14 years on from the last San Marino Grand Prix in 2006, won by Michael Schumacher in a Ferrari 248 F1, Formula 1 returns to the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari at Imola for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, round 13 of the 2020 season and the third race on Italian soil this year, after those in Monza and Mugello. It is 40 years since the World Championship first raced at the Santerno circuit, when it hosted the Italian GP instead of Monza, which was closed for modernisation. The following year, the national race returned to Monza on the outskirts of Milan, but for 26 years, Imola hosted the San Marino Grand Prix. Scuderia Ferrari has won here eight times, the first in 1982 with Didier Pironi in a race where relations soured between the Frenchman and his Canadian team-mate Gilles Villeneuve. The following year, Patrick Tambay won and then came six wins for Michael Schumacher (1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006).
Less track time. A two day weekend format is being trialled for the first time, even if it happened through force majeure in the Eifel Grand Prix when bad weather at the Nürburgring washed out Friday practice. It could be the way forward to allow additional races to be added to the calendar without spending too many days travelling far from home. Pre-event media activity moves from Thursday to Friday and the cars take to the track for the first time at 10 CET on Saturday for 90 minutes of free practice. Qualifying follows at 14, with the race on Sunday 1 November getting underway at 13.10 to ensure there is sufficient daylight in the four hour window within which the event must end.
New layout. There are no lap times to aim for, partly because Formula 1 has not been here for several years and mainly down to the fact the layout has been changed: the chicane leading onto the pit straight has gone so that now, from the exit to Rivazza to the Tamburello chicane, the cars are accelerating all the way. Lap time should be around the 1 minute 14 second mark, much faster than Schumacher’s time of 1’20”411 set in 2004. Otherwise, the track is unchanged with its legendary corners such as the high speed Villeneuve, Tosa, the demanding Piratella and the downhill Acque Minerali.
Spectators. Until very recently, it had been hoped that spectators would be allowed to attend in limited numbers, but the worsening of the Covid-19 situation in Italy means that yesterday the decision was taken to hold the race behind closed doors. While fully agreeing with the decision, the Scuderia is sad it will not be able to salute its many fans at the track.
Fifth new name. The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix is the fifth new name of this Formula 1 season, the others being Styria, 70th Anniversary, Tuscan - Ferrari 1000 and Eifel. The only driver to have raced in Formula 1 at Imola is the veteran Kimi Räikkönen, with five appearances. In 1948, Enzo Ferrari was a consultant when work started on building the circuit. It was inaugurated in 1953 with a motorcycle race and cars raced here for the first time the following year in an event called the Conchiglia d’Oro Shell won by the works Ferrari Mondial driven by Umberto Maglioli.
What’s in a name. In 1970, at a City Council meeting the mayor of Imola, wishing to honour Ferrari and mark the importance of the links between the race track and the Maranello marque, named the circuit after Enzo Ferrari’s son Dino, who died at the age of 24 in 1956. When Enzo himself passed away in 1988, the decision was taken to add the father’s name to that of his son.
Sebastian Vettel #5
"I have never raced at Imola, but everybody knows the circuit as it used to be a permanent feature on the calendar for so many years. I was there in 2006, and that’s the only memory I have of Imola, when I was a support driver for the BMW Sauber team. I haven’t even walked the track and so this will be my first ever race there.
I think it is a great track, which doesn’t allow for mistakes. I remember the last chicane before the start finish line also looked interesting and challenging but it isn’t there anymore. I’m very much looking forward to finally driving here this weekend."
Charles Leclerc #16
“I’ve already raced at Imola twice in Formula Renault. It’s a track that I love and really enjoy driving at. The circuit is very technical, with some very tricky corners and it’s also a track where there is very little room for mistakes. I think that most of the drivers who are yet to discover it will love it there.
This weekend we’ll also try the two-day track activity format for the first time, even if, to be honest, we’ve tried something similar because of the circumstances a few weeks ago at the Eifel GP, when bad weather kept us in the garages on Friday. It will be interesting to see how this compressed weekend will work.”
