Could F1 return to famous Imola track where Senna was killed?
27 APR 1995: FLOWERS AND MOMENTOS LINE THE FENCING AS A TRIBUTE ON THE CORNER OF THE TRACK WHERE FORMER WORLD CHAMPION AYRTON SENNA OF BRAZIL CRASHED DURING THE 1994 SAN MARINO FORMULA ONE GRAND PRIX IN IMOLA, SAN MARINO. Mandatory Credit: Mike Hewitt/ALLSPORT

The rumours of the return of the San Marino GP have arisen following the announcement last Friday that the track has recently renewed its FIA grade-one status, making it eligible to host an F1 race again. The last time the sport raced at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit was in 2006, where Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher took a decisive victory. 

In a press release about the track’s status to hold an F1 weekend, the Formula Imola Chairman, Uberto Selvatico Estnese, stated:

“With the renewal of the license, we are in the condition to host also an F1 Grand Prix, having all the standards requested by FIA. We hope that such a dream becomes true with the teamwork of the institutions and Territory.”

Return to famous Imola track is ever more likely

The possibility of a race at Imola during this unusual 2020 season appears ever more likely, as this year’s calendar becomes more and more Euro-centric.

On the same day as the Italian track’s grade status was declared, F1 announced the cancellation of the Japanese, Singapore and Azerbaijan GPs over concerns and practicalities regarding COVID-19. Additional venues will be needed on top of the currently confirmed eight in order to reach the target of 15-18 races this season. 

In a statement quoted in an article by the BBC, F1 said it has been “encouraged by the interest that has been shown by new venues”. These possible ‘new venues’ proposed to fill the 2020 calendar include an extra race at Germany’s Hockenheimring and a GP at Ferrari’s home circuit Mugello.

Imola is known by many fans and drivers as an iconic track in the history of F1, hosting its first non-championship race in 1963, and its first calendar race in 1980. The venue was such a success that it was to be made a permanent track in the F1 schedule. However because there was already an Italian GP - held at Monza - this race was named the San Marino GP, after the nearby state. 

Imola track has history of fatal accidents

Sadly, for most, the 3.050-mile track is legendary due to negative reasons, namely the treacherous Tamburello corner. It was extremely uneven and perilously close to a concrete wall, making it the site for many terrible accidents.

Those injured in crashes at the corner included Nelson Piquet, Gerhard Berger, Riccardo Patrese and, most famously, Ayrton Senna, who was killed after crashing there in 1994. This accident, which occurred after two other major crashes on one weekend, sealed the fate of the corner, which was soon altered to make it safer. This included lowering the speed of the turn and adding a gravel trap to slow cars that left the track. 

Despite these changes, the circuit continued to prove a sore spot for organisers, and in 2007 it was removed from the F1 calendar. 

This year is not the first time that Imola has been granted a grade-one status since 2007, and it certainly is not the first time the track has requested holding an F1 weekend. But, as more and more races get cancelled as a result of the pandemic, could this be the moment for Imola’s return?

In an era of Formula 1 where one team has dominated for so long, this unusual and shortened season could be a key opportunity for Ferrari and Red Bull to challenge the Silver Arrows. Races at Monza, Imola and Mugello - three spectacular Italian tracks - would provide Vettel and Leclerc with multiple ‘home races’, perhaps what they need to challenge the might of Lewis Hamilton.

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