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What can Formula 1 expect on its long-awaited return to Imola?

What can Formula 1 expect on its long-awaited return to Imola?

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What can Formula 1 expect on its long-awaited return to Imola?

What can Formula 1 expect on its long-awaited return to Imola?

Formula 1 returns to one of its temples this weekend for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, ending what will be a 14-year absence.

Yes, Imola is back on the calendar! One of the great circuits of the world, a track steeped in history, will again be a proving ground for the world's best racing drivers.

The race will mark the third event in Italy this year, following on from the Italian GP at Monza and Tuscan GP at Mugello, and is the first scheduled two-day event in F1, with the only practice session lasting for 90 minutes on Saturday morning ahead of qualifying.

But for those new to the sport, or those who want a refresher, here is what we can expect from the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, located 25 miles east of Bologna.

The circuit

Some of the most world-renowned corners are located at Imola. The anti-clockwise 4.909km track has always posed a challenge given its high-speed, flowing nature that beautifully marries fast drivers and stunning machinery.

The distinctive curve that starts the lap will be a sight for sore eyes, leading into the Tamburello chicane, that was reprofiled after the tragic death of Ayrton Senna during the 1994 race.

Then there's a short blast towards a similarly set-up chicane, Villeneuve, which proceeds into the Tosa hairpin.

Now for the section that will really separate the good from the great. Piratella is a fast left-hander with the braking-zone arriving just after a blind crest.

A left-hand kink leads down the hill towards Acque Minerali - a section of track Daniil Kvyat has claimed "gets the adrenaline going".

The first part of the double right-hander is flat out before a rapid deceleration for a tightening second apex, which will be crucial during qualifying.

After a run uphill, the cars will reach the Variante Alta, a tight, relatively obscure chicane placed purely to slow the cars before the run downhill towards Rivazza.

The double left-hander is now the final corner on the circuit, as the Variante Bassa - which used to be the final chicane before the pit-straight - has been bypassed.

What lap times can we expect?

It is really difficult to tell. Obviously, there is history at the circuit, but with the removal of the chicane, it becomes difficult to pinpoint a time region. But try we will.

The time difference between this year's pole lap at Mugello and Rubens Barrichello's lap time at the same track in a Ferrari F2004 was roughly three seconds.

Looking at the Imola track record of one minute 20.411secs set in the same car by Michael Schumacher, then we could perhaps expect somewhere in the region of a one minute 17.

With the absence of the Variante Bassa, however, it is not unrealistic to expect a few more seconds to be shaved off that time.

Who will be fast?

Mercedes, obviously, although it will be enthralling to see Lewis Hamilton throwing the W11 around a proper old-school track like this.

Racing Point should look forward to a strong weekend, with the circuit seemingly suiting the RP20's capabilities, similarly Renault.

McLaren may be stepping into the unknown, but in truth, nothing has followed form all season in F1 other than Mercedes dominating.

Watch out for AlphaTauri, though, as they have completed running this year at the circuit, which may come in handy.

Where can we see overtaking?

What is now a long run down into Tamburello all the way back from Rivazza will provide a strong chance, even though the chicane is relatively high speed. Tosa should also provide some opportunity.

The rest of the circuit is really open to how much grip a following car can maintain, with the high-speed mid-section potentially hurting the prospect of good racing into Rivazza.

Before you go...

Tsunoda firmly in the hunt for 2021 AlphaTauri seat

Mercedes' record-breaking season 'setting roots for 2022' - Wolff

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