This weekend, the Formula One World Championship returned to the infamous Imola Circuit, where Yuki Tsunoda would have a positive weekend and Alex Albon would have a not-so fortunate one. Asian Motorsport reviews all the action at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

By Seb Tirado

Free Practice

FP1 would see Tsunoda put in an impressive time of a 1:17.338 to finish in 6th. The red flag would briefly go out just under 20 minutes into the session as Albon, who recently signed a multi-year extension in his contact with Williams, would stop on track with an electrical issue, retiring from the session and ending up 19th with a 1:20.050. Zhou would finish in 17th with a 1:19.129.

Yuki Tsunoda on track during FP2 | Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Tsunoda’s strong performance would continue in FP2 as he finished the session in a strong 3rd with a 1:16.286. Zhou and Albon would again classify near the bottom of the timing sheets in 19th and 18th with a 1:17.606 and a 1.17.135 respectively.

Final practice would see Albon finish an improved 7th with a 1:16.470 after being delayed in leaving the garage at the start of the session. Conversely, Tsunoda would finish down in 13th with a 1:16.668, albeit not on the faster medium tyre. Zhou would finish in 20th with a 1:17.891.

Qualifying

Q1 would see Tsunoda progress through to the next stage of qualifying in an impressive 4th with a 1:15.894, with Albon also progressing through in 14th with a 1:16.524. Zhou would be eliminated in 18th with a 1:16.834 but would start in 17th on the grid after Logan Sargeant’s lap-time was deleted.

Tsunoda on track during qualifying | Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Albon would once again finish in 14th in Q2 with a faster time of a 1:16.200 but would nonetheless be eliminated. Tsunoda would finish one better in 3rd with a 1:15.358, three-hundredths of a second behind Charles Leclerc. 

The Japanese driver would ultimately qualify 7th on the grid with a 1:15.465. 

Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

Tsunoda would have an imperfect run at the start of the race heading down to Tamburello, losing out on two positions to Nico Hülkenberg and Lewis Hamilton, with Zhou also losing a position to Hülkenberg’s teammate Kevin Magnussen. Tsunoda would then start to defend his position against Sergio Pérez, eventually managing to just break away from the Red Bull by over a second to get out of DRS range.

Tsunoda leading Pérez and Daniel Ricciardo during the Grand Prix | Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Albon would pit at the end of Lap 8 for a set of new hards. However, they would end up being improperly fitted which led him having to crawl around and back into the pits. Having wasted his only set of new hards, Albon had to swap onto a set of used mediums and ended up over a lap down to the rest of the field. To add insult to injury, he would be later given a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for the unsafe release.

After being unable to catch up to Hülkenberg for 8th, Tsunoda would come in to make his only planned pit stop at the end of Lap 12 in a bid to undercut the Haas driver, going onto a set of new hards. His pit stop strategy would later end up succeeding. On Lap 28, Albon would come in to serve his stop-and-go penalty and to go onto another set of used mediums, coming back out over two laps behind the rest of the field.

Zhou leaving the pits during the Grand Prix | Credit: Formula One

Having started on a set of new hards, Zhou would pit at the end of Lap 33 for a set of new mediums, being the second of the hard tyre-starters to come in after Sargeant. By Lap 38, Tsunoda would cycle up to 8th as others came in for their pit stops and Zhou would overtake Magnussen as the Danish driver came out of the pits. The Chinese driver would then start to defend his position ahead of Magnussen for the next few laps. 

Pérez would overtake Tsunoda on Lap 42 for 8th and Magnussen would manage to overtake Zhou on Lap 48, dropping him to 16th. Up ahead, Tsunoda would be overtaken by Lance Stroll at the start of Lap 51, falling back to his finishing position of 10th. At the end of that same lap, Albon would pit for the final time to retire his car and end his race early. Zhou would overtake his teammate on Lap 60 and to his finishing position of 15th

Commenting after the race, Albon said that “whilst today is a little painful, it’s not all doom and gloom. We have a plan, and the midfield isn’t scoring a tremendous number of points, so we’re not falling away too much and can still catch up. At this point last year, we only had one point so we are in a similar position. Whilst we don’t have as big of an upgrade coming and our focus is on taking the weight out of the car, we’ll still look to bring minor upgrades. We’ll take the learnings we can and move our focus to Monaco.”

Tsunoda waving to the crowd in parc fermé after the Grand Prix | Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Tsunoda commented that he was “happy I scored a point in front of our home crowd and people who came from the factory. I think our start slightly compromised our race because we lost a couple of positions to Nico. The start is the main topic that we need to improve on.”

He also commented that he and the RB team are “working hard to take another step forward and we’ll focus on extracting the maximum out of our package.”

“Monaco is up next and I’m looking forward to it. We’ve been working hard and performing well, and I don’t have a doubt that we will maximise our performance.”

Formula One Drivers’ Championship Top 10

  1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 161
  2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) – 113
  3. Sergio Pérez (Red Bull) – 107
  4. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 101
  5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) – 93
  6. Oscar Piastri (McLaren) – 53
  7. George Russell (Mercedes) – 44
  8. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 35
  9. Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) – 33
  10. Yuki Tsunoda (RB) – 15

Formula One Constructors’ Championship Top 5

  1. Red Bull Racing – 268
  2. Scuderia Ferrari – 212
  3. McLaren – 154
  4. Mercedes-AMG – 79
  5. Aston Martin – 44

The Formula One World Championship returns to the streets of Monaco next weekend for the iconic Monaco Grand Prix.

Header image credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

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