Formula One returns to Imola this weekend, as part of its 2020 strategy of visiting epic tracks that get fans dreaming at the mere mention of their name. Following forays into new territory - Mugello and Portimao - and the return of old favourites - hello, Nurburgring - it's time to head to the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari for the first ever Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
A Formula One world championship venue since 1980, when it hosted the Italian Grand Prix in lieu of Monza, and host of the San Marino GP from 1981 to 2006, Imola is a place on which the word "legendary" can be bestowed without embarrassment. It's a place where history was written: where the relationship between Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi came to an end in 1982, where Michael Schumacher won seven times, where our old friend Heinz-Harald Frentzen claimed his first ever win.
Imola, however, will be forever associated with Ayrton Senna and the tragic events of the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. That race, a black weekend that also claimed the life of Roland Ratzenberger and saw Rubens Barrichello suffer a horrific crash, alongside spectators and mechanics injured by other incidents, marks a watershed in Formula One history. There's a before and there's an after those Imola days.
Next weekend will also mark a milestone for our sport. A new, experimental format will be adopted for the weekend, with the two Friday practice sessions cancelled - by design, not necessity - and a single, 90-minute slot on Saturday morning to discover the track and set the car up. It will be an added challenge for the teams, a one-shot chance of getting things right ahead of qualifying. It could shake up the order; it could create opportunities.
The shortest weekend in a venue with a long and important history. 2020 never fails to deliver memorable moments.
Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal: "The Imola weekend is another experiment in this 2020, with the shorter programme meaning we have to extract all we can in the single practice session on Saturday: it's not too different from the times we had a washout on Friday, most recently at the Nurburgring, so I don't think it will take anyone by surprise. Last time it happened, however, we had a fairly interesting race and we came home with a point, so hopefully we will be among those adapting better to these novel circumstances. We saw some more performance from our team in the last few rounds and now it's time to keep pushing to make the last step needed to be in the top ten more regularly."
Kimi Raikkonen: "It's nice to come back to Imola as it's a cool track with a lot of history. A few people have mentioned the times in which I retired from the lead with mechanical issues, but I also had a podium there in 2003 so things are not always so bad. In any case, there's no point looking back at what we did so many years ago, I'd very much rather focus on this weekend. The race in Portugal was quite fun, especially in the first couple of laps, but in the end we left with nothing, so obviously we need to make one more step forward. We need to move up the grid on Saturday and that will give us a better chance in the race, as our pace on Sundays is not too bad. We are working hard and hopefully we can get back in the points this week."
Antonio Giovinazzi: "This will be the third home race for me this season - I still can't believe I had this opportunity. To be racing in Italy is always a special occasion for me, and I hope we will have the chance to put up a good show for everyone watching from home, especially at a time in which Italy is still reeling from a tough year. Imola is a legendary track: both incredible and tragic pages of motorsport history have been written there and you can't escape feeling it the moment you step into the circuit. I only raced there once, in F3 in 2014 when I finished third, but to stand on that podium is a unique experience. The dream this weekend would be to have a great race, score points on home soil and celebrate a special weekend in the best way: our recent performances have given us some confidence we can put in a fight for a place in the top ten."