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What the teams said - Friday in Emilia Romagna

Special Contributor

Becky Hart
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Mercedes

That was a very solid Friday for the Silver Arrows, helped in part by reliability woes suffered by their rivals. Bottas finished on top in both sessions, despite failing to improve on the soft tyres in FP2. Hamilton was narrowly behind his team mate, but both look comfortable here, citing the balance of the W12 as being much improved since Bahrain. But can they convert this form to front row grid slots tomorrow?

Lewis Hamilton – FP1: 1:16.605, P2; FP2: 1:15.561, P2

"The team worked very hard to understand what happened in the last race where we were weak and to see if we can try to tweak the car for a better set up. I also think the track has come a little bit more in our direction. We started off with a really good set up today, a few tweaks here and there but no major issues. So far, good pace from us this weekend.

"We haven't seen the best from the Red Bulls yet. It looks like they had messy sessions with traffic but it will be interesting to see just how quick they are tomorrow. Positioning is important here - it's hard to follow around this track so nailing the set-up and maximising tomorrow is going to be so important."

Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:16.564, P1; FP2: 1:15.551, P1

"The car is feeling much better than on the first day in Bahrain. As I said yesterday, it is a different track and type of circuit with different grip levels and surface. The weekend has started in a positive way, I'm much happier with the balance of the car.

"The car feels better, we still have the same type of issues as in Bahrain but less so. Still not perfect but we are only on event two out of 23 this season so hopefully we have time to fix it. I feel like we've made steps forward so that's really good. The whole grid from midfield to the front looks very close. We didn't see the best from Red Bull today but we'll see that in Q3 tomorrow. No doubt they are going to be fast. We still don't think we are the fastest car and we really need to improve on that on Saturday."

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director

"We brought a few aerodynamic updates here and our early work today confirmed that they were performing correctly. The car has also had a reasonable balance from the start which has made working through the programme relatively easy. Generating tyre temperature isn't especially easy here - the air and track are cold - but at least we're not suffering from poor rear grip like we were in Bahrain.

"The traffic has been a bit of a challenge, both drivers struggled to find clear track at times but today is about understanding the car rather than setting quick laps and I think we have done some good work in that regard. We've still not managed to get the grip out of the soft tyre on lap one so that's something we need to work on overnight. We also can't say where we stand in terms of pace as we've not seen Verstappen on a single lap or long run but both drivers are reasonably happy with how the car is working and the issues we need to solve are all within the realms of normal setup tuning."

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IMOLA, ITALY - APRIL 16: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W12 launches off a raised kerb during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 16, 2021 in Imola, Italy. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Red Bull

It was a tricky day for the Bulls, with Perez losing running in FP1 after colliding with Ocon. That one was partially blamed on telemetry issues which made avoiding other cars more difficult than usual. Worse was to come though when Verstappen pulled over early on in the afternoon session with an apparent drive train problem. That ended the Dutchman’s day, leaving him short of running heading into FP3, and left the true pace of the RB16B here a bit of an unknown quantity.

Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:16.622, P3; FP2: 1:16.999, P14

"I like Italy. The food is good and I enjoy being here but we don’t seem to have been that lucky with the driving here recently, so hopefully that will change. I had a driveshaft issue so we had to stop the car in FP2 and it wasn’t the easiest to get the car back to the pits so I couldn’t get back out on track. The car felt alright in FP1 and it is difficult to say how the second session would have been but we will still be able to look at the data and see what we can do better for tomorrow in terms of balance. Of course it would have been better to have the session but I don’t think missing running in FP2 is the end of the world as we know what we need to do tomorrow. We just have to focus on ourselves and make sure we get the best out of our package."

Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:18.228, P16; FP2: 1:16.411, P6

“It was definitely good to get a decent amount of laps in the second session today and to get a feel for the car on a different track. The track conditions are obviously very different here compared to Bahrain so I’m just learning how the car behaves on different tracks. We’ve learnt a lot today as a Team and for every lap I do, I learn a few tricks here and there. The race pace seems to be strong and the car felt good, hopefully we can pull it all together in qualifying tomorrow. With the incident this morning, we didn’t have radio so I think there was a miscommunication through there and I think it was just bad timing.”

