- Round 13 of the 2020 Formula 1 season takes place at Imola for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix this weekend
- Mercedes can seal constructors with 11 more points than Red Bull, as Lewis Hamilton closes on seven F1 titles
- Imola return evokes memories of Ayrton Senna’s tragic death in 1994
IMOLA, ITALY – As Formula 1 returns to Imola, Mercedes can seal the constructors title as memories of Ayrton Senna are evoked at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
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Hamilton closes on seven
For Lewis Hamilton, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix marks the start of his reign as the most successful F1 race winner, as the Briton now looks to move nearer a record-equalling seventh World Drivers’ title at Imola.
Having sealed his 92nd victory in the Algarve last weekend, Hamilton overtook Michael Schumacher‘s historic total – a feat few thought would be eclipsed.
This season for the 35-year-old Stevenage driver has been one of break a record, move on to the next and this weekend in Bologna, that is very much the case.
With a now 77-point advantage over teammate Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton can inch ever closer to an Abu Dhabi crowning, with a ninth victory of the campaign, on a track he has never driven on before.
Mercedes look to seal crown
The six-time champion’s exploits this season, have once again gone a long way in determining the outcome of the constructors title for the past four years.
With just five races of the season to go, Mercedes are one more time close to continuing their dominance.
Indeed, this weekend, the German manufacturer cans seal their seventh-successive F1 crown.
Having galloped away from the rest of the pack, 10 race wins and multiple podiums have seen Mercedes open a 209-point lead over Red Bull.
Whilst Max Verstappen continues alone as the only remaining spanner in the works, should Hamilton and Bottas manage a haul of 11 points more than Red Bull, the former can mathematically not be caught.
With a trip to Turkey, a fortnight in Bahrain, followed by the traditional end-of-season trip around Yas Marina in December still to come, that would be quite the statement.
Two-day F1 departure
As F1 makes its penultimate European stop this season, the Emilia Romagna GP will have a surreal note for more than one reason.
The latest iconic stop on a condensed 2020 calendar, the GP this weekend takes its name from the same Northern region of Italy, in the shadows of nearby Bologna.
Notwithstanding a Halloween appearance on the calendar, Imola will be the first time a GP weekend has taken place over just two days.
With practice scheduled for Saturday morning, qualifying will follow immediately in the afternoon with race day as usual on the Sunday.
Of the entire Paddock today, only Kimi Raikkonen raced the last time F1 visited in 2006; for that and one major other factor, Imola will present new challenges of its own.
Imola return evokes Senna memories
Returning to the Enzo e Dino Ferrari track for the first time in 14 years, understandably, memories of tragedy will not be far away this weekend.
May 1 1994 still stands out for many a motor sport fan, as perhaps the darkest day of a generation; the day Ayrton Senna was killed in a high-speed crash.
The San Marino GP of that year was one of the most damaging on record for F1, but, one which forced drastic safety changes for the sport as we now know it.
After Rubens Barrichello had been hospitalised in Friday practice, Saturday’s qualifying then saw Roland Ratzenberger die as a result of multiple injuries, following a 195mph crash at Villeneuve curva.
With the Austrian’s death having rattled the sport, the race was thrown into doubt, but still went ahead.
On the morning of the race, the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association was formed, with Senna, Schumacher and Gerhard Berger installed as directors, to improve car and circuit safety.
For the former alas, it came too late.
On Lap 7 of the race – the second after the safety had returned to the pits after an incident between Pedro Lahmy and JJ Lehto – Senna had led Schumacher approaching Tamburello.
As the Brazilian approached the bend, the Williams driver was unable to turn – ruled a steering column breakage in the subsequent trial – and slammed into the unprotected concrete wall, at what was estimated to be 190mph.
Lifted from the wreckage, Senna was third man to be taken to the nearby Maggiore hospital that weekend.
Senna was pronounced officially as having died later that evening, however, records still indicate his time of death as 2:17pm local time, meaning his death was instant.
His death prompted an unprecedented outpouring of grief across the globe.
That year brought wholesale changes to both car and driver safety.
Twenty-six years on from that fateful day, F1 has a very different look but despite being a far safer sport in 2020, Senna will be on the minds of all this weekend.
The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix takes place this weekend at Imola, Italy.
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