sport news Lost F1 tracks, Imola: Former home of the Italian GP

There are not many more sacred races on the Formula One calendar than the Italian Grand Prix at Monza - with no other venue having held more world championship events.

LOST GRAND PRIX

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In fact Monza's only non-appearance in the world championship came in 1980 when the Italian GP was held at Imola, and the success of the race led to the track being given its own spot on the F1 calendar in the form of the San Marino Grand Prix a year later.

Although narrow and tricky to overtake on, the circuit proved popular with many drivers and fans and held a race every year from 1980 to 2006.

Usually held to open the European season it was always one of the first races of the campaign throughout its run.

But despite holding memorable races, it will be remembered as the scene to one of F1's most tragic weekends.

The deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger in 1994 triggered a huge surge towards improving safety in the sport - and that included race circuits - with the fast Villenueve and Tamburello corners at Imola that the drivers crashed at neutered by chicanes from 1995 onwards.

After dropping off the calendar it had been linked with a return this year after Monza's contract came to an end to host the Italian Grand Prix, but after a new deal was eventually agreed it leaves Imola remaining in the wilderness.  

Derek Warwick in the Renault and Michael Schumacher in the Ferrari give you a tour of the circuit before and after the 1995 changes , as Sportsmail looks back at highs and lows from Imola in our picture special.

Imola was always known as being the home of the San Marino Grand Prix, but the first world championship race at the track in 1980 was actually under the guise of the Italian Grand Prix - the only time in history the event has been held away from Monza. Pictured is Gilles Villeneuve crashing out the race (unhurt) on the sixth lap at the corner named after the Canadian

Imola was always known as being the home of the San Marino Grand Prix, but the first world championship race at the track in 1980 was actually under the guise of the Italian Grand Prix - the only time in history the event has been held away from Monza. Pictured is Gilles Villeneuve crashing out the race (unhurt) on the sixth lap at the corner named after the Canadian

It didn't take Imola long to make its mark on F1 history. The 1982 race is infamous for its finale (and 14-car grid) when Didier Pironi passed team-mate Villeneuve, who was under the impression that the Ferraris were holding station, on the last lap to take the win. The Canadian was irate as Pironi sprayed the champagne on the podium and it was tragically his last race before being killed in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix at the very next grand prix

It didn't take Imola long to make its mark on F1 history. The 1982 race is infamous for its finale (and 14-car grid) when Didier Pironi passed team-mate Villeneuve, who was under the impression that the Ferraris were holding station, on the last lap to take the win. The Canadian was irate as Pironi sprayed the champagne on the podium and it was tragically his last race before being killed in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix at the very next grand prix

The race that nobody wanted to win. In 1985 Ayrton Senna leads the field heading into the Tosa hairpin and would head the first 57 laps before running out of fuel with three to go. Ferrari driver Stefan Johansson then took the lead only to follow suit on the same lap. Alain Prost eventually picked up the victory... only to run out of fuel on the warm down lap and then be disqualified for being underweight. With Nelson Piquet, Martin Brundle and Derek Warwick also running into fuel issues, the race win was eventually taken by Senna's Lotus team-mate Elio de Angelis

The race that nobody wanted to win. In 1985 Ayrton Senna leads the field heading into the Tosa hairpin and would head the first 57 laps before running out of fuel with three to go. Ferrari driver Stefan Johansson then took the lead only to follow suit on the same lap. Alain Prost eventually picked up the victory... only to run out of fuel on the warm down lap and then be disqualified for being underweight. With Nelson Piquet, Martin Brundle and Derek Warwick also running into fuel issues, the race win was eventually taken by Senna's Lotus team-mate Elio de Angelis

Even in the tech-savvy world of F1, sometimes pen and paper had to do over a fancy teleprompter. Alain Prost addresses a camera in the Imola pit-lane in 1988, with the message for the McLaren driver translating as 'This season my Marlboro McLaren is equipped with a Honda engine and I can tell you gives me good reason to hope for a third world title.'

Even in the tech-savvy world of F1, sometimes pen and paper had to do over a fancy teleprompter. Alain Prost addresses a camera in the Imola pit-lane in 1988, with the message for the McLaren driver translating as 'This season my Marlboro McLaren is equipped with a Honda engine and I can tell you gives me good reason to hope for a third world title.'

A visual summary of 1989 as the McLarens of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost scarper off into the distance following the uphill exit out of Tosa. Senna eventually dropped his team-mate to win by 40 seconds. The big story of the race though was a crash from Gerhard Berger at Tamburello that led to his Ferrari bursting into flames. Remarkably the Austrian's injuries were restricted to burns and broken ribs and they would only rule him out the following race at Monte Carlo

A visual summary of 1989 as the McLarens of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost scarper off into the distance following the uphill exit out of Tosa. Senna eventually dropped his team-mate to win by 40 seconds. The big story of the race though was a crash from Gerhard Berger at Tamburello that led to his Ferrari bursting into flames. Remarkably the Austrian's injuries were restricted to burns and broken ribs and they would only rule him out the following race at Monte Carlo

At a time when green lights followed red at the start of an F1 race, Riccardo Patrese gets off the line to pass Senna and take the lead at Imola in 1991's wet conditions. The Williams driver would pull out an advantage only for electrical mishaps to put an end to his race on lap 18, allowing the Brazilian to lead home a McLaren one-two in front of Berger

At a time when green lights followed red at the start of an F1 race, Riccardo Patrese gets off the line to pass Senna and take the lead at Imola in 1991's wet conditions. The Williams driver would pull out an advantage only for electrical mishaps to put an end to his race on lap 18, allowing the Brazilian to lead home a McLaren one-two in front of Berger

Although Imola staged the San Marino Grand Prix, it was a glorified second Italian race and a hotbed for Ferrari supporters. There was at least one Union Flag in the stands though to cheer Nigel Mansell towards victory in 1992 as fans watch the trackside action from Acqua Minerali - the only notable right hand corners on the Imola circuit before 1995

Although Imola staged the San Marino Grand Prix, it was a glorified second Italian race and a hotbed for Ferrari supporters. There was at least one Union Flag in the stands though to cheer Nigel Mansell towards victory in 1992 as fans watch the trackside action from Acqua Minerali - the only notable right hand corners on the Imola circuit before 1995

Imola's 1994 weekend is one of F1's darkest moments. Roland Ratzenberger was killed following a crash at Villeneuve in qualifying and that had come after Rubens Barrichello was rushed to hospital during Friday practice following a violent collision with a tyre barrier. But a second fatality in the form of Senna came during the race after the Williams driver crashed at 'Tamburello' while leading. Fans laid tributes to the Brazilian at the scene of the accident shortly after. The weekend marked the first deaths involving drivers at a GP weekend for 12 years and was a catalyst towards huge safety improvements

Imola's 1994 weekend is one of F1's darkest moments. Roland Ratzenberger was killed following a crash at Villeneuve in qualifying and that had come after Rubens Barrichello was rushed to hospital during Friday practice following a violent collision with a tyre barrier. But a second fatality in the form of Senna came during the race after the Williams driver crashed at 'Tamburello' while leading. Fans laid tributes to the Brazilian at the scene of the accident shortly after. The weekend marked the first deaths involving drivers at a GP weekend for 12 years and was a catalyst towards huge safety improvements

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