Matteo Togninalli Chief Race Engineer
Compressed weekend: User's Manual
As mentioned above, for the first time in the history of Formula 1, a Grand Prix will be run over just two days. “The difficult circumstances this year have thrown up new challenges and everyone involved in the sport has shown flexibility and the ability to adapt and the Imola weekend format is an example of that,” reckons Matteo Togninalli, Scuderia Ferrari’s Chief Race Engineer. “With back-to-back races at European circuits over 2000 kilometres apart, the teams need the extra time to get the transporters from Algarve to Imola and have time to set everything up at the Italian venue, hence the lack of track activity on Friday. It is also true that another future goal of having 2-day race weekends is to reduce general costs, making this weekend an interesting experiment. It’s happened in the past that a day has been lost, as was the case at the Eifel Grand Prix three weeks ago, or in Japan last year, but that’s always been down to force majeure. In this case however, everything has been planned and organised in advance.”
What has been done to prepare as well as possible for this?
“With very little time available to analyse the data from free practice, we have reorganised our priorities, allocating resources in a different way both at the track and back in Maranello. We will also manage components, engines and gearboxes for example or the incorporation of components that have already been tested, so as to cut down time spent and to try and reduce the risks as much as possible.”
All of this on a track where Formula 1 has not raced for 14 years.
“This is indeed an additional and significant variable. It means that preparation prior to the event is even more important to try and perform as well as possible: that goes for the car, the drivers, the team and the tyres, everything in fact that goes into the entire package. Without any data to work from, as is the case with Imola, the level of fine tuning is reduced and one has to look at the bigger picture. Clearly, the simulator helps, especially to allow the driver to quickly familiarise himself with the track, not just its layout, but also other features that can impact performance, such as bumpy sections, where to ride the kerbs, the right lines and braking points. It’s true the drivers learn a new track incredibly quickly and are soon on the limit, but it’s also true that when you go to a new track, the lap times tumble much more quickly than usual. It’s important therefore to do as many laps as possible to get to the optimum level as soon as possible.”
Tell the truth, does this scenario favour or disadvantage Ferrari?
“I think we have shown during this very strange season that we are able to adapt quickly to unusual situations, to react to the unexpected and our level of preparation is very good. Overall, I’d tend to think it could be an advantage.”
Will the SF1000 continue to evolve at Imola and how do you think it will go on this track?
“Apart from the introduction of updates, seeking greater performance is an ongoing task: even if there are no visible elements, the car is always evolving. In the final part of this season, that work is also aimed at 2021, with new solutions to try. This track is very technical, with a reasonably high average speed. The weather should be pretty good, with temperatures in the 18°-20° C range. Based on what we have seen in recent races, I think our package could suit this track well and that we will be able to get the most out of the car. As usual, the drivers play a key role.”
GP contested 1003
Seasons in F1 71
Debut Monaco 1950 (Alberto Ascari 2nd; Raymond Sommer 4th; Luigi Villoresi DNF)
Wins 238 (23.73%)
Pole positions 228 (22.73%)
Fastest laps 254 (25.32%)
Podiums 772 (76.97%)
FERRARI STATS @IMOLA
GP entered 27
Debut 1980 (Jody Scheckter 8th; Gillse Villeneuve DNF)
Wins 8 (29.63%)
Pole positions 6 (22.22%)
Fastest laps 10 (37.04%)
Podiums 24 (88.89%)
Emilia Romagna GP Facts & Figures
2. The number of countries that have hosted three Formula 1 world championship rounds in the same season. Before Italy this year, with Monza, Mugello and Imola, in 1982, only the USA did the same with races at Long Beach, Detroit and Las Vegas. Up to the end of this year, a further six nations have hosted or will host two races in a season: Japan, Great Britain, Germany, Spain and this year, Austria and Bahrain.
