It pains me to write this because I adore the place – but Formula 1 probably shouldn’t be racing at Imola this weekend.
Believe me, I never thought I’d tap out that sentence about a race circuit I consider one of the best in Europe, if not the world. But sadly the former home of the San Marino Grand Prix, now the host of the Emilia Romagna GP, is outdated, a throwback – and not entirely in a good sense. The 2020 return was proof enough.
In a hastily compiled ‘emergency’ calendar formed in the midst of a global health crisis, Imola was a welcome and familiar haven last November for its first F1 grand prix since 2006, especially as it is fondly remembered as a traditional European season opener from the past – just as it is this weekend, in fact.
But while the surrounding Emilia Romagna countryside was as beautiful as it ever was, the undulating ribbon of track a proper test and the grass verges and close barriers something to concentrate the minds of every driver usually pampered by acres of asphalt run-off, the long-wheelbase, heavy, hybrid F1 cars appeared to have outgrown the place. Plus overtaking was near-on impossible. It always was tough to pass here, especially after the chicanes were added at Tamburello and Villeneuve in the wake of Ayrton Senna’s death in 1994, and with the high-drag, high-grip modern F1 cars that are the fastest ever seen, the race was destined to be processional.