I attended the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Imola in the midst of the Pandemic - this is how my experience on track went!
The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix is one of the most historic races remaining on the current Formula 1 calendar. Formerly known as the San Marino Grand Prix, this race hosted a Grand Prix every year between 1981 and 2006. Unfortunately, this track was known for its numerous safety concerns following the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Aryton Senna on the same race weekend in 1994. F1 stopped racing in Imola in 2007 to allow for a reconstruction of the track, but it returned to the calendar in 2020. Despite the 13 year absence of this track, it is still considered to be one of the most notable and iconic races in Formula 1 history.
This was the first year that I had the opportunity to attend an F1 race and Imola was the perfect debut! After studying abroad in England, I traveled to Italy by myself to attend the 2022 race. I had no idea what to expect or how to prepare for this race endeavor… So let's just say I made a lot of mistakes to learn from! This three day whirlwind was one of the most exciting weekends ever and I can’t wait to share everything I learned from my experience!
What can you see?
What can you expect?
Looking to buy tickets?
Looking to buy tickets?
Arriving in Bologna
I arrived in Bologna, Italy on Wednesday evening to allow for some time to explore the area on Thursday. I was coming from Venice, so I took the train which was only about a 2 hour ride. The trip was seamless and it was very cool to see the Italian countryside through the windows of the train.
I had decided to stay in Bologna, rather than Imola, because it had many more accommodation options to choose from. I opted to stay in an Airbnb, and it took me a little over an hour to get from my accommodations to the circuit. It was about a 15 minute train ride from Bologna Central and then from there, it was roughly a 30 minute ride to Imola. Overall, the 45 minute trip to the track was very seamless and reliable.
Arriving to the track Friday
I woke up ridiculously early in order to get to the track before anything started. Like I said, I didn’t know what to expect but I knew that I didn’t want to miss a single thing. I packed a little day bag filled with two sandwiches, a couple granola bars and a bottle of water. I also made sure to bring my fully charged portable charger, to ensure that I wouldn’t have to deal with a dead phone. A portable is absolutely the most important thing to bring to any race. It provides a level of safety, and at Imola my phone was the only way I could purchase my train ticket back home.
I purchased my train tickets through the app Trainline, which I would highly recommend for anybody planning on using the train as their main mode of transportation through European countries (there may be better apps or different ones to use depending on the country you are in). The ticket price from Bologna to Imola was about €7 ($7.50 USD) each way, which was very affordable.
Once we reached the Imola train station, it was about a 15 - 20 minute walk to the circuit. I had no idea which way to go, but there were crowds of people sporting their F1 merch, so I basically just followed them! Shortly into the walk, it started to pour down with rain. Being the prepared traveler I was, I had no rain jacket, no umbrella and no extra layers. This was mainly because I was backpacking and thought it would be best to pack light, but planning for the weather is something that I URGE any race-goer to do beforehand. I ended up purchasing an umbrella during my walk to the track and it ended up being a lifesaver.
Friday - FP1 and Quali
Upon arriving at the track, there was a quick security check point. There were around ten volunteers at the gates who checked bags and scanned you with metal detectors. My bag was briefly searched and I had to discard the cap of my water bottle which was not very convenient. Since I was there when Covid was still very much relevant, my ticket got scanned but I also had to provide them with my EU Covid passport, which I had downloaded and ‘applied for’ a couple weeks before the race.
There were no lines and everything moved seamlessly to get the ticket holders into the circuit. I had purchased grandstand tickets for about €245 through the official Autodromo Imola website about a month prior to the race weekend. I found that this website had cheaper options in comparison to other ticket selling sites, but that also means that they sold out very quickly. I would recommend following the Instagram and turning notifications on so that you don’t miss the ticket release announcement!
My first course of action when arriving at the track was heading to purchase merchandise. I knew that the Saturday and Sunday would be too busy and there would be a risk of things selling out. I, of course, had to purchase a CL16 hat in support of Charles’ pursuit of the world championship… crazy to think back to the time when he was ahead of Max!
After purchasing my new hat, I headed to the ‘Ferrari Hill’. I didn’t have a ticket for this section, but because Friday wasn’t busy, I thought that it would be the best place to watch the Formula 2 & 3 free practice. I was actually the only person on the hill… probably because the weather was so terrible, but I was loving every second. The view from the hill allowed you to see the cars entering the pit lane and heading down the main straight.
