Imola set to punish mistakes more following track changes

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The Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari is set to punish driver's mistake much more than previously after several of its corners have gone through key changes.

The Formula One field is set to return to Imola this weekend for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix which kicks off the European leg of the 2024 F1 season. The return means the first race in Imola since 2022 after last year’s event had to be cancelled because of floods that hit large parts of the region, causing some fatalities and devastation.

The challenging Imola circuit is one of the oldest fixtures on the championship calendar, known for being very technical and therefore highlighting the skills of the drivers. The 19-turn circuit features quite complex combinations of corners and braking zones, and the relatively narrow layout incorporates a significant 30-metre elevation change from the highest point to the lowest.

What has been changed for 2024?

It has emerged that Imola has intended to make changes to the run-off zones of the track in order to drive away track limits issues, which has been a returning problem in recent years. Simply put, “track limits” refers to the white lines along the edges of an F1 track. With several tracks having extended the asphalt run-off zones in recent years, drivers have been encouraged to use the white lines of the track.

The issues culminated in last year's Austrian Grand Prix where stewards needed to investigate over 1200 track limit violations, and the final result of the race was only announced the day after the event.

The 4.909km Imola track has gone through a few changes for this year with both kerbs and run-off areas having been modified. The asphalt run-off has been reduced in the exit of Turn 9 on the right-hand side. It will mean that drivers will need to respect the exit of the famous Piratella corner as even a slight mistake could now turn out to be a race-ending incident while previous mistakes were usually not punished due to the asphalt run-off section.

Furthermore, the asphalt run-off has been reduced between Turn 12 and 13 on the left hand-side. Previously, the Acqua Minerali featured a very wide asphalt run-off zone, but it has been significantly reduced for this weekend which will encourage driver to respect the braking zone in this very part of the track.

The complex of Turns 14 and 15 has been also altered for this year, with the asphalt section having been changed to a gravel trap. The complex that is referred to as Gresini corner has always been a challenging section with the close proximity of the walls, but the new gravel trap will mean that drivers can beach their cars following a slight misjudgement of the braking zone.

Besides the changes to the run-off zones, Imola has also tweaked several kerbs as well. New double kerbs have been installed on the left-hand side in Turns 2, 4, 5, 9 and 19, and on the right-hand side in Turns 3, 6, 11, 12 and on exit of Turn 15.