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IMOLA, ITALY - APRIL 16: Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing prepares to drive in the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 16, 2021 in Imola, Italy. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Ferrari

After struggling on home soil last season, Ferrari look to have bounced back here with what could well be the third fastest car overall. Sainz made a couple of small errors which didn’t prove costly and had the beating of his team mate in FP2. As for Leclerc, he had his fastest lap time deleted in the afternoon for exceeding track limits before a snap of oversteer saw him finish the day in the barriers. But mistakes aside, on balance it was a good day for the team who look to have a quick car on their hands.

Charles Leclerc - FP1: 1:16.796, P4; FP2: 1:16.371, P5

"This was definitely a good day, despite the time lost in the first session and the incident just at the end of the second one. The car is quick, the balance is good and I felt at ease immediately. Of course, it’s only tomorrow that we will find out the pecking order, because maybe someone hasn’t shown their full potential.

"This afternoon, I made a mistake while pushing flat out in race trim. I’m sorry for the guys but at least there were only two minutes to go. I was pleased with my quick lap: the time that was cancelled because of a couple of centimetres would have been quickest overall and even over a long run I think we have found a good balance. The track is really great and I can’t wait to get back in the car tomorrow for qualifying, when I think a good result can be within our grasp."

Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:16.888, P6; FP2: 1:15.834, P4

"It was an important day for me as I was looking forward to driving the car for the first time somewhere other than Bahrain. The different corners, tarmac, temperatures, etc. made it an interesting day for sure. It seems we could be a bit more competitive this weekend and, in general, the feeling with the car was positive as the conditions suits us better.

"You can feel some more grip and I am enjoying it out there, building up the confidence lap by lap trying to find the limit around the entire track. I’m not quite there yet, but today was a good start to the weekend and we still have FP3 to fine tune everything ahead of qualifying tomorrow."

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2021 Emilia Romagna GP FP2: Leclerc hits the wall after losing rear

AlphaTauri

Tsunoda was another driver to struggle in FP1, running through the gravel before a PU issue was detected, which left him short of laps in the morning. Gasly though made up for that by looking very quick in the morning session, mixing it with the top teams. The Frenchman again impressed in the afternoon, and having qualified well here last season, he certainly looks well placed to repeat that feat.

Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:16.888, P5; FP2: 1:15.629, P3

“I think this has been one of our best Fridays as a team, P4 this morning and P3 this afternoon, and I was so close to the top guys. I’ve felt good in the car since the first lap and I managed to push pretty hard, as well as drive the way I wanted, so I think it’s been a successful day. We focused on short runs initially with the Softs, which looked strong pace wise and then completed some high-fuel laps in preparation for the race on Sunday. We’ve continued to work hard to improve against our main rivals in the midfield and I think, so far, we’ve shown that the pace is good. We’ll analyse the data that we’ve collected again tonight and hopefully we can find a little bit more again in qualifying tomorrow.”

Yuki Tsunoda - FP1: 1:19.781, P20; FP2: 1:16.419, P7

“I didn’t manage to complete many laps during FP1, due to an issue, and only managed four push laps in total but the car felt good whilst I was out. The team fixed the issue during the break and I was able to build-up my pace in FP2 as I continued to push more – hopefully I’ll be able to improve again in tomorrow’s practice session ahead of qualifying. I’ve completed a lot of laps here pre-season, but I think I still managed to gain a lot from the sessions today. I particularly learnt about tyre management around this circuit and have a lot of interesting data from the softs that I can now go and analyse.”

Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer

"It’s great to be back here racing at the team’s home circuit, it’s such an amazing track – I know the drivers love it and we certainly do too from an engineering side. FP1 was a slightly more difficult session than normal due to some of the systems being down – which obviously was the same for everyone – but it shows how reliant we are on these, particularly the timings, GPS and TV feed. It definitely made it more of a challenge for us engineers. During the morning session we completed some aero testing on Yuki’s car, as we’ve brought some new components here this weekend and want to sign these off ahead of the race. Unfortunately, we had a PU issue on Yuki’s car so only managed limited running in FP1, which meant he wasn’t able to get up to speed quite so quickly. We made some changes to his car ahead of FP2 and everything seems to be back to normal now, which is positive. Pierre completed a standard run plan in FP1; we mostly tried to understand how to operate the tyres in these unusually cold temperatures – concentrating on how to maximise them during the short runs and how to limit the graining during the longer runs. Overall, I think it’s looking positive so far this weekend – the performance over the shorter runs is there and we’ve now got to work with the data tonight to ensure that the pace is there for qualifying tomorrow.”

