We head to Imola for the first race of the 2023 F1 season’s first triple-header. The first five races have seen new faces emerge in both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ battles, and the Imola race promises to bring us more action on the track.
While Red Bull seem to be the clear favourites, Aston Martin are the ones who have taken us all by surprise, and we now wait to see how Ferrari and Mercedes respond to their pace.
As we head into the Imola race weekend, we take a look at a few possibilities in this article that might occur.
Time running out for Mercedes
Between 2014 and 2020, even thinking that there would be a race in the season in which a Mercedes racer would not end up on the podium would have had you ridiculed. But in 2023, after the opening five races, Mercedes just have one podium to their name and have fallen well off from the front of the grid. The German team have a car well off the pace from the leaders, Red Bull. It’s not even the second strongest car on the grid, with Aston Martin holding that spot.
A clean weekend from Ferrari would ideally see Mercedes end up as the fourth-fastest team on the grid, but Ferrari’s own struggles see Mercedes currently lie third in the Constructors’ Standings.
Both Mercedes drivers George Russell and Lewis Hamilton have called the Mercedes car “quite a handful” and have struggled to get on top of the machinery. The team have stated the car will get significant upgrades in Imola, but it is also to be noted that there won’t be drastic changes overnight.
Mercedes are currently in a bit of limbo and need to sort out their woes as soon as possible before they drop further back in the Constructors’ Standings. While the upgrades bring some promise to the Imola race, expecting Mercedes to be fighting for the win would be a daft thought. Expect them to be fighting for podiums at the most and, maybe, take a step forward towards closing the gap to Aston Martin.
Podium favourites: Mercedes
Under the spotlight
One team that have been in the news for all the wrong reasons this season are Alpine. Heading into the 2023 season with a new driver pairing of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly, the French team were upbeat; after the opening five rounds, they lie sixth in the Constructors’ Standings with 14 points and a car that’s not strong enough to fight or push the top three teams.
Alpine suffered a retirement in the opening race of the season and have failed to score points in two of the four races since, which has dented their chances of finishing in the top half of the table. To make matters worse, during the Miami Grand Prix weekend, Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi publicly called out the team and stated that there will be consequences if they didn’t step up right away, adding even more pressure on an already underperforming Alpine side, who will be looking to unlock some potential of the A523 to get closer to the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes.
Alpine’s current pace doesn’t put them as the best team in the midfield, but they have shown promise, most recently in Miami. While they aren’t podium favourites or even dark horses at the moment, should Alpine have a clean weekend, expect them to take steps forward to score a good haul of points.
Leclerc’s change in focus?
Talking about teams under pressure, there can be no team heading into a race event every single week with more pressure than Ferrari. One of the most iconic teams in the sport’s history, Ferrari have the pressure of delivering titles every single season, and to that end they have been struggling for quite some time now. Ferrari’s last Drivers’ title came in 2007, when Kimi Räikkönen won, while their latest Constructors’ title came in 2008. Since then, the Scuderia haven’t been able to win even one title, and the pressure just keeps rising every single season.
Last season, after a promising start, Charles Leclerc was touted to be a Championship contender, but Ferrari and Leclerc both ruined their chances due to driver errors and not having been able to keep up with Red Bull’s upgrades. The viewpoint at the start of this season was also optimistic, but Leclerc currently lies seventh in the Drivers’ Standings and is all but out of the title race, with Championship leader Max Verstappen almost a 100 points ahead of him.
It has been another season of poor teamwork and driver errors for Ferrari. However, although it might look like a bad start to the season, there might just be a silver lining. The title hopes evaporating might just allow Leclerc to drive without pressure, allowing us to see a more calm Leclerc, who is just out to score the best for his team without having that added pressure of a Championship fight.
Expect Leclerc to bounce back strongly in Imola — one of the two races which Ferrari can call their home race.
Dark horses: Ferrari | Charles Leclerc
Race details: When and where to watch (India)
- Circuit: Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari
- Venue: Imola, Italy
- Practice Session 1 time: 17:00 (IST), May 19
- Practice Session 2 time: 20:30 (IST), May 19
- Practice Session 3 time: 16:00 (IST), May 20
- Qualifying Session time: 19:30 (IST), May 20
- Main race time: 18:30 (IST), May 21
- Where to watch: F1 TV Pro