Imola: The New Home of the Italian Grand Prix?

The fast-moving money-centric world of Formula One means that even the tracks with the most history aren’t immune from being dropped. Monza’s 66 year reign as the home of the Italian Grand Prix could be coming to an end and Imola could give the event a new home. We take a look at why the Grand Prix may be moving and you decide which track would make a better 2017 host. 

How likely is it that the Italian Grand Prix will move?

The first talk of moving the Italian Grand Prix came in June 2015, when Monza’s future in the sport became increasingly doubtful. Monza’s financial issues, which have become more apparent in recent years, may see the circuit head in a similar route to the Nurburgring,

Allegedly, there are several political issues surrounding the current home of the Italian Grand Prix. The Automobile Club of Milan has organised the event for many years and is organising the 2016 event. However, the Automobile Club d’Italia (ACI) is involved in negotiations and funding for the 2017 event for the first time and this seems to be where some of the political issues lie. The ACI is against moving the event to Imola, with the President Angelo Sticchi Damiani firmly in favour of keeping the event at the so-called ‘cathedral of speed’.  

“It’s the first time a sports association in Italy has taken on the burden to organise the Formula One grand prix with significant funds. The fact that the ACI is replacing the Automobile Club Milano, which is still organising the grand prix this year, is of course a revolution and a quite relevant one. However, thanks also to the support of the Lombardi regional authority and, hopefully, thanks to a national sponsor that still needs to be defined in detail, thanks to this support we managed to begin negotiations in February.”

Meanwhile, Uberto Selvatico Estense, the President of Formula Imola, says that the Imola circuit has already signed a proposal contract with Bernie Ecclestone and that Imola has the correct funding from local government in order to host the event. 

“It just depends on Angelo Sticchi Damiani. I think it’s a political issue. We have an agreement with Bernie, and we only need the approval of the national sporting authority. If in the future there is not an Italian GP, it is only the problem of Mr Sticchi Damiani, who didn’t allow this agreement.”

Estense expects a decision by December at the very latest, though is hopeful of having at least a year to promote the event. Ecclestone, meanwhile, is quoted as saying that as Sticchi Damiani, ACI President, has the final say on where the Italian Grand Prix is held, Damiani can veto Imola hosting the Grand Prix. Further to this, Damiani also has the correct power to stop Imola hosting the ‘San Marino Grand Prix’ too, meaning that a 2017 calendar that features neither Monza nor Imola is also a possibility.

There have been plenty of conflicting reports in recent weeks with Autosport claiming that Monza is ‘set to keep’ the Grand Prix, while others claim that Monza may soon be just a memory for Formula One fans. But, the latest update from Damiani to Italian press claims that Monza’s future is safe. 

“We have finally solved all the problems there were with the territorial entities – the region, the cities of Milan and Monza, and the Park Authority. We have found an agreement between ACI Milan and SIAS [who own Monza], and we are preparing a binding offer to be sent to FOM. At this point there are no more political problems.”

Local government will also provide €5million each year to help keep the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

A Fresh Twist

On 20th July, it was reported  by, that the people behind Imola would be taking the case to court. They feel that it’s unfair that the ACI won’t give them the support or approval that it needs for the circuit to be finalised as the host of the 2017 Italian Grand Prix. Furthermore, the money that the government are helping to secure Monza’s bid with won’t be made available to Imola.  Imola’s claim is that with an offer from Ecclestone on the table for 2017 and with Monza seemingly unable to host the event, it is unjust that support won’t be given by the ACI to the Imola circuit and unjust that the country may lose a Grand Prix altogether if plans aren’t imminently put in place for 2017. 

According to former driver Ivan Capelli, a contract which sees the two circuits alternating each year is unattainable and the goal is for Monza to sign a new 4-year contract. Either way, it is likely that a decision on the future of the event will come to fruition before this year’s Italian Grand Prix on 4th September.

Monza vs. Imola

Monza is undoubtedly a temple of speed, as well as being renowned as Ferrari’s homeland. Monza has hosted the Italian Grand Prix every year bar one since Formula One’s inception in 1950, the exception being in 1980, when the Grand Prix moved to Imola while Monza underwent major upgrades. The fastest ever lap in a Formula One car was completed at an average speed of 231.523mph by Juan Pablo Montoya at Monza in 2004. 

Imola is often looked at through rose-tinted spectacles. A mighty circuit in a bygone era, but changes after the sport’s blackest weekend at the track in 1994 meant that parts of the track had to be changed beyond recognition. Since the last race at Imola in 2006, the circuit has been extensively modernised. The final chicane has been removed, meaning that the run from the final corner, Rivazza, to the first Tamburello chicane could be taken at full throttle, though the chicane is reinstated for some motorcycle events at the track. Furthermore, the pits were demolished and rebuilt in 2008 and after an inspection by Charlie Whiting in 2011 were deemed acceptable to host a Formula One event. As well as this, Imola is seen as Ferrari’s true homeland, with the Maranello headquarters just an hour from the track. There are still some things which need renovating at Imola before it is fully ready for Formula One’s return, such as new media and medical centres. The track is also likely to be upgraded further with help from Formula One’s leading track designer Hermann Tilke. A return to Imola would, most likely, be well-received by drivers and fans alike but would it be worth it at the cost of replacing Monza?

Where would you like to see the 2017 Italian Grand Prix held?

Header Image: Force India F1 Team.

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