Ferrari, Italy, home race. And the Scuderia starts as the top favourite! It should be a celebration all in red. Besides, the world championship battle could also prove to be a balm for the Italian football soul.

After the theft of his luxury watch in a dimly lit alley, the prospect of bright red festivities at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari is more than a consolation for Charles Leclerc. The 24-year-old Monegasque should have digested the horror by the time he climbs into the Ferrari F1-75 for Friday’s practice session in front of an expected sell-out crowd. “It’s going to be incredible,” Leclerc predicted.

“We’re coming home, tifosi”.

Almost 100,000 tifosi are expected to attend the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix and, like Leclerc, they really only want one thing: a home victory at the track that bears the name of the legendary company founder and his son. “We are coming home, tifosi,” Ferrari tweeted.

The fact that this year, for the first of three times, there will also be a 100-kilometre sprint race on Saturday with eight world championship points for the winner gives the possibly slightly rainy race weekend in northern Italy another special touch. Leclerc already knows what it feels like to win in Italy in a Ferrari.

In 2019, he won the Grand Prix in Monza. It was his second Formula 1 victory. He had to wait a long time for his third. But it seems to have been worth it. “Two years ago we said we had to work hard to be competitive again,” Italian media reports recently said Ferrari supremo John Elkann at the shareholders’ meeting. After two difficult years, the new season has started in an exciting way and Ferrari can compete at the highest level, said the 46-year-old chairman of the board.

Ferrari has the most powerful engine

It was a time of suffering. Ferrari was stuck in a dead end. It was only the new rules for this season that brought about a 180-degree turnaround and the first Leclerc victory since Monza. The car concept stands out from the rest, the engine has become the most powerful in the field. He was certainly surprised too, said Mattia Binotto. The Scuderia team boss had not expected such a strong car right at the beginning of the season.

The now 52-year-old had taken over the post in January 2019. Only now, however, everything points to Ferrari being able to celebrate its first World Championship drivers’ title since Kimi Räikkönen’s triumph in 2007 by mid-November at the latest. It should also be a great stroke of good fortune for the entire sporting nation of Italy if the World Cup kicks off in Qatar one day after the Formula 1 final – without the Squadra Azzurra. The European champions missed out on qualification in the playoffs.

“A flashback to the time when Michael dominated in the Ferrari”.

It remains to be seen whether it could even be enough for an era at Ferrari. Jokingly, ex-driver David Coulthard recently commented as a TV pundit on Leclerc’s victory from pole position with the fastest race lap in Melbourne and the lead over the entire distance that he had felt a slight tremor. “A flashback to the time when Michael dominated in the Ferrari.”

Michael Schumacher had also ensured the last Ferrari victory at Imola during his memorable time with the Italian racing team. That was 16 years ago, and until the return in 2020, there has been no racing at Imola since. After Lewis Hamilton’s victory in 2020 and Max Verstappen’s success, Leclerc now starts as the big favourite.

Victory in the opener in Bahrain, second place in Saudi Arabia, victory in Melbourne. Leclerc scored 71 points. His lead over second-placed Mercedes newcomer George Russell: 34 points. Record world champion Hamilton in the second Silver Arrow is only sixth with 28 points, defending champion Verstappen in the Red Bull seventh with 25 points.