Italian Grand Prix: Preview lap of Formula One track
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Round two of the Formula One season gets underway this weekend in Italy, with Lewis Hamilton looking to extend his early lead in the driver’s standings, however, it wasn’t all plain sailing for some last time out in Bahrain.
Express Sport takes a look at five F1 drivers with something to prove in Imola.
Sergio Perez – Red Bull Racing
The Mexican is a proven race winner, after victory at the Sakhir Grand Prix in 2020 with Racing Point, and he’s one of the most experienced drivers on the grid, however with a move over to a top team comes extra pressure to impress.
Red Bull swooped in and signed the 31-year-old at the end of last season, after he was very nearly without a drive for the 2021 campaign, replacing Alex Albon.
However come practice, qualifying and the race, he was out performed by his team Max Verstappen, who was fastest in every single session in the same machinery.
Perez was knocked out of Q2 during qualifying and was due to line up 11th on the grid, however he suffered an electrical fault on the formation lap and started instead from the pit lane, with his team-mate on pole.
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And actually, his recovery drive was impressive – he finished fifth on his first outing for Red Bull, however it’s hard to ignore that over the race weekend, he was markedly slower.
And lest we forget that Verstappen will need Perez’s help in the title fight against Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes. Without a wingman out at the front to help split the Mercedes, or at least challenge them and lay on extra pressure during the race, Verstappen is essentially out fighting off two Silver Arrows solo, a battle he may not be able to win alone.
Valtteri Bottas – Mercedes
Unlike Verstappen, Hamilton doesn’t much need a wingman – the seven-time world champion has proved time and time again he can hold off pretty much the entire grid to fight for wins and championships.
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But Bottas, for himself, needs to do better come Imola to make sure he remains in the fight for the world title.
Of course it’s very early days in the championship but this could be his last chance, as for once, his team-mate is not the fastest man on track, or at least he wasn’t a few weeks ago.
Bottas heads into his fifth season with Mercedes, but has yet to beat Hamilton, a driver who has been alongside the Finn since he joined in 2017.
He came into the 2021 season adamant he would be more selfish, stating: “This year, I’m demanding more from myself, more than ever, obviously not over doing things.
“But the ultimate goal for me this season, when I get to the last race in Abu Dhabi, is that I can look back and say that I did 100%, I did all I could to win the title.
“I’ll demand as much as I need to, to get the support and information that I need, and maybe that way be a bit more selfish.”
Bottas managed to finish on the podium in Bahrain, third behind Verstappen and Hamilton, but with just a year left on his contract, he could’ve done with a Mercedes one-two. Even better, a win.
However once again Bottas was left watching in the wings, unable to bring the fight to the top two, and crucially behind his team-mate.
Sebastian Vettel – Aston Martin
Vettel was on the backfoot from the start of the weekend, still getting his head around a new car and a new team after his move away from Ferrari.
And in fairness to the four-time champion, it was a nightmare start at the team after he had testing cut short due to car problems.
Then during the race weekend, his qualifying session came to an abrupt end by a spinning Nikita Mazepin in the Haas during Q1. To add salt to the wound, the German was penalised and demoted to the back of the grid for failing to respect yellow flags.
During the race, he had a relatively good start until he collided with Esteban Ocon and incurred a second penalty, finishing P15.
incurred a second penalty, finishing P15.
His team-mate Lance Stroll however picked up a single point finishing P10.
Nikita Mazepin – Haas
The Moscow-born rookie comes into F1 under relatively less pressure than most, with Haas already admitting they weren’t planning to make huge changes to the 2021 car, focusing more on regulations changes come 2022.
However, Mazepin has picked up much scrutiny from outside the paddock for his use of social media, and seems to have a lot to prove to keep his seat in Formula One.
And it didn’t start well in Bahrain. Dubbed ‘Mazespin’ by viewers, he managed to scupper quite a few drivers’ qualifying sessions as well as his own by bringing out the yellow flags in Q1.
And his debut race was very short lived after he hit the wall on the opening lap, finishing the 22-year-old’s race before it even started.
His team-mate Mick Schmacher 16th, just behind Vettel, but importantly he got the car home, with precious data for the team, something Mazepin failed to do.
Max Verstappen – Red Bull
Finally, Verstappen. Basically, to win the title – he needs to be flawless in his driving and beat Hamilton.
It’s as simple as that really.
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