Renault DP World F1 Team driver Daniel Ricciardo’s record at the new tracks this year has been impressive gaining fourth and ninth at the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello and the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, plus gaining a podium third finish at Nürburgring.
Going into the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, formerly known as the San Marino Grand Prix, it’s another track that is brand new to the Australian driver. Ricciardo has never driven at Imola but hopes its a strong race after other impressive Italian races.
After his fine run of form, Ricciardo wasn’t too happy with a ninth place finish, even though it was still a very good result for the team.
Ricciardo said: “Imola is another new one for us. I’m excited about going there as we’ve had a great run of racing at new places and I’ve enjoyed them all so far. It’s also back to another Italian race and I’ve had good results in Italy this year so I’m hoping to have another strong one this weekend.
“I think, as a team, we leave Portugal feeling neither happy nor too disappointed. It was a race where we wanted to score points to make sure we keep in touch with our direct rivals. From Friday it was clear the weekend would be tough, especially with learning the tyres, so to come away with some points is okay. We couldn’t do much more than eighth and ninth, so we go to Imola wanting to return to competing for the top six places.“
Esteban Ocon found himself in fine race form at Portimäo, outscoring his team-mate to a eighth place finish. Ocon has found the last couple of rounds difficult, having two retirements in the last four races and struggling to keep up to the pace of Ricciardo.
Hopefully, the result at the Portuguese Grand Prix can be a turning point for the young French driver and is looking forward to the unknown of Imola.
“Imola has some interesting combination of corners with awesome character to them, such as Acque Minerale. It’s slightly downhill, quite fast and then climbs up. There are a lot of changes of angle at this track and that’s what makes it so characteristic. It has special kerbs too and types of chicanes that we do not see all year,” said Ocon.
“As a driver, you love these combination of corners as it’s the most rewarding thing. Imola should have more grip [than Portugal] as the track hasn’t been resurfaced for a long time and it’s used regularly by other series.”
Ocon does have some experience of the circuit, having previous driven round it in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship back in 2014. It holds fond memories for his as its the track he won his title at that year.
“I raced there in 2014 in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship. I have very good memories from that weekend, as it’s when I won the title with one round to go. I won the first race from pole position, finished fourth in the second race and then on the podium again in the final race. I’d say Imola is actually one of my favourite circuits and I can’t wait to drive a Formula 1 car there – it will be extra special. I also love racing in Italy, my heart has a big place for this country.“
Chief Race Engineer Ciaron Pilbeam has reviewed the changes to Imola since the last time Formula 1 cars raced round it. Teams this year will also have less information about the cars running on the track due to no Friday practice sessions. There is just the one ninety minute session on Saturday morning just prior to Qualifying.
Pilbeam said: “Imola is another essentially new circuit for Formula 1 this year, as it is several years since we last raced there. The cars are very different now, the tyres are different, and the circuit has changed a little, with the removal of what was the last chicane effectively extending the Start-Finish straight.
“It is a medium downforce circuit, with a mixture of slow and medium-speed corners. One of the features of the event is the shorter weekend format, with a single 90-minute practice session on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon and the race on Sunday as usual. This will mean that we go into qualifying with less information that we normally have, so we will have some quick decisions to make in the gap between practice and qualifying.”