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Tough but possible? Drivers expect overtaking will be a challenge at Imola · RaceFans

When F1 last raced at Imola in the mid-noughties it had a deserved reputation for being very tough to overtake on. The last two grands prix at this track ended with two drivers nose-to-tail at the head of the field, one unable to find a way past the other.

On the championship’s return to the track many drivers praised Imola’s fast, flowing and undulating layout. Still the prevailing view is that overtaking won’t be easy.

“It’s going to be hard to overtake,” reckons Kevin Magnussen. “It can be too hard to overtake of course – Monaco and Singapore, they’re often not very exciting races because of that. But I don’t think it’s as bad as that here.”

Much the same was said back in September when they visited another unfamiliar Italian track, Mugello. On that occasion the long straight and DRS zone meant passing wasn’t as tough as many feared.

Could the same be the case this weekend? In its current guise the track has a much longer, faster run to the Tamburello chicane than it did in 2005, and drivers can trigger their DRS for part of it.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Imola, 2020
Imola will be a hard track to pass on, says Magnussen

The general consensus is this is the only point on the track where overtaking is likely to happen. “It is quite a long, long, straight,” said Lando Norris.

“We don’t know 100% what the racing is going to be like, how easy it’s going to be to overtake. I don’t think it’s going to be maybe as unpredictable or as exciting as what it was in Portugal last weekend, just because it’s a bit more normal this weekend with how the tyres are working on the Tarmac and the wind and everything.

“Turn one on lap one is our best opportunity. And turn one is the best opportunity on every other lap as well.”

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Despite the unfamiliar course and limited practice running, teams will likely converge on the usual one-stop strategy, says Pirelli’s head of motorsport Mario Isola. However he believes all three compounds could come into play.

Esteban Ocon, Renault, Imola, 2020
Tamburello will be the key overtaking opportunity

“I’m expecting a one-stop strategy with a combination of the three compounds,” he said. “For the cars starting on the soft it is possible both the soft and medium or the soft-hard strategy, they are both very close.”

The Mercedes pair on the front row and Max Verstappen behind them will line up on the medium compound tyres.

“For the cars starting on medium they have the opportunity to do medium with a soft at the end,” said Isola. “With a lighter car, that is probably an advantage.

“Or medium-hard. Medium-hard is slightly slower compared to the other two strategies. But that strategy gives the opportunity to have a much wider window for the pit stop.”

That long run to the first corner will be Lewis Hamilton’s best chance to wrest the lead from his team mate. While Valtteri Bottas should have the benefit of the inside line for the curved approach to the first corner, his starting position is slightly off the racing line.

If he can preserve his lead into the first corner, it’s not going to be easy for Hamilton to find a way ahead. That said, he’s won from behind in both of the last two races.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Qualifying times in full

Over to you

Will Hamilton stop Bottas converting pole position into victory? Can Verstappen keep up with the Mercedes at Imola? And can his team mate claim a result which will save his place at Red Bull?

Share your views on the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix in the comments.

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