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Scenic view of the circuit. Formula One World Championship, Rd3, San Marino Grand Prix, Imola, Italy, 1 May 1994.

Formula 1 drivers hail Imola as “old school” cool race track

Scenic view of the circuit. Formula One World Championship, Rd3, San Marino Grand Prix, Imola, Italy, 1 May 1994.

With more and more pop-up Grand Prix circuits making it onto the Formula 1 calendar from Miami to Baku plus several more among them, a return to Europe’s ‘old school’ venues such as Imola has special significance for drivers.

It is the 31st occasion that a Grand Prix is held at Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, previously as the San Marino Grand Prix albeit the first time in 1980, hosted the Italian Grand Prix while Monza was refurbished.

This year is the fourth edition of what is now known as the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix at Imola. During the FIA-hosted F1 drivers’ press conference ahead of the weekend in Italy, the question was raised: “What does it actually feel like to come to such an iconic venue, with such great history, as this?

“And especially on the weekend where we’re marking the 30 years since Senna’s death? What does it mean to you all to be racing here this weekend?”

Sainz: I’m glad the F1 calendar keeps this sort of venue

Sainz: I'm glad the F1 calendar keeps this sort of venue

First to answer was Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz: “It’s what we all miss a little from all the new venues that we go to is this old school kind of feeling of the track and the history behind them. I’m glad the calendar keeps this sort of venue because it reminds us all where we all come from and why we all became fans of this sport.

“So I’m a big fan of coming back to places like Imola, Monaco next week. I do think there’s potentially a bit of work to do in some of these tracks to maybe make them a bit better for the show, in terms of when we look at the overtaking possibilities in Monaco or here.

“I think we need to see how long is the pit lane also, see how we can make the old school tracks also maybe a bit more exciting with overtaking opportunities and making the race better. But I think it’s also part of the European style of tracks and old-school tracks that I love driving a qualifying lap around.

“I think Imola is a top-three circuit in the world, where you feel a Formula 1 car more than anything else. This together with Suzuka, I think Zandvoort also maybe is where you feel a Formula 1 car at its peak. And I love that. So yeah, all for coming back to these places,” reckoned the Spaniard.

Magnussen: I love coming to these track like Imola

magnussen imola

Haas F1 Team veteran Kevin Magnussen concurred with his peer: “Yeah, I prefer driving on these tracks. I agree with Carlos on the racing side of it but definitely driving. These types of tracks are just a little bit more intimidating than some of the new ones where you might as well be driving a simulator in terms of your feeling in driving.

“I love coming to these tracks. I think it’s a good point about the pit lane, maybe that’s an area where if you lessened the pit stop time, you would have maybe more likely a two-stop. The tyres are still today not good for racing each other and overheating when you’re behind. I think there is a bit of a step forward from a couple of years ago, but that is still a big issue.

“The cars have become more difficult to follow each other, and those things weigh higher, I think. That could be solved and made easier for racing here,” ventured the Dane.

Gasly: This is how we all fell in love with the sport

king of imola michael schumacher ferrari f1 podium

Alpine F1 Team’s Pierre Gasly was also on the same page: “I agree with all the points of Carlos. I think it’s part of the DNA of our sport. Just this week, just seeing all the history that happened on this track.

“There were a couple of videos of Michael driving the Ferrari, winning, his pole lap from some years ago. And this is how we all fell in love with the sport.

“As a kid, I remember watching these guys driving around here. And these days, as Carlos said, it’s one of the best tracks. The way you attack the kerbs, the chicane is very iconic here. It’s just a very cool track to drive. And the history there is very impressive. And yeah, definitely think it’s important for our sport to keep these type of venues,” added the Frenchman.

Stake F1 driver Zhou Guanyu, who has only raced at Imola once as an F1 driver said: “Yeah, not much to add. Obviously, it’s always been one of my top of the list. These few tracks I really love to go to since, you know, the first day in the single-seater F4 times.

“Like Pierre was mentioning, it’s just really nice to drive that and to really feel this old school track in a way that you can use this new generation car to extract all the downforce we have,” explained Zhou, China’s first F1 driver.

Norris: We love it but we also want to race more

IMOLA, ITALY - APRIL 24: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing (second from right), Second placed Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing (second from left) and Third placed Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren (R) celebrate on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 24, 2022 in Imola, Italy. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Miami Grand Prix winner, Lando Norris continued the conversation: “We want these circuits because they’re more challenging for us as drivers. But generally, the tracks that are like this are also ones which are a bit harder to overtake and the ones that people don’t like as much because there are more run-offs and things.

At times, you have better overtaking at these tracks. So you kind of have to find the right compromises. But like Carlos said, the pit lane is so long here that it takes away any strategy element or that side of racing. But yeah, I think history is always a part of every sport. And you always want to kind of keep definitely parts of history within it for whatever reason it is.

“We love it but we also want to race more. And those are the reasons that some of these tracks are getting dropped because the racing is not good enough and they’re not exciting enough. But we want to be able to come to these tracks and race, just so certain things need to be done in order to achieve that.

“I went to the Monaco Historique and the best thing about it for me is the sound. The sound needs to be improved, first of all. But smaller cars, lighter cars, these types of things will make everything better straight away. A combination of various things, needs to be improved.

“Then, I think then we can all enjoy these tracks more. Otherwise, eventually, we’re not going to be racing here if there’s never any overtaking,” lamented the Briton, fresh from scoring his maiden win and now aiming for the top spot of the Imola podium on Sunday. He did finish P3 when F1 last raced here in 2002.