After a fortnight’s break, Formula 1 is back in familiar territory: Europe, with the first race of this leg being held at the Imola Circuit, located 25 miles east of Bologna, between the Tuscan Hills and the Adriatic beaches.
According to the F1 odds at Sportsbook, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc is the favorite to win the race by a slim margin after his grand slam victory at the Australian Grand Prix, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Ferrari teammate, Carlos Sainz.
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Imola Grand Prix Odds
Odds as of April 23 at Sportsbook
F1 News Recap
The Australian Grand Prix was the venue where Ferrari achieved a grand slam victory - where the driver takes pole position, leads every lap and wins the race - for the first time since Fernando Alonso achieved the feat 18 years ago in Singapore. The Ferrari looked utterly unstoppable, with Charles finishing the race with a massive 20-second lead over Sergio Perez in 2nd place.
Both Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen were forced to retire from the race - Sainz due to a driver error, and Verstappen due to another fuel flow issue.
Leclerc Vs Max Heats Up
This season, the Ferrari team seems to be making up for lost time with one spectacular race after another. Very few pundits could’ve made this prediction a few months ago, but the maturity of the current Ferrari F1 car has certainly left the rest of the field with a lot of catching up to do. In the case of Red Bull, the ‘catching up’ is related more to reliability than to outright pace.
The lack of reliability could perhaps be explained by the fact that Red Bull’s power unit supplier, Honda, has recently pulled out of the sport and the engine is currently being developed by Red Bull Powertrains, albeit with Honda’s support.
This transition may have been a lot more challenging than initially anticipated, but that hasn’t deterred Red Bull and Honda from making amends to the engine. Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko claimed that Honda has given assurances that Red Bull’s engine-related trouble is in the past.
Meanwhile, it’s been smooth sailing for Ferrari and Charles Leclerc who have accomplished two race wins in three races.
Imola Grand Prix Picks
A key factor to keep in mind for this race is that qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix will be done in the sprint format, which means that there will be two qualifying sessions - one on Friday, which will determine the starting order of the Sprint race on Saturday, and the Sprint Race itself, which will determine the starting order for the Grand Prix.
In races where the sprint format was seen last season, it produced upsets in the starting order for the race. Memorably, Fernando Alonso started at P7 after a blistering start to the sprint race that saw him storm to P5 from P11. In other words, the sprint race is an opportunity for drivers to make up for any lack of performance in their cars.
It is also a chance to race your way to a higher starting position - which, it can be argued, is less challenging than achieving a higher position with outright qualifying pace.
Given that Imola isn’t a track that is conducive to overtakes outside of the DRS Zone, starting position matters a lot more than at other circuits. As a result, both Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz will look to make the most of their sprint races.
Imola Grand Prix Race Technicals
Imola is a circuit that has played host to races since 1953, and so, is one of the world’s most beloved classic tracks. However, it was also the backdrop to the death of the legendary Formula 1 driver, Ayrton Senna. Following his passing, corners two and three were added at the place where Senna had crashed, to make the track safer.
Imola is a high-speed circuit with a host of high-speed corners and chicanes and is one of the only circuits on the calendar where drivers race in an anti-clockwise manner. This means that, while the track is enjoyed by drivers, it doesn’t necessarily produce a ton of wheel-to-wheel action.
The track record is currently 1:15.484, which was achieved during the race by Lewis Hamilton in 2020.
Imola Grand Prix Betting Strategy
Charles Leclerc is proving that he belongs in the same echelon as the champions on the grid and there is no reason to believe otherwise. Moreover, the Ferrari, with its combination of balance and performance is well-suited to a high-speed track such as Imola.
The fact remains, in the current grid, with the cars we currently have, Charles Leclerc is the driver to beat, and so, he is our favorite to win the race. However, despite their reliability issues, Red Bull’s pace has been terrific so far. Still, it seems like Ferrari is the team to beat here.