168 days on from the race held there on 1st November last year, Formula 1 is back at the Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit in Imola for the second round of the 2021 season.
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.
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A lap of Imola needs constant vigilance: it’s fast and unforgiving, requires maximum commitment from a driver battling within a narrow set-up window, and with a car constantly deploying or harvesting energy.
It’s 440m from pole position to the first braking point at the Turn-Two chicane – that’s a relatively average distance across the season, so doesn’t offer much opportunity for slipstreaming opportunities into the braking zone.
Expect top speeds of around 325km/h (200mph) on that run between Rivazza and the Tamburello chicane. The corner itself is taken in fourth gear, at around 170km/h (105mph).
The lap is dominated by high-speed corners – the Tamburello, Villeneuve and Alta ‘chicanes’ require both precision and commitment. The fastest corner on the track is Piratella, a daunting, sixth-gear downhill left-hander taken at 220km/h (135mph).
Imola is one of seven anti-clockwise tracks on the 2021 calendar. The resulting high incidence of left-handers places additional stress on the front-right tyre. Pirelli brings its C2, C3 and C4 tyres to Imola – the same as Bahrain.
The MGU-K – the motor-generator unit that gathers energy under braking – is almost constantly busy either harvesting or deploying energy around a lap of Imola. In fact, only Monza is more intensive.