winner, and a seven-time World Champion, but in a slower car, he won’t be as fast (duh) as he was in previous seasons.
F1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Betting Picks
If you read the article to this point, it should be very clear where we’re heading with our Formula One betting preview. That said, there is another driver we have not mentioned above that everyone should look out for.
Max Verstappen’s second chance
Max Verstappen lost the season opener, but it wasn’t due to his poor driving or issues with his car but rather unfortunate circumstances. Although things did not go as planned last time out, that doesn’t mean it won’t get better for Verstappen.
When we talk about his chances to win in Imola, the main argument we have been tooting throughout this preview is Red Bulls’ superior cars to Mercedes. Last time out, Red Bull were 0.5 faster than the Silver Arrows, in the qualifiers which is quite a big gap and it definitely wasn’t because Hamilton underperformed.
In the race, the gap was slightly smaller, but then again, we can’t take much from that racer due to Verstappen’s mishap. As said, nothing from Bahrain has changed our mind about Verstappen, who we are backing once more to win this weekend.
Prediction: Max Verstappen to win – 2.38 WilliamHill
Yuki Tsunoda could break into top six
Behind the top two, we have McLaren, who seems like the next best constructor, however, we shouldn’t overlook Alpha Tauri, who are in our mind slightly above the McLaren. Many might disagree, but Pierre Gasly out-qualified both McLaren drivers in Bahrain and would have likely finished the race in a very respectable place had he not lost his front wing.
His teammate, Yuki Tsunoda did not disappoint in his F1 debut either, having finished in ninth. It wasn’t a remarkable performance by any means, but we sense that we haven’t seen Alpha Tauri, nor the Japanese driver show their true potential just yet.
It’s important to note that Alpha Tauri used Imola to test their cars, which is only a plus. And it’s also fair to consider Tsunoda has been testing here in 2019, so he should know his way around the track more than most of the field.
Alpha Tauri might not have such good cars as Red Bull, but they are balanced with a fairly powerful unit. We don’t expect Tsunoda to win, nor is there a strong case to be made for a podium finish, but a top-six seems very likely.
Prediction: Yuki Tsunoda to finish top 6 – 3.00 Skybet