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Emiligia-Romagna Grand Prix: Friday Team & Driver Imola Reports

240003-scuderia-ferrari-emilia-romagna-gp-thursday_cb74042a-7670-4cc7-a3d7-Emiligia-Romagna Grand Prix: Friday Team & Driver Reports

Teams and drivers report from the first day of Free Practice for Sunday’s Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix at Imola, Round 7 of the 2024 Formula 1 World Championship.

In vast contrast to the catastrophic floods that struck the region last year, it was generally blue skies over the evocative Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, steeped in history and tragedy it must be said. This year the 30th since Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger died here in 1994, and their ‘presence’ will be felt throughout the weekend, perhaps more than ever before.

When it came down to the business on track, day one saw Ferrari and McLaren reveal handy pace. The Reds unleashed a first major upgrade to their SF-24 which appears to be a step forward and Charles Leclerc duly topped the timesheets in both FP1 and FP2.

Much like the Woking outfit whose updates, at the Miami Grand Prix, resulted in a famous victory for Lando Norris, who fancies his chances in the McLaren which he believes will be even better around Imola than the Hard Rock Stadium.

Mercedes are there or there about, but probably not sure what to do to go faster as they tend to be solid on Fridays at Grand Prix weekends these days, but then the wheels fall off as they struggle to understand what makes their package go faster.

Yuki Tusnoda surprised all with P3 in the VCARB and surprisingly fastest of all four Red Bull cars, on a frustrating day for the World Champions, particularly Max Verstappen who could not find the sweetspot in the RB20 today.

Here is what the ten teams and their drivers had to say at the end of Friday at Imola:

Ferrari: It’s only Friday and it is too early to get carried away

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Charles Leclerc, P1: “It has been a positive day overall. Everything went smoothly and we ran all the tests we planned on track. We seem to be pretty competitive for now, however the conditions will change quite a bit tomorrow, especially in terms of the wind, so we will have to anticipate that.
The updates seem to be working as expected, which is another positive. It was great to see so many red flags in the grandstands!”

Carlos Sainz, P6: “A good Friday for the team. We had a strong FP1 and in FP2 we made some changes that seem to go in the right direction and I was reasonably happy with the car. I didn’t put together a clean lap with the Soft but I’m confident we are in a good place. After two Sprint weekends it was good to have time to test and try different approaches on the car, especially having a new package here. There’s still a bit of work to do before qualifying but I’m already looking forward to tomorrow.”

Team Report: “Scuderia Ferrari HP enjoyed a good, trouble-free Friday. The day’s programme was packed, based on evaluating the update package on the SF-24 which is making its debut here and on setting up the car on a complicated track especially with the new gravel traps that are much less forgiving of mistakes. The new parts on the car worked as expected, and Charles and Carlos were competitive, both on a single flying lap – Leclerc quickest in both sessions – as well as in terms of race pace. Of course, it’s only Friday and it is too early to get carried away, but the weekend on track has at least got off to a good start.”

McLaren: Lando and Oscar seem happy

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Oscar Piastri, P3: “Friday done. I think it’s been one of our better Fridays and we seem to be in a pretty good place. It’s very tight out there so we’ll see what we can find for Saturday, but it’s been an encouraging day. I’ve felt pretty comfy from the first lap this morning, so I’m excited for tomorrow. The team have done a good job with getting the remaining upgrades on my car, so thank you to them.”

Lando Norris, P12: “It’s been a reasonable day, if a little bit disrupted in places. We had a test programme with some things to try after our upgrades in Miami, which was important to fit in. But at the same time, we had to deal with a couple of little issues here and there which made completing our plan a little bit more tricky than we were hoping for. However, the car felt good, I think we made some good improvements through the day and I was happy with that. Another few into tomorrow and I think we can have a good day.”

Andrea Stella, Team Principal: “Overall, a productive day without major issues on either car, with the exception of a small electronic glitch on Lando’s car which was checked and resolved. Otherwise, we were able to go through our programme, which included investigating the package that we introduced in Miami during FP1. Due to the upgrades being introduced at a Sprint event, we didn’t have sufficient time to do all the procedures and driving that is required to monitor the aerodynamic upgrades at the last event. The good news is that all seemed to go according to expectation and the drivers could work through the set-up and better understand the tyres. While we have some opportunities to improve, and some other cars look pretty quick, both Lando and Oscar seem happy that we are in a decent position for the remainder of the weekend.”

