Emilia Romagna Grand Prix 2022: five talking points ahead of Italian Formula 1 race

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Red Bull fighting for race finishes and Mick Schumacher fighting for a place, here’s what to look out for ahead of Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

The fourth Grand Prix of the 2022 Formula 1 season is just a few days away and will be the first of the year to take place in Europe.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc has triumphed in two out of the first three races while achieving a second place finish in the third.

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However, there is still much to play for with 20 races left in the busiest calendar in F1 history and Max Verstappen will be desperate to retain his title after the controversial win at the end of 2021.

Ahead of the first European Grand Prix of the 2022 season, here are five talking points to note before the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

1. DRS Zones 

For the third year running, Formula 1 has changed the configuration of the DRS Zone at Imola.

It is a high speed track and there are few places around the track where a DRS zone of significant length could be used safely and, as a result, only has one.

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The DRS Zone is used from the start/finish line down towards turn two, or Tamburello.

The activation zone is 60 metres before turn 19, but whereas the detection point was 20 metres before turn 17 (Rivazza), it is now between the Variante Alta chicane and Rivazza 1 (about 385 metres before turn 17).

Verstappen won the 2021 Imola GPVerstappen won the 2021 Imola GP
Verstappen won the 2021 Imola GP | AFP via Getty Images

Max Verstappen won the 2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix and spoke of his wish that they would add a second DRS zone saying: “That would help a lot because then you get a bit closer for the last two corners. Because you lose so much time in the last two corners that even when you put the DRS a bit earlier, you will not arrive in time for turn one.”

Well, F1 have now granted Verstappen’s wish and he will hope to make use of it as he fights his way back into the championship race.

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2. Will Red Bull be able to improve consistency? 

There is no doubt that Red Bull can drive fast. However, this is of little use if they cannot finish races.

Verstappen was close to catching Leclerc in both the first and third races but engine failure saw him fail to finish in both situations. In the race he managed to finish, he won.

While they undoubtedly have the pace to match Ferrari, they must work on fixing their inconsistencies with the engine if Verstappen is to have a chance of retaining his world championship.

He is also the only likely candidate to compete with Leclerc for the driver’s championship and if Red Bull cannot deliver, Leclerc will run away with the title, providing no excitement and thrill, as we saw last season, for first place.

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3. Can AlphaTauri win the midfield battle? 

AlphaTauri are currently sitting in eighth place, one behind Haas who finished in last place in 2021 with no points to their name.

In 2021, the Red Bull daughter team finished in sixth and had been hoping to chase Alpine as serious contenders for the midfield however the start of the season has not gone as swimmingly as they had hoped with the Red Bull engine proving to be as trying in both teams’ cars.

However, their French driver Pierre Gasly is hopeful that the new upgrades coming into play will bring with it more points and better consistency.

“We should have a couple of new parts…I don’t think we are missing much, but we need to come up with some development if we want to keep up with other guys.

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Pierre Gasly hopes for improvement in Italy Pierre Gasly hopes for improvement in Italy
Pierre Gasly hopes for improvement in Italy | Getty Images

“So personally, I’m very excited to see what it brings. It’s a new car, new regulations. We know that this season is all about development.

“The teams that manage to develop their cars faster than others will have a better season. I think it’s a big test for us, and hopefully it brings the performance we expect.”

4. Will Mercedes be able to fight back? 

Mercedes have run away with the constructor’s Championship for many years now, but for the first time since 2014, we are seeing them struggle.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were lucky to finish where they did in Bahrain and they have just two podiums in the three races so far.

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Speaking after the Australian GP, the team principal Toto Wolff said: “I think we are on the back foot. If I look at it from a mathematical standpoint and probability, I’d probably say that the odds are 20/80.

“But this is motor racing and in motor racing, anything can happen. Teams can DNF and if we unlock the potential car we are right back in the game.

“We are not going to write the title off but it’s just the current stat quo - we are 0.9s off.”

The upgrades that were brought in to the Australian GP did not do as much as the team had hoped, but Mercedes have announced that they do not intend on adding in any more updates ahead of Imola for fear of confusing themselves even more.

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Wolff added: “Nothing we did in Melbourne unlocked the aerodynamic potential or reduced the bouncing, we’re still in the same place. That’s why it doesn’t make any sense to bring updates, because you’re confusing yourself even more.”

5. How long will Mick Schumacher stay with Haas? 

Imola will be an important turning point for Schumacher. Kevin Magnussen has scored all of his team’s points despite being brought in at the last minute.

Currently sitting 17th in the driver standings with no points to his name and with a recent track record of breaking his car’s chassis, Team Principal Guenther Steiner may look to reshuffle his team’s set up and bring in Oscar Piastri, the team’s reserve driver and F2 Champion.

However, Magnussen has recently come to defend Schumacher, saying: “It’s kind of tough because he has this surname. His dad is the biggest Formula 1 driver ever and some people may think that he is here just because he is a Schumacher - but he really has what it takes to be here.

“He has done what is needed (to be in F1). Maybe more: some drivers got here and didn’t win F3, like myself. I finished second in F3 and loads of other drivers in F1 didn’t win everything before.”

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