Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton may have secured pole position in Imola, but the team finds itself in a vulnerable position for the first time in a long time.
Lewis Hamilton grabbed pole position, with Red Bull drivers Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen rounding off the top 3. Mercedes’ other driver Valtteri Bottas, meanwhile, ended the qualifying session in 8th position.
This spells a relative role reversal for the teams compared to what we saw in Bahrain. On that occasion, while Verstappen had taken pole, Hamilton and Bottas finished in second and third spots.
This allowed the Silver Arrows to strategically dispatch the Red Bull challenge coming from Verstappen.
This was despite the fact that the Red Bull challenger entered the 2021 season as the quickest car on the grid.
While the triumph in Bahrain had a lot to do with Hamilton’s skill and experience, credit undeniably also goes to the Mercedes think tank.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff believes that despite Hamilton’s pole, Red Bull has managed to get itself a huge advantage. He said not only are both their dirvers in the top 3, but they also have different strategies, which complicates matters further for Mercedes.
“If you look at the data, the soft tyre is much better from the start,” Wolff said after Hamilton’s pole finish.
“Perez is also handling the tyres well, although he will still have to change sooner.
“But it’s always bad to be between two opponents with one car, especially if they have a different strategy, that makes it extra difficult for tomorrow.”
Imola is a circuit where the starting grid position can play a massive role in the eventual result.
Perez’s soft tyre could be the right strategy for him. He can attain the lead if there is an early stop for the pits and it might become rather difficult to overtake him.