Emilia Romagna GP: Explaining F1’s two-day event and Imola return

Get ready for a Grand Prix with a twist this weekend on Sky Sports F1.

Formula 1 heading back to Imola is notable not just because of the return, after a 14-year absence from the calendar, of a majestic circuit which is steeped in history, but also as we will welcome a new weekend format.

The sport is debuting a two-day event for the newly-named Emilia Romagna GP, so that means a condensed schedule with no Friday practice, and a Saturday full of track action before Sunday’s race.

And all live only on Sky Sports F1.

Explaining F1’s two-day format, plus Sky F1 schedule

F1 Grands Prix usually take place over three days, with two 90-minute practice sessions on Friday, an hour-long final practice on Saturday, before qualifying later on Saturday and the race on Sunday.

But at Imola, there will be no running at all on Friday – and only one 90-minute practice session on Saturday morning for teams and drivers to get accustomed to the Italian circuit before qualifying.

Sky F1’s live & new-look Emilia Romagna GP schedule

We kick off the weekend with our Welcome To The Weekend show at 8.30am on Saturday morning, with first – and final – practice then taking place from 9-10.30am. Qualifying build-up then starts at 12pm before the shootout at 1pm – and there is then also a slightly earlier race time on Sunday, at 12.10pm following build-up from 10.30am.

Thursday’s media day has been shifted to Friday, when we’ll hear from all the drivers and bring the latest news and videos on our digital and social platforms.

The two-day format has been introduced for one key reason; it helps with logistics following the previous race in Portugal – the 12th of a delayed yet frenetic 2020 season.

But it could also represent a trial for F1. The sport’s bosses had previously put two-day weekends on the table with the planned (now delayed) 2021 rules refresh, before abandoning that idea, but it might yet become the norm should the calendar be expanded in the future as expected.

What will less practice mean for the GP?

Other than re-jigging the weekend schedule somewhat, the two-day format could also have a big effect on the track results.

Less time for practice means more variables, more uncertainty for teams and drivers, and more chance of an unexpected order.

F1 got an early glimpse of a two-day GP after Friday was washed, or fogged, out at the Nurburgring earlier this month, and while the qualifying results were largely as expected, five drivers didn’t finish Sunday’s race.

Imola gets set for F1 return

Imola is the latest track to enjoy a return to F1 during the largely Europe-based 2020 season. And while not on the calendar since Michael Schumacher’s victory in 2006, the circuit – or should we say the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari – has long, historic connections with F1.

It replaced Monza as the home of the Italian GP in 1980 and then hosted the San Marino GP from 1981 to 2006, with champions such as Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Damon Hill and Fernando Alonso all winning races there.

It was a very popular track, albeit one that holds tragic F1 memories. Roland Ratzenberger and Senna and were killed on consecutive days there in 1994.

The Emilia Romagna GP takes its name from the region the track is nestled in.

What’s the track like?

Situated close to Bologna – and Ferrari’s headquarters in Maranello – Imola certainly has an old-school feel. It’s a very narrow circuit, and features 18 corners with minimal run-off areas and a threat of barriers throughout.

It’s very fast, while Turns 11, 12 and 13 – known as Acque Minerali – will offer a big test for the drivers, particularly with only one practice session.

What are the teams and drivers saying?

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari: “I have never raced at Imola, but everybody knows the circuit as it used to be a permanent feature on the calendar for so many years. I was there in 2006, and that’s the only memory I have of Imola, when I was a support driver for the BMW Sauber team.

“I haven’t even walked the track and so this will be my first ever race there. I think it is a great track, which doesn’t allow for mistakes. I remember the last chicane before the start finish line also looked interesting and challenging but it isn’t there anymore. I’m very much looking forward to finally driving here this weekend.”

Toto Wolff, Mercedes (who can wrap up constructors’ title this weekend): “Our focus moves onto Imola, which is another F1 venue that we haven’t visited for a long time. It’s a track with lots of history but one that the Mercedes works team has never raced on before, so there are quite a few unknowns heading into the race weekend, and it’s great to be back in Italy once again for our third different race there this season.

“We’ve seen exciting races on the new tracks this year and the shorter weekend format will spice things up even more, so fans have an interesting weekend to look forward to.”

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari: “I’ve already raced at Imola twice in Formula Renault. It’s a track that I love and really enjoy driving at. The circuit is very technical, with some very tricky corners and it’s also a track where there is very little room for mistakes. I think that most of the drivers who are yet to discover it will love it there.

“This weekend we’ll also try the two-day track activity format for the first time, even if, to be honest, we’ve tried something similar because of the circumstances a few weeks ago at the Eifel GP, when bad weather kept us in the garages on Friday. It will be interesting to see how this compressed weekend will work.”

Daniel Ricciardo, Renault: “Imola is another new one for us. I’m excited about going there as we’ve had a great run of racing at new places and I’ve enjoyed them all so far. It’s also back to another Italian race and I’ve had good results in Italy this year so I’m hoping to have another strong one this weekend. I haven’t raced at Imola before and I’m sure there will be a bit of an aura about the place as there is so much history there and that will be nice to experience.”

Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri: “It’s an old-school track, one of those I really like, with gravel traps, high-speed and blind corners and elevation changes. It’s not going to be easy to set up the car properly for qualifying and the race with only one practice, but it’s a nice challenge which makes the weekend very exciting.”

Lance Stroll, Racing Point: “It’s clearly a very technical track and narrow in places – I think precision is going to be very important. That won’t be easy, it’s a tough track and hitting all the marks will be a challenge every lap for all the drivers. It’s going to be demanding mentally and physically, but overtaking could be a real challenge.”

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