In September 1980, Imola finally got to host the Italian Grand Prix, which had always been held at Monza up to then. Imola kept its place the next year as the San Marino Grand Prix, which allowed for two races to be run each year in Italy. Some of those races went down in history, for all sorts of different reasons. Especially that fateful May 1 in 1994, when Williams driver Ayrton Senna died in an accident at Tamburello. Only the day before, Roland Ratzenberger had also been killed: making it still the most tragic weekend in Formula 1 history.
Since Enzo Ferrari died on August 14, 1988, the track has been known as the “Autodromo Dino and Enzo Ferrari”: a name that lives on today. The track continued to host Formula 1 until 2006 on a layout that was about five kilometres long and where in 2004 Jenson Button set the pole position record in a BAR-Honda at an average speed of 222.6kph. The outright lap record is still held by Michael Schumacher.
When Imola returns to the calendar this year, it will do so with yet another slightly modified layout to the anti-clockwise track. The old Variante Bassa before the pit straight is gone, and the long straight towards Tamburello is now broken up by two right-hand corners. The Variante Alta has some added safety features with more run-off and there are brand new pit garages: only the old Marlboro tower remains from the previous start-finish complex.
These are the constant reminders of the past, but the present will have a somewhat different look to it. Not just because the cars and the circuit aren’t exactly the same – but also because the weather is set to be quite diverse too. The traditional Imola slot was always in springtime: October will present a fascinating alternative context.