October 27th, 2020

Long history, short weekend

Formula One returns to Imola this weekend, as part of its 2020 strategy of visiting epic tracks that get fans dreaming at the mere mention of their name. Following forays into new territory – Mugello and Portimao – and the return of old favourites – hello, Nürburgring – it’s time to head to the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari for the first ever Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

A Formula One world championship venue since 1980, when it hosted the Italian Grand Prix in lieu of Monza, and host of the San Marino GP from 1981 to 2006, Imola is a place on which the word “legendary” can be bestowed without embarrassment. It’s a place where history was written: where the relationship between Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi came to an end in 1982, where Michael Schumacher won seven times, where our old friend Heinz-Harald Frentzen claimed his first ever win.

Imola, however, will be forever associated with Ayrton Senna and the tragic events of the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. That race, a black weekend that also claimed the life of Roland Ratzenberger and saw Rubens Barrichello suffer a horrific crash, alongside spectators and mechanics injured by other incidents, marks a watershed in Formula One history. There’s a before and there’s an after those Imola days.

Next weekend will also mark a milestone for our sport. A new, experimental format will be adopted for the weekend, with the two Friday practice sessions cancelled  – by design, not necessity – and a single, 90-minute slot on Saturday morning to discover the track and set the car up. It will be an added challenge for the teams, a one-shot chance of getting things right ahead of qualifying. It could shake up the order; it could create opportunities.

The shortest weekend in a venue with a long and important history. 2020 never fails to deliver memorable moments.