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IMOLA, ITALY - APRIL 16: Pierre Gasly of Scuderia AlphaTauri and France during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 16, 2021 in Imola, Italy. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

McLaren

A difficult day to get a read on McLaren, with both drivers opting to concentrate more on longer runs in the disrupted FP1 session. Norris did get a clean lap in on the softs in FP2, which was good enough for the top 10 but it is yet to be seen what Ricciardo can do around this track. He has good memories here, having finished on the podium last year, but in such a congested midfield will he make it to the top 10 come qualifying?

Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:17.769, P10; FP2: 1:17.281, P18

“It’s really cool to be back on this track. It’s pretty awesome. The day itself was a bit difficult. We’ve definitely got a few things to work on overnight to get some more out of the car. It was a challenging day, but we’ve got a session in the morning tomorrow to figure it out ahead of quali. We’ll try to address the issues today and put ourselves in a good place for tomorrow.”

Lando Norris - FP1: 1:17.935, P13; FP2: 1:16.485, P8

"Tricky day, just because it was quite messy – not from our side necessarily, but because of the yellow flags, red flags and things like that. There were also a few problems with radio and things which again weren't our fault, but made it a hectic session. Many things to work on going into tomorrow. I wouldn't say we're as confident as we were a couple of weeks ago, but I think we can make some good improvements going into tomorrow to make the car a bit nicer to drive, a bit more comfortable and give myself a bit more confidence as well. I don’t think we’re in a bad position, but we definitely have some work to do."

Andrea Stella, Racing Director

“The new format of shorter sessions on Friday means we need to be very efficient to get through the programme and do all of the laps in the plan. Today we almost achieved that, but missed out because of red flags, yellow flags and VSC interruptions. There were also problems with radio and video comms that affected the entire paddock.

“Despite these issues, it was a productive day. It’s pretty clear that there are some areas in which we have to improve before qualifying. The midfield pack seems to be very tight, and it will be interesting to see how the competitive position evolves. As usual, we’ve got to be at our best to do well in qualifying and put ourselves in a good position to score good points on Sunday.”

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IMOLA, ITALY - APRIL 16: Sparks fly from the car of Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) McLaren F1 Team MCL35M Mercedes during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 16, 2021 in Imola, Italy. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Alpine

While Alonso spent much of his morning testing some upgraded parts on the A521, running aero rakes as the team gathered data, Ocon was in the thick of the action for the wrong reasons. He collided with the Red Bull of Perez in an incident which left both cars stranded out on track. Making up for lost time in FP2, the Frenchman came straight out and looked to bounce back immediately with some strong lap times. Both drivers went for their soft tyre laps slightly earlier than their rivals, but in such a tight midfield, they might need to find something special to make Q3 tomorrow.

Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:18.360, P17; FP2: 1:16.817, P11

“We’ve made a positive start to the weekend even with this morning’s incident. Fortunately for Sergio [Perez] and I, we didn’t lose too much track time, which is important with the one-hour sessions. The incident was unfortunate, but we were able to put it behind us and move on to the afternoon. The mechanics did a great job in turning the car around on time, so thanks to them for their quick and solid work. I think we have a solid base to work from. There are still some things to tweak with the balance, but the car behaves quite well here and I’m looking forward to pushing on over the next two days.”

Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:17.457, P7; FP2: 1:16.835, P13

“It was a good Friday and we completed our programme today with no issues. Apart from the red flags and other incidents that stopped the two sessions, I was happy with the test items we put on the car and I felt an improvement in the performance. Let’s see where we are tomorrow and hopefully there is a little more still to come. As we suspected it’s going to be very close again so qualifying should be interesting. It was great to drive again in Imola and feel the car in these high grip conditions.”

