Just a week after the exciting Portuguese Grand Prix, drivers will flex their muscles again this weekend with the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix representing Round 13 of the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship.
This weekend will see Italy play host to the third Formula One race in 2020 with the inaugural Emilia Romagna Grand Prix taking place at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari. The race will be the 100th round held in Italy and the 28th at Imola. The legendary circuit hosted the Italian Grand Prix in 1980 and 26 San Marino GPs between 1981 and 2006.
The track was inaugurated as a semi-permanent venue in 1953. In April 1953, the first motorcycle races took place, while the first car race took place in June 1954. The track played host to its first Formula One race in 1963 as a non-championship event, won by Jim Clark for Lotus.
Imola officially debuted on the Formula One calendar in 1980 when it hosted the Italian Grand Prix. That race became the only Formula One Italian Grand Prix not to take place at Monza. The event was won by Nelson Piquet and it was such a success that the sport continued to visit the venue, albeit under the name of the San Marino Grand Prix.
Although the name of the event changed for 1981, the name of the victor remained unchanged with Piquet winning the event with Brabham-Ford. The next years saw the French drivers dominate the event with Didier Pironi, Patrick Tambay and Alain Prost winning a total of four races in the next five years.
The era between 1986 and 1998 was dominated by two teams: Williams and McLaren won all races bar the 1994 race that saw Michael Schumacher emerge victorious with Benetton-Ford.
Following this era, Schumacher and Ferrari started a winning cycle with the German winning last time out when Formula One visited Imola. The last two races at Imola are arguably among the best at the narrow race track with Schumacher and Fernando Alonso having battled it out until the chequered flag on both occasions.
The most successful driver at Imola is Michael Schumacher with seven victories. The great German recorded a win for Benetton while he took his six other Imola wins with Ferrari. Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost both won three times while the British pair of Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill are the only two-time winners at Imola.
Ferrari and Williams are tied on eight victories at Imola. McLaren secured six wins in total in Imola with its latest win recorded by David Coulthard in the 1998 San Marino Grand Prix.
Pirelli chose the middle three tyres in its range: C2 as the P Zero White hard, C3 as the P Zero Yellow medium, and C4 as the P Zero Red soft.
The circuit has been re-asphalted since F1 last race there, meaning that the asphalt is generally quite smooth, and doesn’t put too much stress on the tyres. That was the reason for Pirelli’s choice for this weekend.
The condensed schedule for this weekend means that drivers and engineers will need to adapt quickly to the demands of the narrow cirucit. Pirelli’s Head of F1 and Car racing Mario Isola thinks that the unusual Eifel Grand Prix that was affected and shortened by the bad weather could help teams and drivers with showing the right approach to the tight schedule.
„This weekend at Imola, there’s going to be a lot to get used to in a short space of time. After travelling back from Portugal the teams have to cope with a new race weekend format and reduced practice time on what will be a brand new track for most of the drivers – although inadvertently, they practised this exact scenario at the Nurburgring recently.
„As you would expect on a circuit with so much history, Imola has an old-school feel to it like Mugello, and we believe that the drivers are going to love racing there.”
The Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari cirucit is regarded as a highly technical track with a wide range of coners. The narrow, bumpy cirucit will represent a big challenge, urging engineers to seek for the best compromise in terms of car set-up.
„Finding the right set-up as quickly as possible is going to be key to success, as the technical nature of the track means that a number of important compromises have to be made, so it’s always tricky to find the right balance,” said Isola.
The narrow start-finish straight offers the best overtaking opportunity, albeit Turn 2, the first real corner, is a medium-speed bend that makes it quite difficult to execute an overtaking manoeuvre. Turns 3 and 4 are taken at medium speed before drivers head on to a full-throttle section. The combination of the following two medium-speed corners bring the first part of the track to an end.
Sector 2 begins with a hairpin where the focus is on a perfect exit. Drivers spend the majority of the section between Turn 7 and 12 at full throttle while the track constantly ascends and descends, reminding drivers of the rollercoaster track of Portimao. When exiting the slowest corner of the track, Turn 12, drivers are in a rush to apply full-throttle to gain momentum before they start climbing up a steep hill towards a chicane.
The combination of Turns 14 and 15 represents the only slow chicane of the track where the exit is once again of key importance. The next curved section is taken at full throttle while it descends. Turns 17 and 18 are slow 90-degree corners with the latter leading on to the start-finish straight.