This Friday’s return of Formula 1 to Imola after a 14 year absence was undisturbed by the sound of engines. It wasn’t down to the weather, nor problems with getting a helicopter to fly, it was all planned as the first Grand Prix in the modern era to be held over just two days of track activity.
With the media. This experimental format meant that Friday was given over to press work, with the usual conference attended as always by the two drivers, but this time accompanied by Team Principal Mattia Binotto, who got the ball rolling with a comment on the return to the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari. “Just from the name of the track, you can understand how important this circuit is for Ferrari. For us, it is the shortest trip of the year and so many events link us to Imola,” he said. “I remember very well the first time I came here with the Scuderia, in 1996, Michael Schumacher’s first year with us. Over subsequent seasons he did great things and so it’s nice to be able to come back and race at this track. It’s just a shame that the Covid situation means no spectators can attend.”
Format. Charles loves this track. “I’ve raced here in the junior categories and I am very happy to be here. I have to say I like this season’s calendar a lot because it has allowed me to discover new tracks like Mugello and Portimao and now we are at Imola after racing at the Nürburgring. This track is unforgiving, because with grass and gravel in the run-off areas, the slightest mistake costs you dear. With just one free practice session it will also be interesting to see the various drivers’ ability to adapt. I’m lucky to already know the corners well and I think that could be important, especially in such a compressed race weekend.”
Paying respects. Sebastian is one of the drivers for whom this Santerno track is completely new. During his track walk, he stopped for a moment to pay his respects to Ayrton Senna, who died here in 1994. Sebastian is also keen to get in the car. ”I know that in some ways, this is a bit of an old-style circuit, but I’ve always liked that and I can’t wait to tackle its corners. From when I was last here in 2006, as a test driver, I don’t remember much. It will be a real first go.”
Turnover. As is often the case towards the end of a season, thoughts are already turning to the next one. One of the first topics is the calendar, which could feature as many as 23 races, which puts the focus on the effort this will demand from the teams and explains the idea of reducing race weekends to just two days of track action. “I think that if the number of races increases, it will be impossible for mechanics, logistics guys and also the engineers to attend all of them,” said Binotto. Therefore we will have to organise a turnover system and that will also apply to me. Even I won’t attend all the races and in fact that will be the case in two weeks time, as I will follow the Turkish Grand Prix from back in Maranello.”
On track. Tomorrow, the one and only 90 minute free practice session gets underway at 10 CET. Qualifying will be at 2pm, with the race starting at 13.10 on Sunday 1 November.