Red Bull: It was a difficult day

Red Bull: It was a difficult day imola practice verstappen f1 red bull

Max Verstappen, P7: “It was a difficult day today. It was tricky to get a good balance and we were not really feeling comfortable within the car. It was moving around a lot and was very easy to lose the car at some points on the track. There are a few things we have to look at after today as our performance wasn’t as good as expected and we were not comfortable. We also struggled on the long runs, so there are definitely a few things to improve on if we are going to be competitive in qualifying. Today we were just off the pace, however this is still the practice session so we will look at what we can do ahead of tomorrow and see how the weekend goes.”

Sergio Perez, P8: “Imola is a tricky circuit and an old-school track but it’s important to keep our head down. The conditions were tricky at times today with the wind, and we have some work to do to make sure we are able to take the maximum out of the car moving forwards but hopefully we will be in a stronger position tomorrow. Qualifying will be really important so hopefully we will have good luck tomorrow, but I believe we are in the fight and in the mix this weekend.”

VCARB: It’s been a little bit of a mixed day

VCARB: It’s been a little bit of a mixed day at Imola practice

Yuki Tsunoda, P3: “I’m feeling good. It’s been a very positive and consistent day for us straight from FP1, and I’m excited for the coming days of our home race. Returning to a normal weekend again, I feel more comfortable and less stressed because we know we have time to progress and build up our laps. At the same time, the performance was there straight away. Now we just continue progressing from session to session, put it all together and maximise the car package. So far, top ten is likely but anything can happen and the midfield remains very tight, so we need to stay sharp. We’re obviously aiming for the highest position possible but at the same time, just try to focus and extract the performance of the car.”

Daniel Ricciardo, P11: “I’m glad to get back to the normal format of the weekend. On this first day, compared to other times when I finished P11 and I felt the lap was a good one, this time, it didn’t really feel right. I’m still trying to find lap time around here; I struggled in a few corners and certainly, there are a few things in the setup that we’re trying to improve. We’ll do a few more tweaks tonight, and I feel like another practice tomorrow will be good just to make some setup changes to improve in a few areas that I know we can. I’m still positive as I think we’re looking all right, which Yuki showed by having a good day with a great lap in FP2. Also, who knows what everyone else will do but the aim is to be a strong Q3 car.”

Alan Permane, Racing Director: “It’s been a little bit of a mixed day for us. Starting with Yuki, he was happy with his car from the very first lap of the day and has really built on that and his confidence. We ran all three tyre compounds today and he set his fastest lap on the softs midway through FP2 and was generally happy with the car. As always, there are some little things to look at tonight, to tweak and improve even more for FP3 and qualifying tomorrow. Daniel on the other hand wasn’t that happy and complained about oversteering in the first laps of the morning. That’s been improved and he’s generally getting happier with the car. There’s still work to do, but we’ll analyse things tonight and get him up and closer to the front of the grid, and with that, we can aim to get both cars into Q3 tomorrow afternoon.”

Mercedes: We’ve had a productive day at Imola

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Lewis Hamilton, P4: It’s been a good start to the weekend. We had a productive day and were able to run all three compounds. The balance of the car felt good, and I had a positive feeling out there. Several other teams look quick, in particular McLaren and Ferrari, but we’re a lot closer than we have been so far this season. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves though so let’s see how Saturday goes. I am really grateful to everyone back at the factory for working so hard to bring these updates. We are seeing improvements in the car and our performance on track.”

George Russell, P5: “The car was feeling great today and both Lewis and I were happy behind-the-wheel. We looked reasonably competitive and slightly closer to the front of the field than we looked in Miami. Come Qualifying tomorrow we will find out exactly where we stand in the pecking order. McLaren looked very strong along with Ferrari but hopefully we can find a bit more speed and get closer to them. As always, it will be fine margins. The team has done a great job to bring the updates to the car so quickly. It definitely feels like a step forward at this point. It’s great to see the motivation within the team despite having a few tough races recently.”

