Ferrari Aims for Victory with Major Imola Upgrades in 2024

When Formula 1 makes its annual pilgrimage to Italy, the air is thick with tradition and anticipation, especially among the fervent Ferrari faithful who throng to support their beloved scarlet-clad team.

The upcoming 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola is no exception, with Ferrari enthusiasts brimming with hope and excitement.

Unlike previous occasions, the spotlight is on the on-track spectacle leading up to the race weekend. Any simmering tensions at Red Bull seem to have subsided, at least temporarily, and the paddock is still abuzz with the recent successes of Lando Norris and the McLaren team.

McLaren’s back-to-back victories, a feat not achieved since 2012, have injected confidence into their camp, especially considering Norris’s impressive track record at Imola, where he has clinched two podium finishes.

Meanwhile, Ferrari is poised for a strong showing, bolstered by significant upgrades to their car. There’s optimism that Charles Leclerc could secure his first win in nearly two years, given the team’s improved performance.

As we delve into the crucial phase of the season, the significance of upgrades cannot be overstated. With Ferrari trailing Red Bull by 52 points in the constructors’ championship and Leclerc lagging behind Max Verstappen by 38 points in the driver standings, the gap is certainly within reach.

However, the key determinant will be Ferrari’s ability to outpace Red Bull in the development race. This is no small feat, particularly with the formidable presence of Max Verstappen, a three-time world champion who is notoriously difficult to beat when his car is on par with the competition.

Leclerc showcased a return to form in Miami, having previously played second fiddle to Carlos Sainz. Sainz himself is optimistic about Ferrari’s prospects at Imola, even in the absence of upgrades, highlighting the inherent strengths of their car.

“I still think it’s going to be track dependent,” Sainz stated. “I think in Miami, it was a better suited track for our car, and we had really good pace, even though McLaren and Red Bull, maybe they were half a step in front.

“Our car felt back to normal, while in China, particularly, it felt really not good. So I think we’re going to be very track dependent and hopefully Imola is one of those good track for us and we can put on a good show in front of the crowd.

“This would be ideal scenario. For the rest, we’re going to need to keep developing for tracks like China because there’s certain types of corner where our car really struggles right now and we need to keep moving forward in that sense.”

The specific type of corner Sainz mentions could be those long-radius turns abundant at the Shanghai International Circuit.

Conversely, Imola boasts short-radius turns, characterized by a mix of medium and slow-speed corners, demanding precise changes in direction.

Ferrari has already put their upgrades through rigorous testing at Fiorano in preparation for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. These enhancements encompass new sidepods, a revised floor, and an updated rear wing.

With three practice sessions at their disposal, Ferrari aims to fine-tune every aspect of their performance leading up to what promises to be an enthralling qualifying session. There’s speculation that Verstappen’s unbroken streak of pole positions in 2024 might face its first challenge.

McLaren is riding a wave of momentum following the success of their upgrades in Miami, which enabled Lando Norris to claim a remarkable first F1 victory. While the Safety Car played a part, Norris demonstrated true competitive performance.

Oscar Piastri will also have access to the full upgrade package at Imola, and with rain forecasted for Sunday’s race, the conditions could play to McLaren’s strengths.

Their recent performances in wet conditions have been impressive, and this weekend will reveal whether they are genuinely back in the hunt for regular F1 victories.

“I think we are just better suited to Imola, potentially the upgrade a little bit as well,” Norris said. “Imola has generally been one of our most successful tracks as a team and for me as a driver, so I would like to say so.

“I think we’ve definitely taken a step forward. From what I know, other teams have upgrades too, so I don’t think we’re getting ahead of ourselves. I know I’ve put good confidence forward to the team. I’ve said that we’re confident we can take steps forward.

“But I think I made it clear that we’re not going to be there every weekend. I was still sixth at the time, and I’m always honest. I’m happily going to say that I was lucky last weekend with the Safety Car, and the strategy worked out perfectly. But that’s how races go sometimes.

“I wasn’t just first because I was the quickest at the time, but I was quickest on track. And I think that was the first good sign we had and then it turned into something more.

“We were quickest at the time on track and I think the whole weekend was turning into something good and we were showing that the car made some good steps forward.

“But we need more. if we’re going to challenge Ferrari more consistently, we’re going to challenge Red Bull more consistently, but the team are doing a great job.

“They made some good steps and we have more things hopefully coming in the future and those are what we need to be there more often.”

Track limits have been a recurring issue since F1’s return to Imola in 2020, but this year’s race will see some changes. The track organizers have added gravel to the exits of Turn 9, 11, 12, and the Turn 14/15 chicane.

A mistake, like the one Leclerc made in the 2022 race, could leave drivers unable to continue. This design choice brings back an old-school feel to the venue, enhancing its authenticity.

“I think it’s great,” said Alpine’s Pierre Gasly. “It just sets the limit and I think it works fine. If you go over the limits, you get penalized and you can’t get away with it. So I think get rid of all the track limits topic, which is great. If you make a mistake, you pay the price for it.

“And I do believe that’s how it should be because with all this run-off and tarmacs, then you tend to sometimes get away with limits, with lock-ups, trying more stuff, go off the track, come back without really much disadvantage and kind of lost a bit the way it was in the past.

“I think most drivers have been pushing to go in that direction. It’s just great to see F1 has reacted to it positively and decided to make these changes here.”