F1 and Sightseeing: Imola
Experience Imola without leaving your Home
Most people are stuck at home due to the pandemic and travelling abroad for vacations or to watch a Formula One race is completely out of question. So, why not see the world with F1 and get to know the places that are home to the tracks on the calendar. Let's start with a small city in Italy.
This weekend, the F1 circus heads to Imola, a city in Bologna in Northern Italy. It is home to the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix which returns to the calendar to replace of the Chinese Grand Prix that was postponed due to the Coronavirus. The track itself is very beautiful just like the city and is embeded into the sport's history for multiple reasons. Let's start by taking a look at the city's history.
The city was founded in 82 BC by the Roman dictator L. Cornelius Sulla. It was an agricultural town, an important trade centre and was famous for its ceramics. It had a violent past with a number of conflicts and invasions leading to the changing of rulers frequently until the 18th century.
The French force established a provisional government in Imola in 1797. Two years later, the Austrians occupied the city. Finally, in 1800, Imola was united to the Cisalpine Republic after which it became a part of the Romagna region where it is located today.
Imola is home to many monuments that display the region's history and culture.
The Rocca Sforzesca or Sforza Castle was built in 1261 but later renovated in 1472-84 by the Sforza family. The castle was once home to Caterina Sforza, one of the most powerful women of the Renaissance era. Currently, it is home to the International Piano Academy, "Incontri col Maestro" founded by Franco Scala.
Another place to visit is the Farmacia dell’Ospedale Santa Maria della Scaletta. It is a pharmacy that was built in the 18th century which is still operational. Its roof is decorated with paintings that are an ode to the healing power of nature. It also has many other paintings and six terracotta sculptures made in Faenza, the home of Alpha Tauri.
The Piazza Matteotti, the renaissance square which was at the centre of Leonardo da Vinci's map is also in Imola. The map, which was the first iconograph in history, changed cartography forever as it was the first map drawn for military purposes and not artistic. It is a beautiful place and represents the city's history in a lot of ways.
A place that would interest F1 fans is the Monumento ad Ayrton Senna. It is a memorial to Ayrton Senna, who passed away during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix at imola. It is located at the Tamburello curve where the Brazilian died and has a small statue of him. Everyday, thousands of people come to pay their respect to the 3-time World Champion. It is a must-visit for any F1 fan.
The city's biggest attraction for F1 fans however, is the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, which hosts the race itself.
The Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari
Bird's eye view of the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Imola. Photo: Formula One
The track was founded in 1950 and racing started in 1953. Imola first hosted a non-championship F1 event in 1963 but couldn't make its spot permanent as the Italian Grand Prix was already hosted at Monza. It was given the honour of hosting the Italian Grand Prix in 1980 and from 1981, hosted the San Marino Grand Prix as the Italian Grand Prix returned to the Temple of Speed. It went on to host 27 Grands Prix until 2006.
The track has had many memorable moments throughout its history. Imola is remembered mainly for Ayrton Senna's fatal crash at Tamburello in 1994 which triggered a safety revolution in F1. Senna also had many other memorable moments at Imola. The first battle between him and Alain Prost took place here in 1985 as Senna produced a great display of defensive driving to fend off Prost. However, his Lotus ran out of fuel before the end. Prost crossed the line in first but was later disqualified as his car was underweight. Their rivalry was ignited at Imola too. In 1989, the two had a gentleman's agreement that whoever went into turn one in the lead would not be challenged. However, Gerhard Berger's massive crash caused a red flag. On the restart, Prost passed Senna for the lead into turn one but Senna repassed him later in the lap and went on to win. This led to the start of one of the most bitter rivalries in the sport's history.
Senna leads into turn 1 in the 1989 San Marino Grand Prix.
It is also a happy hunting ground for the Schumachers as Michael tool his first Ferrari pole here, in front of the Tifosi and then dragged his car across the line in second place on 3 wheels on Sunday. His younger brother Ralf also got his first win in Imola in 2001. He passed both Mclarens at the start and then led every lap to win a Grand Prix for the first time.
Michael Schumacher in the 1996 San Marino Grand Prix. Photo: Scuderia Ferrari Fans
The track is very fast with a number of high speed corners. Many turns are off-camber and pose a challenge to the teams and drivers. The track is anti clockwise and its old-school nature makes it difficult to overtake. With grass and gravel marking track limits, any small mistake will probably end the race for the driver.
Watch Pierre Gasly's track guide:
2020 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix
Last year's race at Imola saw Mercedes complete a 1-2 finish led by Hamilton as the Brackley based team secured their 7th Constructors' Championship. The race itself was action-packed as Verstappen chased down a stricken Valterri Bottas who had debris stuck in his bargeboard. However, after passing Bottas for second place, Max had a tyre failure and crashed out of the race in spectacular fashion. There was also plenty of action in the midfield.
Watch the highlights of last year's race:
What to Watch For
After last week's duel in the desert, there is a lot to look forward to in this weekend's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. It is a completely different circuit to Bahrain and it will be interesting to see if Red Bull are still competitive in a track that last year favoured Mercedes. If Verstappen can get a win this weekend, we will definitely have a title fight to look forward to.
In the midfield too, it is an important weekend for Aston Martin and Alpine who will look to come back after a very disappointing weekend last time out. If they have the pace to fight Mclaren, Ferrari and Alpha Tauri, they need to bring it to Imola, else they will fall too far back to recover.