Max Verstappen to miss the win, Yuki Tsunoda ahead of Hamilton and more Imola predictions

Pablo Hidalgo
Emilia Romagna GP race predictions.

Analysing pre-race data for Imola, McLaren look like significant challengers for Red Bull in race trim.

After an exciting qualifying at Imola, everything is still to be decided at the Emilia Romagna GP.

Max Verstappen will start in pole position, but he will be alone against McLaren and Ferrari in what is expected to be a thrilling race.

With just a few hours to go before the green light for the Emilia Romagna GP race, we at PlanetF1 wanted to make our Top 10 predictions based on what we have seen on track so far this weekend and the data we have analysed in our articles.

It should be noted that in making these assumptions we have not taken into account external factors such as the possibility of rain during the race or the appearance of the Safety Car.

We invite you readers to leave your predictions and possible race scenarios in the comments section.

10. Daniel Ricciardo

Will this be the day Daniel Ricciardo scores his first point on a Sunday this season? After RB got both cars into Q3 and with the Australian beating Sergio Perez’s Red Bull by 15 thousandths of a second, we think it’s time for Daniel to be at his best.

It’s not going to be an easy task with Nico Hülkenberg’s top speed attacking from behind and Lewis Hamilton and his team-mate in front. But if he can run a clean and solid race, he should be in contention for the points.

9. Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton has been very passive this weekend. On Saturday he finished almost three-tenths of a second off his team-mate and in the practice sessions struggled with the handling of the W15. It’s a trend that is constantly repeating itself this season.

The Mercedes with the upgrades seems to be in a good position to excel above the midfield, but Lewis is not finding the harmony with the car to make it happen.

Therefore, we expect him to have a difficult race with constant battles and away from his team-mate who is in a more advantageous position.

8. Yuki Tsunoda

The Japanese driver should be able to wrap up a very complete weekend ahead of a Mercedes. Nobody doubts that Hamilton’s pace must be superior, but RB has surprised all weekend while the seven-time World Champion has lacked the pace, so why not finish ahead of him in the race as well?

A double-point finish for the Faenza team is the best present for their workers who are enjoying their home GP. There is good pace to dream that this is possible.

7. Sergio Perez

Sergio Perez has several difficult cars to overtake ahead of him and the confidence in his RB20 has been lacking this weekend.

His final race position will depend on how much he is able to risk and whether the Red Bull really does have far superior race pace compared to Haas, RB and Mercedes. Otherwise, a P7-P8 is the best he can hope for after a poor qualifying.

He will definitely be starting on a different strategy compared to the drivers ahead to try and maximise his opportunities for a better result than this one.

6. George Russell

George Russell has been comfortable with the W15 updates. The opposite is true for Hamilton. The long-run pace shown in FP2 was quite encouraging and it’s time for the Silver Arrows to score good points to pull away from Aston Martin in the Constructors’ Championship.

The Englishman should be able to hold off the RBs at the back and, should Perez fail to catch up, keep his composure to finish behind the current grid leaders for a solid P6.

Long run Imola

5. Carlos Sainz

The Spaniard has been behind his team-mate and McLaren all weekend. What’s more, he could have finished much further back in qualifying.

Still, for Sunday’s race he will probably have to be more aware of Oscar Piastri’s attacks at the start than fighting against Charles Leclerc as losing time to him would be too costly a mistake for Ferrari at one of the Italian team’s home races.

4. Oscar Piastri

The penalty for impeding Kevin Magnussen has dropped Oscar Piastri to P5 for the start of the race. After a great qualifying session and being just a thousandth of a second off pole position, the Australian will have to fight for the podium.

There is every reason to believe that he will even make it into the top three this weekend being one of Oscar’s strongest performers, but it is difficult to overtake in Imola and seeing the equality between McLaren and Ferrari in terms of pace… it’s hard to imagine that he can pass not just one but two great drivers.

3. Charles Leclerc

The Ferrari driver has been a step ahead of his team-mate all weekend and very comfortable with the SF24 EVO. The Italians have prepared the car with a set-up focused on the race to be able to aim for the podium and who knows if anything else.

In this aspect, the Monegasque can control the tyres better than Piastri, who will have to climb up positions to reach the podium. Therefore, Leclerc is already in a very advantageous position to secure at least a top-three finish.

2. Max Verstappen

On Saturday in qualifying Max Verstappen showed that he should never be left for dead. Despite not having the fastest car, something he is used to, Max worked his magic and took advantage of a slipstream to take pole position.

However, we don’t think he will be able to stop McLaren in the race. Despite being a circuit where it will be difficult to overtake and find the gap, McLaren’s pace has been more than just a threat and on Sunday could turn into real firepower.

1. Lando Norris

Yes, we predict that Lando Norris will be the winner. It’s always bold to bet against Verstappen and Red Bull, but this weekend there is every reason to believe that McLaren can beat the World Champion on merit and overtake him on track.

The Woking-based team’s race pace in FP2 was very promising on both hard and medium tyres – just a tenth of a second off Ferrari’s pace with a six-lap longer run – and they have been the fastest car all weekend.

While it is true that the Dutchman always has an extra up his sleeve, the data supports that Norris should take his second consecutive F1 victory on Sunday.

Long run Imola

Read next: Emilia Romagna GP: Data shows ‘tow buddy’ helped Max Verstappen on way to Imola pole