After a two-week gap, the 2021 Formula One (F1) season resumes with the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Imola, Italy. Imola returned to the F1 calendar last year, for the first time since 2006, with Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton picking up the win. Things might not be the same this year, though, as Red Bull and Max Verstappen will be looking to keep the pressure on their rivals Mercedes. At the season opener in Bahrain last month, we got a taste of how close these two heavyweights will be this time. Hamilton just about kept Verstappen at bay, winning his first race of the new season. You can expect more competitive racing throughout the 63 laps at Imola.
Ahead of this weekend's Grand Prix, Hamilton said that his rivalry with former Ferrari and current Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel remained his favourite. "I've got a really bad memory but I'm going to say mine and Seb's battles are my favourite so far," said Hamilton, according to a Reuters report.
But that might change soon as Verstappen now looks like Hamilton's direct and most prominent competitor. The 23-year-old Dutchman, who finished last season on a high note with a win, said the evidence from Bahrain was that he had a very competitive car, despite a few issues, and expected it to remain so at Imola, which is a very different kind of track. Speaking to Reuters, he added: It's definitely an opportunity missed but if we have the fastest car then it's not going to matter... Maybe Bahrain was a one-off, but I hope of course not. I have a good feeling it will not be."
Another driver to watch out for is AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda. The Japanese rookie exceeded expectations at the Bahrain Grand Prix, picking up championship points in his maiden race by finishing 9th. It will be interesting to see if Tsunoda, who in Bahrain became the 65th rookie to score on his F1 debut, can capitalise on the experience of pre-season testing at Imola earlier this year.
The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix race starts at 6.30pm on 18 April.