10. Apart from cars and motorbikes, Imola’s Enzo e Dino Ferrari track has also been the venue for cycle racing: there have been 10 races in total, four for men, four for women and two time trials. Imola has hosted four times the world championship race for both men and women. The first time dates back to 1968 when Italy took gold with Vittorio Adorni and the women’s winner jersey was worn by Dutch rider Keetie Hage. The Worlds returned to Imola this year when Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe and Dutchwoman Anna van der Breggen were victorious, the latter also taking the time trial, which in the men’s category, much to the delight of the Italian crowd, the winner was Filippo Ganna. The Giro d’Italia has twice featured the Imola circuit in 2015, when the stage started in Forlì, won by Russia’s Ilnur Zakarin and in 2018, when it started from Osimo and Ireland’s Sam Bennett won. The circuit also hosted the 2009 Italian championships won by Filippo Pozzato and Monia Baccaille.
12. Drivers from the Emilia Romagna region have raced in Formula 1. The only one to have won a race was Lorenzo Bandini, born in Libya from parents born in Emilia Romagna. Cesare Perdisa and Stefano Modena made it to the podium, Alex Zanardi, Mauro Baldi and Pierluigi Martini all scored points, while the others are Nanni Galli, Andrea Montermini, Lamberto Leoni, Giuseppe Gabbiani, Siegfried Stohr and Marco Apicella.
13. The number of constructors from the Emilia Romagna region to have competed in Formula 1, starting with two teams currently racing, Ferrari and AlphaTauri, the latter formerly Minardi and Scuderia Toro Rosso, based in Faenza. Then the prestigious Maserati marque along with Dallara, both with podiums to their name and Tecno that scored points. Then there were ATS (Automobili Turismo e Sport), De Tomaso, Lambo (Lamborghini), Osca, Tec-Mec and finally Life, run by Ernesto Vita who tried but failed to race the W12 Rocchi engine.
90. The number of kilometres between Maranello and the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari. It’s the shortest trip of the year for the Scuderia, with Mugello being 122 kilometres from the factory and Monza even further away at 205 kilometres.
This week in our history
29/10. In 2011, a special visitor came to the factory. Film director Ron Howard was in Maranello along with Niki Lauda before the start of shooting the film Rush which told the story of the 1976 Formula 1 season and the duel between the Austrian Scuderia Ferrari driver and Englishman James Hunt in the McLaren.
30/10. In 1906, Giuseppe “Nino” Farina was born in Turin and went on to be Formula 1’s very first world champion. At the wheel of an Alfa Romeo, the Italian beat fellow Alfa driver Juan Manuel Fangio, winning four races over two seasons. His fifth and final win came in 1953 at the wheel of a Ferrari in the German Grand Prix. He also won many sports car races, taking victory with Scuderia Ferrari at the 1953 Spa 24 Hours teamed with Mike Hawthorn at the wheel of a 375 MM, the Nürburgring 1000 Km with Alberto Ascari, the Casablanca 12 Hours alongside Piero Scotti and the Buenos Aires 1000 Km with Umberto Maglioli.
31/10. The Japanese Grand Prix took place in 1999 and, after Michael Schumacher had been injured at the British Grand Prix, Ferrari was in with a chance of winning the Constructors’ title, as well as the Drivers’ with Eddie Irvine. Michael was back in the car in Malaysia, the penultimate round and he played a perfect team game, which let Irvine win the race to lead the classification by four points over McLaren’s Finn, Mika Häkkinen. But the lead was not as significant as it seemed, as the Northern Ireland man had one less win than his Finnish rival and so victory in Japan would give him the title. If Häkkinen finished second, Irvine would still have to finish in the top four to win, while if his rival was third, he would need at least a sixth place. Häkkinen won for a fifth time that year and took his second world title. But Scuderia Ferrari also had cause to celebrate as, with Schumacher second and Irvine third, it had won the Constructors’ title for the ninth time.
1/11. The Japanese Grand Prix took place in 1987 and Gerhard Berger in his first year with the Maranello marque produced a perfect lap in the F1-87 to take pole. In the race, Berger kept the lead after the start and headed for a win that was never under discussion in a race when the only moment he did not lead was when he came in for his pit stop. It was the Austrian’s second career win, the first with Scuderia Ferrari, which ended a barren period for the Italian team that had lasted for 37 races.