APRIL 23, 2003
The future of Imola
The San Marino Grand Prix this year was in many respects a big disappointment. Although the Schumacher Brothers provided some interest for the first few laps the event was processional with only three overtaking manoeuvres after the first lap rough-and-tumble. It has been clear for some years that the track makes it virtually impossible for modern F1 cars to overtake. In the past Imola has always argued that because of the restrictions at the site it cannot do much to change the layout. This year, for whatever reason, the public voted with their feet. The three-day crowd figure was just 82,200, compared to 108,000 last year and 192,500 in 2000. One can argue that the crowd was down because it was the Easter weekend; that the tickets are too expensive or that the new rules mean that the crowd sees less of the cars, but it does not really matter what has caused the problem. The trend has not been good and with Europe's tobacco laws and the arrival of the new races in Bahrain, Shanghai and perhaps Turkey and Russia, Imola is going to struggle to survive. Imola may have character but it does not produce a great show. Some of this can be blamed on the changes that were effected after the disastrous San Marino Grand Prix in 1994 which removed two of the best corners on the circuit. In addition to this Imola nowadays has some of the poorest facilities in the world, particularly when compared to the new generation tracks outside Europe.
Imola has always survived in the past because of the patronage of Ferrari and while the team remains a powerful force within the sport, it is not currently clear whether or not Ferrari will come to Imola's aid again.
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