Fast and flowing Imola should suit Honda power


Jesus, collectively we must have pissed-off Bet365. On at 7/2 about their being a virtual safety car (VSC) in the last race, the price about it being used in this weekend’s contest is now just 6/5! writes ROY ‘THE BOY’ BRINDLEY.

All good things never last, in bookmaking they simply come to an end very quickly. As I’ve said before, making it pay in this game is all about the obscure markets. Sadly this particular market may not be subject of such a mistake for a while to come. 

This weekend we have the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. It takes place at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari. A race which was added to the makeshift 2020 race roster, it was staged in November last year. Prior to that this venue last hosted an F1 race in 2006 when it was better known as the San Marino Grand Prix. Here’s some neat history on it:

Anyway, meaningful stats are obviously few and far between. 15 cars were classified last time (completed 90% of the race distance) and both a VSC and a full safety car were called into play. The first was to remove a stranded parked car from the side of the track, the second to rescue a car beached in a gravel trap following it suffering a puncture (cars with just one inflated rear tyre will always get stuck in a gravel trap). There was only one accident, the three non-finishers suffered from gearbox issues and a coolant leak.

Personally I see this place as a bit of a Hungary whereby the circuit is narrow and overtaking spots are almost non-existent. The only real opportunity comes when entering the first chicane. But this track is fast and flowing, very different to the recent Bahrain contest which saw racing of the point and squirt variety – it offered lots of overtaking opportunities with a bigger emphasis on braking stability and traction.

So what does all that mean? Amazingly the Red Bull should be even stronger here with their car set-up in a medium downforce configuration. Not a statement I’m used to saying as the Red Bull has only been a car for the high downforce Singapore’s and Monaco’s for me over the past five years. 2021 is different and everything we have seen suggests the new Honda engine has an undeniable speed advantage over its chief rival, Mercedes. Speed will be the vital ingredient for winning this weekend.

I’m boring myself already! This Sunday’s early fancies:

No Safety Car:                                                   9/4

If I had only one bet, at the prices, this would be it. ‘No VSC’ is an 8/13 shot with Bet365, with that in mind I simply cannot fathom why a full safety car is such healthy odds against with them. Ours is not to reason why…  Bring out the VSC to clear away some broken carbon fibre wing fragments on the first lap by all means but surely the likelihood of a safety car making appearance is never such a long odds-on shot (1/3 with Stoke-on-Trent’s finest bookmaker).

Top-6 Finish Yuki Tsunoda:                           7/4

The 2021 grid is a mix of supremely talented and supremely rich. Lance Stroll’s dad has as good as bought two teams in order for his son to race in the sport. It’s maybe just a coincidence Adam Norris, who retired at the age of 36 after selling his pensions advice company and amassing a fortune of about $250 million, has a son racing for McLaren. F1’s latest caked-up driver is Nikita Mazepin whose Russian father is worth a ballpark two billion dollars. So far he has spent less time racing a Haas than Romain Grosjean sat in his one while it was in flames – that’s 28secs.

Little is known about newcomer Yuki Tsunoda’s background albeit if the rookie came from mega-wealth we would all know. On the track he has been impressive and I’ve been told from more than one source he is “the real deal”. The rookie dropped the ball in qualifying in Bahrain but from 13th on the grid he registered a solid drive to finish ninth. After the race, Ross Brawn hailed Yuki Tsunoda as the “best rookie F1 has had for years.”

Most importantly his car has a Honda engine and it should be even better suited to Imola than Bahrain. Teammate Pierre Gasly qualified fifth there and while accidents ruined his race, he’s considered a 4/6 shot to get compensation by finishing in the top-6 on Sunday. I much prefer the 7/4 about Tsunoda, it’s a sporting bet.

Perez Fastest Lap:                                                            8/1

Away from the dual for the lead last time which earned the bulk of the TV time, Sergio Perez (Honda-powered Red Bull) was the second driver to massively improve on his starting position. Starting from the pit-lane (a clear last) he finished fifth.

The Mexican’s class has always been clear to see and I firmly believe he will get the better of Mercedes No2, Valtteri Bottas for most of the year (particularly as he beds into his new team). As a fun bet throw some shrapnel on the 20/1 about him taking the fastest lap of the race and also winning it.  Should teammate and race favourite Max Verstappen experience some trouble this is a very live proposition.

But the straight play on Perez taking the fastest lap at 8/1 has huge merit – he should surely be the same price as Bottas – and he’s 4/1.

Both Haas cars to be classified:  7/4

Haas manager Guenther Steiner has become something of a celebrity due to his bad language in Netflix’ ‘Drive to Survive’ series. No doubt, billionaire or not, he would have given Nikita Mazepin a bollicking for needlessly crashing out on lap 1 last time, reminding him his car is so slow it should only circulate around the back of the field and be lapped twice. Fellow rookie Mick Schumacher also span-off the track but he was a race finisher.

Their car is slow because it has not been upgraded but slow and unreliable are very different things and should Haas’ two rookie drivers observe blue flags and spend their race avoiding approaching faster cars, the likelihood of them both finishing is a lot shorter than the 7/4 on offer.

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