PRIXVIEW – Emilia Romanaga Grand Prix

Features Testing & Race Reports

Round two of the 2021 season takes Formula One to Imola for the Emilia Romanaga Grand Prix. The Autodromo Enzo Dino Ferrari returned to the calendar six months ago as a result of Coronavirus and this year’s race replaces the postponed Chinese Grand Prix.

Imola until 2006, formerly the San Marino Grand Prix, was traditionally the opening race of the European season it returns to that spot this year; the circuit has been home to memorable races and the tragic weekend in 1994 where Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger were killed, and Rubens Barrichello injured.

Tamburello remains one of the most challenging corners of the circuit, even before that dreadful weekend in 1994, In 1987, Nelson Piquet crashed heavily during practice after a tyre failure and missed the race due to injury. In 1989, Gerhard Berger crashed his Ferrari at Tamburello after a front wing failure.

Officially called the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari to honour the memory of Enzo Ferrari, who had died in 1988. Imola is a circuit which drivers have always enjoyed as its high speed and doesn’t have the huge tarmac run-off areas, as we saw last year. It’s a circuit that is seen as one of the old school with challenging corners and gravel traps meaning mistakes are punished.

Last year George Russell’s mistake between Piratella and Aqua Minerale whilst trying to warm his tyres, cost him the chance of scoring maiden points for Williams, highlighting how difficult it can be. The Williams driver spun behind the safety car crashing out of the race

Drivers will be challenged by Imola as it’s a circuit that punishes mistakes and rewards bravery when drivers pull of successful overtakes. It is not like the modern ‘Tilke Dromes’ which have large tarmac run-off areas which allow drivers to recover easily from going off and that increases the chance

The 2005 and 2006 races were dominated by this factor as Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher fought each other, with Alonso managing to keep Ferrari behind him, while it was the other way round in 2006.

The first F1 race was a non-championship race in 1963 called the Imola Grand Prix which was won by Jim Clark by a minute after lapping everyone except Jo Siffert in second.

It also is a circuit where the cars are pushed to the limit as the track is tight, but in last years race, we did manage to see a bit of overtaking however historically it has been a difficult circuit to overtake. But those overtaking can be hard on the anti-clockwise circuit which places extra demands on the drivers’ necks.

Rival’s Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost both have three wins each at Imola, Senna leads most of the 1985 race only to be passed by Prost and Stefan Johansson after the Ferrari driver worked his way up from fifteenth. Johansson had a fuel problem and retired; many others subsequently began to run out of fuel and Prost took the victory, only to be disqualified later when his car was weighed in as 2 kg underweight; victory was then handed to 2nd-placed Italian Elio de Angelis.

The rivalry between the two McLaren drivers began here in 1989, on the restart following an agreement not to overtake the leader Senna passed Prost going through Villeneuve right-hander and passed the Frenchman into Tosa.

Prost was furious, as he saw this as a broken agreement. He followed and attempted to pass Senna on many occasions, eventually going off at the Variante Bassa chicane. Senna won the race, Prost finished second.

1992 saw the Williams pair of Nigel Mansell and Patrese dominate, and 1993 saw Prost win, now driving a Williams.

1994 is considered as the darkest weekend since Spa 1960, the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Senna as well as the violent crash of Rubens Barrichello in practice created a desperate atmosphere and Ratzenberger’s crash in qualifying just added to the pain for Senna. Before Senna’s crash at Tamburello eight spectators had be injured by debris from the collision between Benetton driver JJ Lehto and Lotus driver Pedro Lamy.

Michael Schumacher’s first of seven wins at Imola pales off into a footnote in history, but that weekend changed F1 forever making the sport safer with the last death in F1 being Jules Bianchi eight months after Suzuka in 2014 and F2 driver Anthoine Hurbert the last driver to die during a race weekend at Spa in 2019.

Damon Hill won 1997 followed by David Coulthard in 1998, Ferrari’s dominance started in 1999 and would see Michael win five of the next seven races. With him only being beaten by brother Ralf in 2001, the first time a pair of brothers had won races in F1.

It remains known by its former name Imola the city the circuit is in, the circuit is a high speed and one where overtaking can be difficult as proved by Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso in 2005-06, who got stuck behind Alonso in 2005 allowing the Spaniard to win the race, the following season it was Schumacher ahead of Alonso with the Ferrari winning for the penultimate time in Italy.

