The Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari in the town of Imola was a permanent fixture on the Formula 1 calendar between 1980 to 2006. Its first race was a one-off move for the Italian Grand Prix away from Monza, but it then hosted the San Marino Grand Prix for the following 26 years – despite lying around 100 kilometres outside of the microstate that gave the race its name. The circuit welcomed Formula 1 back in 2020 amid the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many races had to be cancelled.
Drivers and fans alike loved having the old-school circuit back, and Imola secured a deal to host Formula 1 until at least 2025. Nowadays the race is named not for San Marino but, rather more logically, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix – after the local region, which has supported the return of Formula 1. This is the motoring heartland of Italy: where you can find the home of Ferrari, at Maranello, plus other evocative automotive names like Lamborghini, Maserati and Pagani. And there is even a second Formula 1 team based even closer to Imola: AlphaTauri from Faenza, just 15 kilometres down the road.
Imola hosts the first European race of the Formula 1 season, just as it did in the days of the San Marino GP. As well as a welcome reduction in air miles for travelling personnel, this has traditionally been a key moment in the year when many teams will introduce the first major technical updates to their cars – and 2023 looks like being no different. With this being the start of a triple-header of back-to-back races, with the Monaco and Spanish grands prix following, it will be interesting to see how different some cars could look and how the order between them might develop.
The Imola weekend will be the debut for a new qualifying format, where just one compound of tyre will be used in each session. In Q1 only the hard will be available, Q2 will use only the medium, while the soft is just for Q3. This “Alternative Tyre Allocation” reduces the total tyre allocation for each car from 13 sets to 11 per weekend, and will also be seen at another race weekend later this year. Separately, Pirelli will also bring along a new Cinturato Blue Full Wet tyre which doesn’t require the use of tyre blankets.
While Italy has two Formula 1 grands prix, it doesn’t have a Formula 1 driver right now – but there are some ambitious young drivers hoping to put that right. Formula 2 and Formula 3 will both be in action in Imola, with Gabriele Mini (an Alpine Academy driver) and Leonardo Fornaroli flying the flag in the latter. Highly-rated Italian talent can also be found in the Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine, which began its season at Imola last month. Andrea Kimi Antonelli, from nearby Bologna, is the Italian Formula 4 champion and part of the Mercedes young driver programme. He finished second in the season-opening race behind Norway’s Martinius Stenshorne, with round two to take place in Barcelona on the same weekend as the Emilia Romagna GP.
A race to remember
Sometimes, the raw...