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director: “We’ve had a productive day today in Imola. The car has been working well across the two sessions and we have been able to improve on the balance over the course of the day. The updates we have here all seem to be doing what we expect, which is encouraging, but the experience of the last few races has taught us that we have a fair size gap to close. We are hoping to close that gap progressively with developments over the next few events. There’s still plenty that we can work on for both single lap and long run performance in the meantime. The gaps ahead aren’t that big so we’ll be looking hard to find a bit of additional speed overnight.”

Aston Martin: Both Fernando and Lance ran updates to the AMR24 in FP2

Aston Martin: Both Fernando and Lance ran updates to the AMR24 in FP2 imola practice

Fernando Alonso, P10: “It was nice to get back to a more traditional Friday schedule after a couple of Sprint weekends, allowing us to get lots of laps in as we assess the updates we’ve brought this weekend. We’ve gathered lots of data and now we’ll analyse overnight the impact the updates have had on the car. Looking ahead to tomorrow, we know traffic will be challenging in Qualifying so we’ll need to find gaps out on track and take advantage to set ourselves up well for Sunday’s Grand Prix.”

Lance Stroll, P13: “I always enjoy coming back to Imola, it’s a fun track to drive with a lot of history. Today was productive as we applied our updates to the car. We tested a lot of different things as we assessed the updates and we’ve gathered lots of data that we’ll study overnight. I’m looking forward to Qualifying tomorrow. The field is closely packed together but with a strong performance we can give ourselves a good starting position for the Grand Prix.”

Team Report: “Fernando runs updates on the AMR24 in FP1 before both drivers carry them in FP2, allowing for comparison in performance. Fernando finishes inside the top ten in both practice sessions, with Lance close in behind. Weather remains dry throughout the day, allowing for consistent running for both drivers as team assesses updates. Rain is forecast for later in the weekend.”

Alpine F1 Team: We learnt a lot across both sessions

gasly alpine imola Alpine F1 Team: We learnt a lot across both sessions

Esteban Ocon, P14: “It is great to be back driving in Imola and seeing the fans in the grandstands after a year without a race here. It was also good to have more running today and time on track with two full Practice sessions. We learnt quite a lot over the two sessions and managed to improve the car quite well from Free Practice 1 to Free Practice 2. One area we need to focus on is how much the car is bouncing, which seems to be exaggerated by the surface at this track. It is very bumpy and has changed a lot since we last came here. We need to evaluate the set-up and see what steps we can take overnight to limit the bouncing and improve the performance for Qualifying tomorrow.”

Pierre Gasly, P15: “Overall, it has been a productive Practice day in Imola. We tried a few things in the simulator last week in preparation for this race weekend and those tests appear to have worked quite well on track today. We learnt a lot across both sessions and we will work hard overnight to prepare for tomorrow. Generally, the car is starting to feel a bit more comfortable and I was able to get into a consistent window, allowing me to push more and more. I’m looking forward to the rest of the weekend and I am hopeful we can continue to make steps in the right direction.”

Williams: We have a lot of fine-tuning to do before Imola Qualifying

Williams: We have a lot of fine-tuning to do before Qualifying imola

Alex Albon, P18: “We’re obviously a little behind on track time today after the electrical issue I suffered in FP1. It took a while to find the issue and then fix it, however the team did a great job to get the car back out. It’s a difficult one because the car actually felt amazing out there; I don’t know whether it’s the track or the wind, but I feel like the car is on rails yet I’m P18, so we’ve got some work to do. Despite this, I’m enjoying it and it’s nice to come to a proper track. It’s not going to be easy but I’m happy with our progress so hopefully we can unlock some more.”

Logan Sargeant, P20: “For sure FP2 was quite heavily compromised; we only got a couple of laps on low fuel, on which we had a little trouble getting the tyre working, so that’s the main topic to focus on. The balance of the car is in a good place but we’re not getting everything working as it should around it, so we need to figure that out. I’m really enjoying the track, it’s really cool and it’s on the edge. Tomorrow will be tricky, but we’ll do our best to get everything out of it.”

