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Feeder Series Preview: Imola

Written by Jacob Awcock and Ellie Nicholls

Formula 3 Preview

Formula 3 is back after a month out; the field of 30 drivers arrives in Italy for the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix. 

Having missed out on the round last year following the devastating flooding, the entire grid will have never competed at Imola in a Formula 3 car under racing conditions, meaning the foundations are in place for a dramatic race. 

18 laps of the 4.909 KM circuit on the Saturday, followed by 22 laps for Sunday’s feature race, plus a reverse grid for Saturday open up plenty of opportunities for teams and drivers to claim valuable points. 

The circuit

The 4.909 km (3.05 mi) circuit has been home to some of the most famous races ever hosted in motorsport history. 19 corners with only one DRS zone mean there is always action, even in the most unlikely sections of the racetrack. 

The 2020 race saw Formula One return to Imola, and the following year’s race provided a spectacle for fans, with the battle between Hamilton and Verstappen raging throughout, the pair coming to blows at the first turn, plus a massive crash for Hamilton’s teammate Bottas and future teammate Russell. 

For F3, they have raced only once around Imola, but both the sprint and feature provided incredible racing for fans and viewers.

Testing here earlier in the year could prove crucial for some drivers; Image credits: Getty Images

Last time out

A controversial incident involving Nikola Tsolov and Alex Dunne was the main talking point following the weekend, as the Bulgarian faced a three-place grid drop, and the spotlight after he drove into the side of the Irishman. 

Despite claiming the incident was completely accidental, the stewards deemed the incident “unfortunate” but also “completely avoidable”, and handed the ART driver a three-place penalty for the sprint race in Australia. Many drivers and fans alike deemed the actions to be unsportsmanlike, and called for multiple race bans for him.

However, it was Luke Browning and Leonardo Fornaroli who left the land down under at the top of the championship, with Fornaroli having had the stronger weekend of the two having claimed second place in the feature race. 

He couldn't top the Prema of Dino Beganovic, who fought his way up from third on the grid to claim his first win of the season, giving Prema a one-three finish, with Gabrielle Mini claiming third place for the Italian based team. 

It was a good sprint race for Prema as well, as their third driver Arvid Lindbland continued his impressive form, with a second place in the sprint race, backing up his victory at Bahrain. But it was the Hitech of Martinius Stenshorne, now part of the McLaren Driver Development Programme, who managed to fend off the charging Brit and secure his maiden Formula 3 win. 

Prema extended their lead at the top of the constructors championship to 23 points, from Trident, while Hitech moved closer after their sprint race win. Still no points though for Van Amersfoort Racing and Rodin motorsport, who have both had a difficult start to the season, but will look to improve their fortunes this time round.

Lindblad continued his impressive form in Australia; Image credits: Getty Images

Last time in Imola

Having missed the 2023 round due to the devastating floods that affected the whole of the Emilia Romagna region, Formula 3 last raced here in 2022, which was actually the first time the circuit ever hosted F3. 

In the sprint race, it was Franco Colapinto who benefitted from a late safety car to pass Caio Collet on the last lap to claim his maiden F3 victory. But he was lucky to not be eliminated on the last lap. 

Having passed Collet before the turn one braking point, Isack Hadjar fancied his chances on claiming second into the same corner, but Collet didn't see him, and moved over to take the racing line; the pair made contact and both spun off into the gravel. Collet was out of the points, while Hadjar managed to finish fifth.

In the feature race though, it was a different story: A drying track with some drivers opting to start on wets, while others were on slicks. 

Collet, keen to redeem himself following Saturday's mistake, made the brave decision in ninth place to start on wets, and by the end of lap 1, he had taken the lead, and was driving away from the rest of the field. 

The same was for sprint race winner Colapinto too, who managed to get himself up to second, but with the track drying, wets quickly became undrivable, and when a safety car was required to clear multiple incidents on the first lap, all the wet runners pitted and fell to the rear of the field. 

It looked set to be Zane Maloney’s Sunday, but a freak accident under the safety car ruled any chance of that out. Heading into Rivazza 1 (the penultimate corner) Maloney was weaving to warm his tyres, but as he weaved, he hit a damp patch and spun his Trident, beaching it on the kerbs and eliminating himself from the race. 

Instead it was his teammate Roman Stanek, who capitalised on Maloney’s misfortune, and claimed the feature race win from the Prema of Jak Crawford, and the Hitech of Isack Hadjar, who did finally claim his third place in a dramatic race.

Formula 2:

Formula 2 returns this weekend in Imola after the spring break, and excitement is high as the series returns to racing action at the iconic circuit once again.

Imola is one of motorsport's most famous circuits, having hosted series including Formula One, Motocross, and ELMS. Characterised by its fast and highly technical corners which make it so difficult to master, drivers also often have to navigate unpredictable weather conditions, adding to the challenge of the already demanding track.

Marcus Armstrong’s strong performance at Imola in 2022 earned him his first race victory. Image credit: Formula Two

Due to flooding in the Emilia Romagna region last year, the 2023 Formula 2 Imola round was cancelled, and this means that the only time the series has raced at this iconic circuit was in 2022. The weather also played a part in the chaos back then, as heavy rain limited track time during practice, and rewarded a fine balance of bravery and precision during the all-important qualifying session.

Logan Sargeant lined up on reverse pole for the sprint race, but after a poor getaway, the American driver tumbled down the order to fifth place — allowing Hitech's Marcus Armstrong to seize the lead going into the first corner. 

A brief safety car intermission, deployed to retrieve the car of David Beckmann, and a few close battles with former F3 teammate Jehan Daruvala later, Armstrong retained first place — cruising over the finish line to his first victory in the series.

Fellow Hitech driver Juri Vips set the fastest lap during a rain-affected qualifying, but was unable to replicate the success of his teammate in the Feature Race. Vips failed to convert his pole position to a win after dropping to fourth on the opening lap, and later spun into the barriers on lap six. 

Roy Nissany rose to take first place from sixth on the grid, and remained in the lead of the race through two safety car periods — until he ran wide and hit the barriers on lap 20, causing him to retire. 

One final safety car was brought out as Liam Lawson crashed with just three laps remaining, and as those on alternative strategies came in for their pit stops, Theo Pourchaire claimed the lead to take his second victory of the year.

ART Grand Prix have been making the most of mid-season testing, aiming to iron out some of their performance issues; Image credit: Formula Two

Victor Martins will be hoping to replicate his  former teammates' success at the circuit this time out, adding some much needed points to his 2024 tally. 

Last year's highest placed rookie, the French driver has amassed just six points so far this year, languishing in 18th in the championship. This weekend, Martins will be aiming to fight back after his difficult start to the year.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the championship, Rodin's Zane Maloney still leads the drivers' standings after his impressive double victory at the series opener in Bahrain. However, after a slight dip in results since then, the Bajan driver will be looking to return to his strong form from the start of the season.

It's been a while since Formula Two last went racing, and anticipation is high going into what promises to be an action-packed Imola round. With some drivers desperate to turn their season around, and others aiming to maintain their positions in the championship, be sure to tune in to the action — this is certainly not a weekend to miss.


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