F1 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix: Imola, heart of Scuderia Ferrari, in the shadow of Monza

For Ferrari, it’s a house party. For Italy, it’s a return to a second home. This weekend, Imola hosts the fourth Grand Prix of a start to the season frankly dominated by the Scuderia. Between the most powerful manufacturer on the planet and the Emilia-Romagna route, the ties are close, historic and even intimate. Paradoxically, this is one of the reasons why a success for Charles Leclerc or Carlos Sainz on Sunday would not have quite the same impact as a victory rossa at Monza, the size of which has always made shade in the setting of the metropolis of Bologna. Nevertheless.

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Apart from Fiorano – the Italian manufacturer’s test track – no other circuit in the world is more steeped in Ferrari history. “There is a very strong linkconfirms Marco Panieri, Mayor of Imola. The circuit bears the name of Enzo Ferrari, the creator, and his son Dino. Our city and the Scuderia are linked by their common history, by memories, but also by the whole territorial context..” Less than 100 kilometers separate the route from Maranello, stronghold of the Prancing Horse.

Imola, Scuderia DNA

At the time, Enzo Ferrari, passionate about performance that he was, wanted to make the local track a “little Nürburgring”, extremely demanding for the machines and their drivers. Long considered dangerous, slow to modernize, the circuit only made its appearance on the World Championship calendar in 1980, taking advantage of the withdrawal of Monza, then under construction, and the influence of the Commendatore.

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Monza is an outdated track that highlights the limits of an old projectexplained Mauro Forghieri, one of the greatest engineers of the Scuderia. While Imola offers spectators visibility on longer stretches of a very beautiful, challenging track located in the heart of Romagna“Imola is therefore imbued with the DNA of Ferrari.”And the F1 is in the DNA of the populationadds Marco Panieri. When you are from Imola, this circuit is part of you and it is something that is passed down from generation to generation. Everyone has friends or family who have worked, directly or indirectly, with the circuit. This is for the whole city.”

Monza and Imola, past and past

In Ferrari tradition, Imola has always been the meeting place with the people of Ferrari“, summarized Jean Alesi, former holder of the Scuderia, for the Corriere della Sera. Before attempting a footballing metaphor: “Imola is the Curva Sud. Monza is the North Curva. ” Nevertheless, Monza has the privilege of age and the monopoly of great moments. On the calendar from the beginning in 1950, rarely absent since, the Temple of Speed ​​was both the cradle of the very first victory of the Scuderia as part of the World Cup and a breath of fresh air during more painful periods, in 1988 with the miraculous success of Gerhard Berger, until 2019 with the consecration of Charles Leclerc.

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The Imola circuit was above all marked by tragic events. For Ferrari, first: in 1982, Gilles Villeneuve, the greatest idol of the Scuderia, felt betrayed there by his teammate Didier Pironi two weeks before dying at Zolder. For all of Formula 1, too: during the dark weekend of 1994 marked by the disappearances of Roland Ratzenberger and the legendary Ayrton Senna. These events, at the origin of a vast awareness around security, will gradually lead to the loss of Imola, considered obsolete and no longer meeting the new standards, in 2006.

In the meantime, Imola could never emerge from the shadow of Monza, from its historical… and political weight. Bernie Ecclestone, the former big money maker of F1, saw it as a place capable of attracting a wider and above all more international audience, thanks to its proximity to the very touristy city of Milan, located about twenty kilometers away. This did not prevent him, at the end of his reign, from demanding colossal sums from the organizers to maintain his presence on the circuit.

From tensions to cohabitation

In 2016, Imola had even tried, at the instigation of the former mayor of the city, to take advantage of this tense situation to return to the calendar and inherit the name of the “Italian Grand Prix”, more prestigious in the eyes of the sponsors. So more profitable. But the Italian government had legislated in favor of Monza. And finally, it was the pandemic that allowed Imola to make a comeback.

There has never been a conflict with Monzaassures the mayor of Imola, Marco Panieri. What is important is to play it collectively. I really want us to walk hand in hand, because this is a great opportunity for us and the whole country, which must relaunch after the Covid-19 crisis.“Cohabitation is possible again: Monza will be on the calendar until at least 2025. Just like Imola.

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And with Stefano Domenicali, born a few kilometers from this last track, at the head of Formula 1, the two Grands Prix have less to worry about. And too bad if, in Emilia-Romagna, the passion is a little less contagious than in the suburbs of Milan. “There’s an incredible excitement hereis satisfied the mayor of the city. It feels like being back in the 1980s or 1990s. There is the interest of seeing these new single-seaters on an ‘old school’ circuit. The whole city awaits this event. There will be an exceptional atmosphere all weekend. We risk seeing tifosi hanging from the trees to watch the race (laughs). And we cannot exclude an invasion of the track after the race!

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