Quali data predictions: McLaren clear frontrunner while trouble for Red Bull

Pablo Hidalgo
Oscar Piastri during FP3

Oscar Piastri setting the fastest time in FP3.

The practice sessions for the Emilia Romagna GP 2024 are over. After an eventful FP3 session, we still have several unknowns to solve before facing an interesting qualifying session. But where does each team really stand?

McLaren is the pole contender after a strong showing both at the end of the last session and in FP2 on Friday. Despite being slightly outpaced by Ferrari in qualifying pace yesterday, we should also remember that they failed to put together a good Sector 3.

Today in FP3 they did set a representative and competitive Sector 3, better than Ferrari and Red Bull, and the ideal laps so far this weekend -if we put the best sectors recorded by each team together during all the FP sessions- put the Woking-based team as the benchmark to beat later today in qualifying.

Ferrari remains very close to McLaren. The updates are positive and so is the feeling of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. The SF24 EVO even seems slightly more stable than the MCL38, but slightly slower overall. If McLaren can put together a mistake-free lap, they should be ahead of the Italians.

There is still the question mark over Red Bull. After Sergio Perez’s accident, we are without the benchmark we have been waiting for since yesterday after a disappointing Friday. The Mexican’s incident is yet another sign that the problems are real and, although we can’t rule out them being ahead in qualifying, the numbers so far don’t deceive. Before qualifying, their best lap was only good enough for fifth place.

On the other hand, there seem to be signs of improvement from Mercedes. After several mistakes in FP1 with the handling of their W15, the Silver Arrows seem to have found some pace this weekend to at least be the fourth team to beat.

At the moment, even the data puts them ahead of Red Bull as they wait for Max Verstappen and the RB20 to wake up.

Meanwhile, in the midfield, as we anticipated in our preview of the weekend, the RB team seems to be ahead of the rest. The Faenza team’s home track is well suited to their car and teams like Alpine and Haas are struggling a bit more.

Yuki Tsunoda’s lap that took him to third in FP2 was very significant and today the team’s run plan consisted of polishing set-up details rather than looking for pure performance as the other rivals did.

Aston Martin has made it easier for Mercedes to make progress because since Miami they have been pretty much missing. We will have to wait for qualifying and, above all, for Sunday’s race, but for the moment the update package does not look positive at all.

Fernando Alonso appeared to be not entirely comfortable with the updates and he accident in FP3 after losing the rear of the AMR24 at Rivazza only confirmed these bad feelings.

Now, the team is working against the clock to repair the rear axle of the Spaniard’s car so that in qualifying, they can try to aim for something more than surviving in Q2.