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Imola - track guide to an F1 temple

Imola - track guide to an F1 temple

F1 News

Imola - track guide to an F1 temple

Imola - track guide to an F1 temple

Formula 1 returns to one of its temples this weekend for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, marking the second race in as many seasons for the venue after a 14-year hiatus.

One of the great circuits of the world, the track is steeped in history and will again be a proving ground for the world's best racing drivers as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to alter the F1 calendar.

The race will mark the first of two events in Italy this year, with the Italian GP at Monza to follow in September.

After the teams and drivers got their eye in last November, what can we expect this time around at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari?

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 is a sight for sore eyes - although this is no longer immediately ahead of the start-line - leading into the Tamburello chicane, which was reprofiled after the tragic death of Ayrton Senna during the 1994 race.

There is then a short blast towards a similar set-up of chicane in Villeneuve which proceeds into the Tosa hairpin.

Now for the section that really separates 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 renowned for its speed and undulation.

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?

Lap times last season were naturally far superior to those set in the 2000s, courtesy of the removal of the final chicane.

Valtteri Bottas secured pole position last season with a lap of one minute 13.609secs in the Mercedes W11.

With the aerodynamic changes and reduction to downforce, however, combined with the new construction of Pirelli tyre, timings may be slower.

On the flip side, warmer weather is to be expected given the race last year was run in November, so grip levels should be greater.

Who will be fast?

There is no doubt Red Bull look like the team to beat after the season-opener, despite Mercedes stealing victory through strategy.

With the issues the reigning champion constructor has experienced with the introduction of the new aerodynamic regulations, the high-speed nature of Imola should further play into the hands of Red Bull and Max Verstappen than in Bahrain.

In the midfield, McLaren will look to continue its strong opening round but will face increased pressure from Ferrari and AlphaTauri at their home race.

Alpine and Aston Martin both have catching up to do, whilst Alfa Romeo's strong opening race will provide extra motivation to add to the double-points finish achieved at this circuit last year.

Where can we see overtaking?

Given last year's race, hardly anywhere as there were just six overtakes in total, and five of those were in the DRS zone, which has at least been extended this season.

The long run into Tamburello all the way back from Rivazza will provide the strongest chance given the healthier dose of DRS, even though the chicane is relatively high speed. Tosa also provides an opportunity, whilst there was even a move at Piratella.

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

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