The Imola Grand Prix weekend got off to a chaotic start. The first practice session witnessed multiple incidents and a red flag. For the 2021 Formula 1 season, the FIA has shortened practice sessions to 60 minutes. The goal was to make every second more precious, and the change seems to have worked.
The session saw frantic action as teams started their respective programs. Teams wasted no time during the session. Formula 1 fans have grown accustomed to breaks within the practice sessions. However, with the reduced length of sessions this season, teams cannot afford to waste a moment.
Here are five key takeaways from FP1 at the Imola Grand Prix:
1: Hard to pick between Mercedes and Red Bull
Mercedes and Red Bull couldn't show their true pace during FP1. The already shortened session was further reduced after red flags were brought out.
Early signs point towards an improved Mercedes car at the Imola Grand Prix. The drivers did not struggle with an imbalanced rear end, which has been a problem since the pre-season test in Bahrain. Mercedes took a 1-2 with Valtteri Bottas leading the timesheet for FP1. Red Bull also looked quick. Max Verstappen finished the session in third.
2: Perez and Ocon cannot afford to lose more practice time
Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon had an incident during FP1 at the Imola Grand Prix. A rear left wheel problem for the Mexican ended his session. Ocon was unlucky to be caught as collateral damage from the incident. Although it was difficult to pinpoint the blame on either driver, the clash was less than ideal for both of them.
Ocon is looking to make a mark with Alpine, and the Frenchman cannot afford to lose practice time. Meanwhile, Perez is under pressure at Red Bull as the team gears up for a championship battle.
3: Mazepin showing the wrong kind of consistency
Nikita Mazepin needed a dull Imola Grand Prix weekend. However, the driver has already had two spins in just the first session. The Russian doesn't have many fans in the paddock after his on and off-track antics.
Mazepin needs to have a cleaner Imola Grand Prix. For now, he's giving his critics too much fuel.
4: Ferrari looks deceptively quick
It's difficult to read into the lap times from the first practice session of the Imola Grand Prix. Teams haven't revealed their true pace yet, and engines are turned down. However, Ferrari was still impressive. The car looked planted and fast at the iconic Italian circuit.
Although McLaren and AlphaTauri are yet to show their hand, it is the Scuderia who have put down the marker early at the Imola Grand Prix.
5: Sebastian Vettel struggling at the Imola Grand Prix
Early impressions do not look great for Sebastian Vettel. The four-time world champion struggled for pace compared to his teammate. Although they could be running separate programs, the German never looked comfortable in the car.
Lots of eyes will be on Sebastian Vettel at the Imola Grand Prix. The German has dominated the headlines in recent weeks after a disastrous debut in Bahrain. The four-time champion will look to redeem himself at the iconic Italian track this weekend.
Also read: Top 5 races to take place in Imola