Formula 1 returns to one of the true iconic motorsport venues this weekend as round two of the 2021 season takes place at Imola.
Three weeks have passed since an epic opening race in Bahrain that saw the blue-touch paper lit for the title fight this year between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen and so, naturally, excitement is high ahead of this Sunday’s race which gets underway at 2pm UK time.
What questions, though, need answers this weekend in Italy? We take a look at five pressing posers…
Will Max v Lewis be the exclusive title fight?
Many onlookers before the season started expected that it would be a straight fight between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen for the title this year and the Bahrain Grand Prix did little to suggest anyone else is going to be joining them in the championship battle.
Can Valtteri Bottas get into the mix and show he’s got his own designs on the title or will we get a further nod to this year’s title plot with last race’s top two again sprinting off into the distance?
It’s early in the year, of course, but title contenders quickly made themselves known in this sport and, right now, only two have shown they’re ready.
How will Sergio Perez perform?
A big weekend awaits Sergio Perez at Imola.
The Mexican had a tough qualifying back in Bahrain and then had to start the race from the pit lane after a technical fault on the parade lap, but his recovery drive to fifth place was certainly a cause for optimism that it’s going to work for him at Red Bull.
He needs, though, to be at the front from the start to really help his team take the fight to Mercedes – that is why he has been signed – and so a strong qualifying must be the aim first and foremost.
A coming together with Esteban Ocon on Friday morning won’t have exactly helped early preparations, however…
Is Ferrari v McLaren the fight for third?
Whilst much is being made of the Mercedes v Red Bull fight at the front of the grid, a lot of excitement is also brewing over the potential for a renewal of one of the sport’s most enduring rivalries; Ferrari v McLaren.
Both will want to be challenging for wins in the coming years, of course, but that will likely have to wait for this season at least.
However, third place is very much up for grabs in the Constructors’ with McLaren fancied for that spot before the first race and Ferrari impressing and surprising with their performance in Sakhir – let’s see if they cross swords again this weekend.
Where’s Sebastian Vettel’s head at?
Vettel’s move to Aston Martin generated great excitement but after a frustrating test in March and a sub-par finish in the opening race in Sakhir where he was well down the standings and also at fault for an accident with Esteban Ocon, some are once again wondering just which Sebastian Vettel we’re going to see this season.
Last year at Ferrari he never really got out of a racing rut and poor performance after poor performance followed – something Aston naturally didn’t sign him for.
It’s going to be intriguing to see how he goes this weekend but he at least cut a positive figure in his press conference on Thursday, sat alongside Lewis Hamilton, so he appears on the outside to be in a positive frame of mind.
Is Nikita Mazepin going to step up?
Unfortunately for Nikita Mazepin, there’s not a great deal of goodwill towards him at the moment for off-track matters and his on-track display at Sakhir last time out didn’t really help shake the negative spotlight away from him.
He needs to try and show what he can do as a driver this weekend and at least bring the car home after lasting all of three corners in Bahrain before chucking his Haas into the barriers.
However, two spins and a trip to the wall in first practice at Imola haven’t exactly offered cause for optimism…