Last Updated Apr 21, 2022, 9:35 AM

Norris and Ricciardo could be on the podium at Imola, says Fittipaldi

Ferrari and Charles LeClerc have come up as early frontrunners in this F1 season but two-time World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi feels that Carlos Sainz can still challenge him. We caught up with the F1 legend who commented on his expectations from this weekend at Imola.

Red Bull and Max Verstappen have had a horror showing, considering their standards. How does the team go forward from here and what should they be aiming for in Imola?

“The beginning of the season for Red Bull and Max has been difficult, but at the same time, they showed their level performance.” 

“They are the team that can and will challenge Ferrari. They are the team to challenge Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. No doubt about that.”

“I think they need more resistance for the engine coming from Honda. Honda has to work hard now to be more resistant. Max will definitely be there. For sure. He will be a challenge. Always. You can't just switch it off.“

Mercedes showed a lot of improvement at the Australian Grand Prix. Do you think they’ll have a similar or better showing in Italy? What are your expectations from them?

“I'm sure they will continue to improve a lot for the Grand Prix in Imola.” 

“I was with McLaren in Jeddah, and Zak Brown confirmed that they'll continue to get better for each race. For the next four-five Grands Prix. McLaren is running strong but should be stronger at Imola.”

“McLaren was without a doubt the most improved team at the Grand Prix in Australia.”

“Both Mercedes and McLaren knows how to work within the new rules. In terms of mechanical grip, they improved a lot. The engine has also improved quite a lot. Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo are going to be strong again. Without a doubt. They have the potential to be on the podium in Imola.”

All is going well for Ferrari, despite them not making any upgrades. Can you see both LeClerc and Sainz finishing on the podium in Imola?

"To me, Ferrari has the best package of the year."

"They look reliable, they look fast in different conditions, in different tracks. They got around the new rules better than anybody else, in my opinion."

"Very powerful engine, good mechanical grip, good downforce, good aerodynamic grip."

"LeClerc has a great potential to be World Champion but Carlos Sainz can challenge him."

"Carlos is a racer. He had a problem in the last race but he'll be back strong and I think the Ferraris, the two drivers, have the highest potential to be on the podium, for sure. No doubt about that."

"I have a lot of respect for what Ferrari has done from last year to this year."

"They focused on this year's car and it's showing in the results now. Last year was a frustrating year for Ferrari. This year is the opposite. They are the team to win the championship. That's my opinion, for sure."

Do you think Ferrari have designated LeClerc as their number 1 driver already?

"I don't think Ferrari will choose who is number 1."

"I think Ferrari, automatically, who'll be leading the championship, the next three-four Grands Prix, will have more support from the team."

"But so far, there is no number 1, number 2 driver right now."

"My opinion, looking from the outside, they have the same equipment, the same effort."

"This will be decided later in the season, not yet. But both can win the World Championship. It could be a great challenge between LeClerc and Carlos Sainz. It can happen, through the rest of the Championship."

What next steps do Lando Norris and George Russell need to take to become truly elite drivers? They’re knocking on that door, but what will be the next step?

"I think Lando Norris has already established himself as what I call a potential, World Champion material."

"George Russell, for the first time, is driving for a better team, more competitive car, even though the Mercedes had problems in the beginning of the season."

"The last Grand Prix, he (Russell) showed his potential. It would be interesting to see George Russell, with Lewis (Hamilton), racing each other and Mercedes will be better."

"George can make good results, no doubt about that."

From the other constructors, Alex Albon, running on 1 set of tires for all but one lap, was very impressive in Australia, as well as Esteban Ocon - can Williams, Alpine, AlphaTauri and also Haas, spring some surprises this weekend?

"I think the one that's there for sure is Alpine."

"Alpine is ready to be there and we have to remember that Fernando Alonso is an incredible driver."

"You know Fernando will be there, very strong."

"Apparently, the last Grand Prix, he couldn't be on pole because he lost the quick lap. That shows his potential and the car's potential. In Australia, Fernando was extremely competitive."

"AlphaTauri can do well, but they have (issues with) the Honda reliability. Williams, they can improve."

"But don't forget Haas. Haas is going to be running very strong with (Kevin) Magnussen for sure."

"They improved a lot, they'll be there. That'll be the surprise team, in my opinion, the Haas team with Magnussen."

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Photo by John Bezosky

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