Facts and figures

Round 02 of 24
Race Formula 1 Pirelli Gran Premio del Made in Italy e Dell’Emillia Romagna 2021
Venue Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Imola, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Configuration 2008
Circuit Length 4.909 km (3.050 mi)
Laps 62
Race Distance 307.221 km (191.022 mi)
Lap Record Race 01:15.484, Lewis Hamilton Mercedes, 2020
Outright 01:13.609, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, 2020
Most wins drivers * Michael Schumacher (7)
Most wins manufacture * Ferrari (8)

Williams

*As the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola

Fast facts

  • Imola’s motorsport history dates back to the 1940s when the town’s races were held on public roads. It wasn’t until 1950, however, that work began to construct a permanent racetrack. Work was finally completed in 1952.
  • Imola has held Grand Prix under four different names Imola, Italian, San Marino and the current name Emilia Romagna, after the region it is in.
  • Arrows scored 25% of their podiums at Imola, for F1’s long-term underachiever, with two of its eight podiums happening here. The first was in an era where it was a regular threat for victory. Arrows made an excellent start to the 1981 season, leading from pole
  • Last years race was the 100th Grand Prix to be held in Italy, it held its first world championship race in 1980.

Event timetable

Session

Local

BST

Friday

P1 11:30-12:30 10:30-11:30
P2 15:00-16:00 14:00-15:00

Saturday

Sessions revised due to Funeral of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh 

P3 11:00-12:00 10:00-11:00
Qualifying 14:00-15:00 13:00-14:00

Sunday

Race 15:00 14:00

What happened in 2020?

Valtteri Bottas beat Mercedes teammate, Sir Lewis Hamilton, by nine-hundredths of a second to secure pole position. Mercedes topped the session by half a second while Max Verstappen out-qualified the Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly. Imola proved to be a good circuit for Gasly, as Verstappen was left with only a single run in Q1 because of an engine issue.

Hamilton played the long game in the race by doing a long first stint which allowed him to undercut the Mercedes, allowing him to mathematically be able to seal his seventh title in Istanbul. He made his final stop after Verstappen suffered a puncher, but the Red Bull was able to run at the same pace as the Mercedes.

Williams George Russell crashed at Acqua Minerali as he warmed his tyres for the restart he lost control of the Williams and went into the wall, once again maiden. points slipped through his fingers. He would get to redeem himself two races later almost winning the Sakhir race before Mercedes mixed up his pit stop costing him a maiden win.

Daniel Ricciardo was another driver to make a long first stint work, he finished third holding off a late charge from his former teammate Daniil Kvyat. The Russian, however, was still over half a second behind Ricciardo when the flag fell, but it was his best finish of the season.

Race Result – 1) L. Hamilton, Mercedes, 01:28:32.430, 2) V. Bottas, Mercedes, +5.783, 3) D. Ricciardo, Renault, +14.320

What to watch for?

This weekend is going to be about further understanding the battle between Mercedes and Red Bull, both teams had their strong points in Sakhir. Although we did see a close battle which was because of Mercedes strategy and Max Verstappen’s mistake in the final few laps of the race. Mercedes is warry of this and there are a lot we still don’t know about the performance of the car.

Imola is a tricky old school circuit, it doesn’t have these wide run-off areas and is lined with gravel traps making drivers overtaking more dramatic and rewarding, but it still punishes mistakes as we saw with George Russell. Overtaking is difficult, we have seen races won by drivers simply making their cars look wider on the track than they really are.

All this means that teams need to be on the ball when it comes to reacting to the mistakes of others, there is not much tarmac run-off and the circuit is lined with gravel. This also increases the chance of a safety car, so that can mix things up when it comes to strategy.

Williams I believe are targeting races like Imola for points, we know they have openly admitted the design of the car is to score the majority of their points at certain types of circuits. Last year we saw Russell go really well before crashing out of the race, but we will I this will be something we should understand throughout the weekend.

Also, it’s a high speed and downforce circuit which should give us an idea of the performance of the teams. The midfield battle is one I will think be closer than in Bahrain, the battle here I think is going to be between McLaren, Alpine and Alpha Tauri who all look to be close on track.

Alpha Tauri had a brilliant race last year, and in testing they proved to be one of the strongest teams in the midfield. The challenge for them is to lead the very close midfield battle, we should have between the Italian team and their main rivals. Aston Martin remains a unknown they had a difficult weekend in Bahrain.

The nature of Imola means teams need to be on the ball because there is a higher possibility of safety cars and mistakes. Imola should however give us a better understanding of the pecking order, but we are in spring time in Europe and the weather can be mixed.

2006 vs 2020 Race Data

P1 Fastest

P2 Fastest

P3 Fastest

Q1 Fastest

Q2 Fastest

Q3 Fastest

Race Time

Fastest Lap

2020

01:14.726  N/A N/A 01:14.221 01:14.585 01:13.609 01:28:32.430 01:15.484

Diff

-6.334 -7.135 -8.951 -9.970 -03:26.056 -8.614

2006

01:21.060 01:20.484 01:21.356 01:20.058 01:23.536 01:22.579 01:31:06.486 01:24.098

Imola was run as a two-day event in 2020 meaning there was no FP2 or FP3.

Tyres

White Hard (C2)

Yellow Medium (C3)

Red Soft (C4)

 

Jack

Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.