Sven Smeets, Sporting Director: “The day didn’t start well with Alex stopping early in FP1 and missing valuable track time at Imola. The team did a great job of getting the car ready again, but we only managed to finish a compromised run-plan with Alex. Unfortunately, Logan also lost a lot of running time in FP2 and only had 1 lap on the Soft tyre. We have a lot of fine tuning to do before Qualifying tomorrow but both drivers are confident that we will have a competitive package to start Qualifying. There is still a small chance for some showers during the race so Sunday could become a day with lots of opportunities.”

Stake F1 Team: The team brought an updated floor to Imola

zhou imola stake f1 team

Valtteri Bottas, P16: “It was quite windy out there, and bumpy as well – that is pretty much today in a nutshell. Still, it’s great to be back racing on this track. Given the tricky conditions, we had to make some compromises in terms of setup, and only partly began evaluating the new bits on our car, which will be the main task for FP3 tomorrow morning. We expect slightly different weather conditions tomorrow, which should be closer to what we’re going to have in Qualifying and during the race. There is some work to do overnight, but I’m confident we’ll be able to extract more performance from our car and come prepared ahead of Qualifying.”

Zhou Guanyu, P19: “It was good to be back racing in Imola after two years. Today has proven to be more difficult than expected, as the red flag and some changes on the car cost us some time, however, we had a clean session in the afternoon. We tried a few different setups and still have to work on the balance of the car, but I am positive that we can make some progress tomorrow. The track is much bumpier than last time, and there’s quite a bit of changing wind – especially in the last two corners. Tomorrow, my car will be fitted with the new floor, which should give me more load and grip, and – with the team’s work and changes to the car – more confidence.”

Team Report: “Stake F1 Team KICK Sauber returned to Emilia Romagna after two years to find a bumpier track than what was experienced during their last visit. The morning session was briefly interrupted by a red flag, but both drivers, Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu, tackled the challenging windy conditions with gusto. The team brought an updated floor to Imola, which has already been fitted to Valtteri’s car, while Zhou will drive with the new parts from tomorrow’s FP3 onwards. The team is confident in the positive direction the car has taken and will continue working on the setup overnight.”

Haas F1 Team: Our limitations are pretty clear

hulkenberg imola f1 haas practice

Nico Hulkenberg, P9: “This morning we did a bit of rake running to gather aero data to compare the launch car to the current car. In FP2, we went back to the normal program and it all felt okay. It was very windy out there today, so cars were quite difficult to drive because it’s inconsistent in terms of grip, hence making it easy to run off the track a bit. Imola’s an intense track, pretty fast but also has a great feel to it as well, I’m enjoying it.”

Kevin Magnussen, P17: “Imola id a great track to drive, so it’s a pleasure to get in the car. It’s not an easy track to just jump in and be on it, but I wasn’t that far off. It’s super tight here, even tighter than usual, the midfield is crazy. I’m three or four tenths off Red Bull and I’m P17, so that tells you how close it is. You’re finding more and more time every lap and it’s probably the closest circuit to a street track that isn’t a street track because it’s so rough and raw, which I really enjoy.”

Oliver Bearman, P15 in FP1: “I’m really happy with my performance. The session was a bit shorter because of the red flag but I’m quite happy with how I got up to speed with the car. Driving FP1 in F2 as well really helped me to make that step pretty quickly. I think all the work we’re doing behind the scenes is paying off because already from the early laps I was feeling really comfortable in the car and at home. The long run also went well, and the car feels like a good step compared to last year. I’m proud of the guys, they’re having a great season so far and I can’t wait to jump in again.”

Ayao Komatsu, Team Principal: “We had Ollie drive FP1 in place of Kevin and as he’s done before, he did a very good job. The first run we used to get him familiarized to the car, and he had a decent run on the soft tire, high fuel and did well on tire management as well, so that was another really good job. In FP1, Nico had a bit of car trouble, but we largely used Nico’s car to gather data on this latest package, so it wasn’t really a performing session for him. In FP2, Kevin hopped back into the car, and I think it’s pretty clear in a few corners, we are really struggling so we’re going to look at set-up changes for tomorrow. Other than that, on the lower cornering-speed corners, our performance is decent. On high-fuel, I think our limitations are pretty clear so we’ll work on that tonight. FP2 was already definitely one step better than FP1 though, so we’ll look at what changes we can make overnight to make it better tomorrow.”

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