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Hebron High School News Online

The Hawk Eye

Hebron High School News Online

The Hawk Eye

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Print Edition

Formula 1 on the Apex: An iconic weekend in Imola

Gavin Lambert
Following a magical weekend in Miami, the teams set out for the start of the European season and the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix. Held at the historic Imola circuit and involving an emotional tribute to a racing icon, the weekend was one to remember.

Following a magical weekend in Miami, the teams set out for Europe for the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix at the historic Imola circuit in Italy. 

The Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix is one of the most historic races on the calendar, as it has over 50 years of Formula 1 racing history. The circuit is the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, often referred to as Imola. This race also kicks off the European season for Formula 1, as most of the next few races will be held in different countries across Europe. It marks the first home race for Ferrari and their fans, the Tifosi. 

As much as the excitement of the upcoming race elated fans, the sad reality of the occasion loomed over the crowd.The race marked the 30th anniversary of the tragic event of the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, where the lives of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna were both lost while racing on the track. The event stands as a constant reminder of the dangers of the sport, as well as how impactful racing can be on the lives of drivers. 

While Senna was known as one of the most talented drivers of all time, his talent and skill behind the wheel is not what he was most known for — it was his compassion and his love for racing. Prior to his death, Senna was one of the biggest advocates for increasing safety in the sport. Senna is one of my personal heroes; even though I never got to see him race, I admired the passion he put into everything he did and the impact he still holds. Though the name is often forgotten and put aside because of the gravity Senna’s death generated, Ratzenberger will also forever be remembered by fans. The deaths of the two drivers on that fateful weekend led to an increase in safety precautions for the sport and a much-needed redesign of the famous Imola circuit. 

Prior to the start of the race weekend for this iteration of the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, former Ferrari and Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel held a tribute for Senna and Ratzenberger. Vettel led a run around the track with all supporters wearing tribute shirts for the passed drivers. The supporters, including current drivers on the grid, ran through rain all along the three-mile circuit, finishing at the statue of Senna behind the infamous Tamburello corner. It was a heartwarming gesture from Vettel and the members of the paddock. The touching moment really put things into perspective on the overall reach of the sport. 

Getting into the actual race weekend festivities, the drivers headed into the first free practice session of the weekend (FP1). A lot of drivers struggled to keep their cars on track as many were spinning out and going into the gravel traps, causing this session to be pretty hectic. FP1 also marked an especially difficult experience for Williams and their driver, Alex Albon, whose car had an engine problem and lost power. Much to the delight of the home fans, Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc finished in P1 for the session. Going into FP2, Leclerc continued to impress as he, once again, set the fastest lap for the session. Max Verstappen and Red Bull struggled throughout the first two practice sessions, showing how my predictions for Red Bull’s dominance may not come to fruition after all. On the other hand, Red Bull driver Yuki Tsunoda had an impressive showing in the first two practice sessions, finishing third in FP2. 

Heading into Saturday and the final free practice session of the weekend, Red Bull and Mercedes looked to improve on their set-ups. Their efforts would end up being halted temporarily by Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso, who spun out and crashed into a barrier, bringing out a red flag. Verstappen’s teammate, Sergio Perez, also had an incident, as he locked up straight into a barrier. It was an overall interesting session as both McLarens soared to the top of the standings with Oscar Piastri setting the fastest lap. The battle of the top teams is a lot closer than I would have expected it to be. Red Bull seems to have hit a break in their stride and McLaren and Ferrari are catching up fast. 

Qualifying was relevantly uneventful, aside from a few big moments. Q1 wasn’t that interesting; however, in Q2, Perez had a surprising exit. This is bigger than it seems, as Red Bull is supposed to have the fastest cars on the grid, yet the best Perez could muster was 11th. Q3 provided some excitement as the gap between the top three was less than a tenth of a second. Verstappen managed to figure out his problems with the car and stormed ahead to take a historic eighth pole position in a row, tying the late great Senna for most in Formula 1 history. Piastri qualified second behind Verstappen, but was hit with a three-place grid penalty for impeding Haas driver Kevin Magnussen earlier in qualifying. This meant Norris would move up to join Verstappen on the front row of the grid. 

Finally, it was time for the grand prix. With Verstappen on the pole and the McLarens lurking close behind, it was looking up to be one of the most exciting races of the season. 

Boy, was I wrong. 

In fact, the race was probably the most boring of the season so far. Aside from a good getaway by Lewis Hamilton, the start didn’t have much drama. Things did heat up a bit on lap eight — literally — as Alonso’s brakes caught on fire as he came out of the pits. The issue seemed to resolve itself and Alonso kept racing; however, that was not the case for Albon who once again had an issue with his car. This time, it was when he left the pits with one of his wheels not put on the car properly. Albon went back into the pits on lap 11 after skillfully avoiding drivers as he slowly threaded through oncoming cars along the track. He later retired the car in order to reduce wear on his engine. There was not a lot of fighting in the pack, but when there were battles, there was pure brilliance. Tsunoda had an outstanding overtake around the outside of Williams driver Logan Sargent into Tamburello. The McLarens also continued to look impressive as Norris tried his best to keep up with Verstappen. 

Throughout the race, Verstappen was effectively ahead of the pack and had a good margin between himself and second. However, as the end of the race drew near, he began to struggle with his tires yet again. Norris took the opportunity and closed the gap to just under a second toward the final laps of the race. Verstappen managed to hold off Norris and take yet another win. Leclerc rounded out the top three, much to the joy of the Tifosi. 

The Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix provided some moments of brilliance, but was otherwise uneventful. The tribute to Senna and Ratzenberger was definitely the highlight of the weekend, even though it was a sorrowful one. With the gap between the top teams closing and Red Bull looking increasingly less dominant than before, the rest of the season could shape up to be something special.

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About the Contributor
Gavin Lambert
Gavin Lambert, Reporter
Junior Gavin Lambert is a reporter and this is his first year on staff. He enjoys playing basketball and video games and writing music.

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