Davide Brivio, Racing Director

“We did a good job today in Friday practice. This morning we had the small accident with Esteban. It wasn’t a big issue and there were no major concerns, meaning we could continue with our work for the second session. In the afternoon, we did some short runs and then long runs with different tyres on both cars and showed good pace. Both drivers are quite happy after today. Of course, we know qualifying will be important here. It’s a track where overtaking is difficult, so we have to put a lot of effort into tomorrow and aim to put both cars in a good starting position for the race.”

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IMOLA, ITALY - APRIL 16: Esteban Ocon of France and Alpine F1 Team inspects his car after stopping on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 16, 2021 in Imola, Italy. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Aston Martin

Another team who didn’t really show their true colours today were Aston Martin. Stroll finished on the fringes of the top 10 in both sessions, while Vettel struggled more by comparison. With their low rake design still seemingly off the pace of their midfield rivals, it will be interesting to see where they shake out come qualifying.

Sebastian Vettel – FP1: 1:17.984, P14; FP2: 1:17.092, P15

"Part of today’s programme involved testing some new aero parts and the early signs are encouraging – especially in terms of my feeling in the car. That should help us take a step forward this weekend. I believe we can be more competitive than in Bahrain. We learned a huge amount from the first race and the work over the last few weeks – in the factory and here at the track – has certainly helped us make some improvements ahead of this weekend. I think the data we have from today’s sessions will help us take some more steps forward ahead of qualifying."

Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:17.489, P8; FP2: 1:16.737, P10

"It is great to be back in Imola because it is such an awesome circuit. It is really satisfying to drive, especially the way you can attack the circuit and use the kerbs. It reminds me of my karting days. I would call it an old school circuit; it punishes errors, and I think that’s why the drivers enjoy it so much. It is quite different from the open layout of Bahrain and the car naturally feels different as a result, but I felt good today and we completed some important work. We now have plenty of information to analyse this evening, but it has been a promising start to the weekend."

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IMOLA, ITALY - APRIL 16: Lance Stroll of Canada driving the (18) Aston Martin AMR21 Mercedes on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 16, 2021 in Imola, Italy. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Alfa Romeo

A solid opening day for Alfa Romeo, with both drivers getting through their programmes and keeping well away from the thick of the action. Raikkonen is one of two drivers with experience here from when the track used to feature on the calendar, and with Giovinazzi looking for a strong result on home soil, those two should push each other hard tomorrow.

Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:17.883, P12; FP2: 1:17.273, P17

“It wasn’t a bad day for us, even though the timesheets don’t really show it. We couldn’t put a lap together in the short runs, so I am not too worried: let’s see what we can do tomorrow. There are things we can improve a bit tonight, as always, so hopefully we can get a bit more performance out of the car. The objective is the same – to clear Q1 and fight for a spot as high on the grid as we can.”

Antonio Giovinazzi - FP1: 1:18.058, P15; FP2: 1:16.513, P9

“We had a good start of the weekend. FP1 was a good session, a bit compromised with the radio and data issue – but that applies to everyone. I was very happy with the car in FP2, both in the short and long runs. We need to adjust a few things to make the car even better for qualifying as we know it will be tight – even more than it was in Bahrain. It’s hard to say where we expect to be, as a tiny difference between a lap and the other can make a big difference: we need to put together a perfect lap in qualifying.”

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IMOLA, ITALY - APRIL 16: Kimi Raikkonen of Finland driving the (7) Alfa Romeo Racing C41 Ferrari in the Pitlane during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 16, 2021 in Imola, Italy. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

Williams

Interesting times down at Williams, who look to have made a decent stride forward here. But it was Latifi rather than Russell who looked the more comfortable of the two drivers, coming home an impressive ninth and 12th to head his team mate in both sessions despite a spin in FP1. But 'Mr Saturday' Russell won’t take that lying down come qualifying, so their intra-team battle tomorrow could prove fascinating.

George Russell – FP1: 1:17.866, P11; FP2: 1:17.179, P16

"As a team we are looking relatively fast, but personally I am a bit off the pace. Nicholas is driving really well, probably the best I have seen him drive. I need to improve quite a bit to close the gap to our competitors, and to Nicholas. As a team we are in a good position, we have a lot of data to review but I’m sure that my engineers and I can figure it out."

