The Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari (commonly known as Imola) is a permanent racing circuit which held the 1980 Italian Grand Prix and all subsequent runnings of the San Marino Grand Prix until 2006. It is currently undergoing redevelopments with the aim of returning it to the Formula One calendar. The circuit is notorious as the home of the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix during which Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna were both killed.
The original layout of the Imola circuit featured several flat-out sections connected by tight hairpins. At first, the run from Rivazza (map bottom left) and Tosa (top right) was flat out, as was the run from Aqua Minerale to Rivazza. This meant that drivers reached very high speeds through Tamburello and Villeneuve. However, by 1980, the track was modified to slow cars slightly by adding a tight double-chicane between Rivazza and the Start/Finish line.
From the start line, the circuit ran through a quick left-hander (Tamburello) which was taken flat-out. From here, a short straight leads to a flat right-hader (Villeneuve) and tight left (Tosa). Following a short straight, and quick sweeping left hander lies Aqua Minerale, a tight right-left-right chicane. Over a crest is the right-left chicane, Variante Alta. Then down the hill to the double left hand Rivazza turns. Then back up the hill for a quick right-left and slower left-right (Variante Bassa) and on to the finish line.
Over 14 years on this layout, numerous major accidents occurred. Many of these, including seperate terrifying crashes involving Nelson Piquet, Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto, occurred at the notorious Tamburello Curve. Tamburello was a flat-out left-hander with very little run-off and a concrete wall outside of the track.
In the Friday practice session of the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, Rubens Barrichello was injured at Variante Bassa when his car was launched over the kerbs into a tyre barrier at high speed. On Saturday, after damaging his front wing on a previous lap, Roland Ratzenberger was killed when he failed to negotiate the Villeneuve corner and crashed heavily into the concrete wall at around 200mph, fatally fracturing his neck. The following day, during the race, three-time World Champion Ayrton Senna was also killed when his Williams-Renault went straight on at Tamburello and he hit the concrete wall at around 135mph. Though not badly injured by the impact, a piece of Senna's suspension wishbone penetrated the driver's helmet, causing fatal injuries.
In response to the accidents at the 1994 event, the FIA demanded that changes must be made to the circuit to improve the safety of the drivers. These changes were made ahead of the 1995 San Marino Grand Prix.
Numerous changes to the Imola circuit were made from the 1995 event onwards:
- Tamburello Curve was transformed into a much slower chicane, and the concrete run-off was replaced by gravel.
- Villeneuve corner was changed from a fast right-hander to a slow left-right chicane.
- The Aqua Minerale chicane was removed, and replaced by a double right-hander.
- Variante Alta was flattened and tightened slightly.
- The first chicane of Variante Bassa was removed, leaving a fast right hander, and a slow left-right chicane.
This layout of the Imola Circuit was used until 2006 after which the event was removed from the calendar.
In an attempt to reinstate the circuit into the Formula One calendar, the circuit was renovated in 2010. The pit lane and garages were demolished and replaced by a modern, extended complex. Variante Bassa was also removed, so that the circuit now runs flat-out from Rivazza to Tamburello. In 2008, the circuit was given a 1T FIA rating, allowing for F1 test events to be held there. In 2011 the circuit was upgraded to a 1 rating, allowing for F1 events to be held there. As yet, however, the circuit has not been reinstated to the calendar.
The following is a list of Formula One World Championship events held at the Imola circuit:
"I think its a great race track. It's got elevation. It's almost like a road track. It is an artificial circuit but they have managed to combine the landscape of the Imola track very, very well indeed. I think it does provide a very enjoyable circuit for the grand prix circuit." John Watson. Eurosport. First Qualifying. 1990 San Marino Grand Prix.
"The spectator area here is nearly packed to capacity. Motor racing, in particular Ferrari racing is almost a religion to these people. Their enthusiasm adds a unique atmosphere to the first race of the European season." Matthew Lorenzo. Eurosport. Second Qualifying. 1990 San Marino Grand Prix.
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