Nicholas Latifi - FP1: 1:17.739, P9; FP2: 1:16.823, P12

"I think it was a very positive day. For the most part we ran without hitches and we were able to get through the run plan quite smoothly. I was expecting the car to feel much better than it did in Bahrain, and it was better than expected. We still have some work to do, you don’t get anything for having a strong Friday. Tomorrow afternoon is when it counts, but we are setting ourselves up nicely to have a strong Saturday and Sunday."

Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance

"It was good to run the FW43B in cooler conditions and at a circuit that is quite different to Bahrain. Although the tyre compounds are the same as we had at the first race, their behaviour is understandably quite different, and we have spent time today understanding how we can optimise their performance in both qualifying and the race. The day has gone well and has been very busy. Both drivers enjoyed trouble-free sessions and were generally happy with their cars. Although we only had two one-hour sessions, we still completed a lot of laps and collected a lot of data. We have some further changes to make overnight, but we are pleased with our start to the weekend and are looking forward to tomorrow."

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IMOLA, ITALY - APRIL 16: Nicholas Latifi of Canada driving the (6) Williams Racing FW43B Mercedes on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 16, 2021 in Imola, Italy. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Haas

Mazepin didn’t have the opening session he would have hoped for, with two spins in FP1 – the second of which left his VF-21 stranded in the barriers. That led to a precautionary gearbox change, which cost him some running in FP2. Schumacher had a quieter day, with plenty of laps under his belt as he continues to get to know the car.

Mick Schumacher – FP1: 1:19.480, P19; FP2: 1:17.350, P19

“It was fun, it felt great out there today. The track didn’t change much from 2016, so that was a positive. In terms of feeling and in terms of fun, it was definitely similar to my last visit here back then. The colder conditions today meant we could push a lot more consecutively, which has positives and also negatives. The negative just being it’s a cold temperature and it takes ages to warm up the tyres. Sometimes even in the long runs its hard to get the temperatures in there and to keep them there is even harder. As a positive it means a lot of laps so I can try a lot of things straight away, especially on the C2 tyre. I was really able to find out the limit especially in FP2 and improve with each lap on the C4. The first lap was a warm up then we went through the run and improved with each lap. For now, we’re quite happy but it only really counts in qualifying.”

Nikita Mazepin – FP1: 1:18.823, P18; FP2: 1:17.857, P20

“I think we had a positive day – I really learned a lot about the car. I think I made another very good step forward with the team in terms of understanding what car I want to drive. I had a good lap time in FP1, it was a good quali simulation, I was happy with it. I then made a mistake which there was no coming back from, but overall, it was a positive FP1 and then FP2. I’m not leaving anything on the table out there. I wouldn’t want to go to sleep thinking I’ve left some time out there. There's a balance of course, which I haven’t mastered yet, but we have time. All eyes are on FP3 now – the weekend progresses and I have to keep progressing with it as well.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

“Not an unsuccessful FP1 and FP2. We had a few small bumps during the sessions but overall, I think our learning process with the drivers continues – we’re making steps forward. We’re getting faster, it’s not consistent faster, but improvements are being made. Obviously, Nikita (Mazepin) had a spin on his last lap, and it was on a pretty quick lap – a very fast lap, but he went off on the last corner. It was not ideal, and we lost some time in FP2 with him as we changed his gearbox just as a precaution and to check it out. When you do that you’re out of sync with other cars in FP2 and then your tyres get cold and it’s a downhill spiral. So, that’s why his FP2 wasn’t ideal. Mick (Schumacher) overall did a good job to get the most out of his laps during the two hours of running he had today.”

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IMOLA, ITALY - APRIL 16: Nikita Mazepin of Russia driving the (9) Haas F1 Team VF-21 Ferrari on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 16, 2021 in Imola, Italy. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Pirelli

Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing

"The conditions we had at Imola today were actually a little bit cooler than those we experienced six months ago in November. The tyres themselves performed well overall. We saw some graining during long runs on the soft C4 compound throughout both sessions. Imola is a medium severity track that doesn't put a lot of energy through the tyres, so in low track temperatures it's difficult to warm them up: especially the medium and hard compounds. By the afternoon, the track was already in quite good condition, despite there being very few support races. The gap between the compounds is lower than expected between hard and medium and higher than expected between medium and soft, although the difference can vary from team to team. This will naturally influence strategies".

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