Following the end of the Formula 2 & 3 practice sessions, the temperature was getting colder and the rain started coming down harder. Due to my poor clothing choices, I was much colder than I had anticipated and I needed to find someplace to take cover. I headed to Carburo Bar Ristorante, which was the only indoor restaurant at the circuit (that I found). It was quite busy because everybody was seeking cover from the elements. Although limited, the food options were quite good and priced fairly reasonably. Prices at this restaurant ranged from €15 - 20 for all meals and beverages.
After warming up, I headed to my actual grandstand which was called Tribuna 2 Villeneuve. Luckily for me, it was right beside the Senna memorial which was very surreal to see. Shortly after- the Formula 1 practice commenced!
The view from my Grandstand was definitely not as good as the view from the hill, but it was just as empty! Seeing the cars in real life was INSANE, and it felt like a dream come true. Since it was a Sprint race weekend, there was only one practice session on the Friday and then qualifying was scheduled after. During the break between FP1 and the start of qualifying, I headed back to the main straight to see if I could get back onto the Ferrari Hill. Because hardly anybody came to the track on Friday, I ended up getting a seat in the main grandstand to watch qualifying! I got to watch Charles Leclerc claim pole at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix and it was the most exciting thing ever!
Leaving the track was crowded, but in comparison to Saturday and Sunday, it wasn’t bad at all. I booked my train ticket home in the morning to ensure I wouldn’t have any issues as there was limited service at the track. The trip back to my Airbnb was easy and quick and I arrived at my door around 7pm.
Arriving to the track on Saturday
In an effort to repeat my Friday schedule, I woke up early to make sure I got to the track way before anything began. This time, I was met with some difficulties. It appeared that Bologna and Imola were experiencing a train strike, so there were a limited number of trains running that day. I ended up leaving my airbnb at around 7am and not actually getting on a train until 10:30 am. Although I was disappointed, I ended up meeting a lovely group of guys who were also headed to the track.
They were from Austria and had been traveling to one F1 race a year since 2007… and they always wore coordinated shirts to spell out something relevant to that specific race! It was a reminder that races are an incredible place to meet fellow fans and to learn about other people’s race experiences and back stories.
Despite the delayed start to the day, I ended up enjoying my slower morning and arrived at the track around 11:30 am.
Saturday - FP2 & Sprint Race
Unlike many other Formula 1 races, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix doesn’t host any fan engagement sessions. These usually take place on the Thursday or the Saturday of the race weekend, but, at Imola, there were none scheduled.
When arriving at the track, I got there just in time to catch the last few minutes of the F3 Sprint race which was very exciting. Instead of heading to my grandstand, I went back to the Ferrari Hill to get a better view. Again, they weren’t checking tickets for this, so it was easy to get a spot. The track was considerably busier than the Friday, and I was glad that I got there somewhat early again.
I watched FP2 from the Ferrari Hill and was enamored with the view as well as the crowd. It was incredible to be immersed within a crowd of local Italian fans, all of whom were sporting Ferrari merchandise.
I was happy to have brought my bag full of snacks again as the food lines were CRAZY busy… and it wasn’t even the official race day. In between FP2 and the Sprint race, the Porsche Mobil Supercup cars took to the track to complete their qualifying session.
Finally it was time for the Sprint race! On Friday I made a friend at the track who allowed me to come into the main grandstand with them for the Sprint and the Grand Prix.
The Sprint race was so exciting and the action on the track was insane! One thing to note is that the broadcast and commentators were all speaking in Italian, which sometimes made it really difficult to understand what was happening on the track.
At the end of the day, I headed back to the train station which was significantly more packed with people. Thankfully the strike didn’t affect the way home but we were piled all together in the train cars, dressed head to toe in F1 merch and squished beyond belief.
Sunday - Race
If I thought that the track was busy on Saturday, I was poorly mistaken. The trains to the track were flooded with spectators headed to the track… it was to the point where we were shoulder to shoulder standing for the 40 minute train to Imola. Just like the last two days, I planned to arrive at the track nice and early and thankfully, the train strike didn’t hinder this plan! I arrived at the track at about 8:30 am, just in time to watch the start of the F3 race.
I, once again, was so lucky to have known someone who had Main Grandstand tickets. He let me up into the grandstand with him and we watched the Porsche Supercup race as well as the F2 race. It also felt very luxurious being in the main grandstand as we were covered completely from the impending rain. The Main Grandstand also had the best screen to watch all the action from, as well as being able to see into the pitlane and the main straight of the race.
Unfortunately, many Ferrari fans were disappointed by the outcome of this race as we watched Carlos Sainz DNF on the first lap and then Charles Leclerc spin out and lose his podium position to come in 6th. One exciting thing was watching Lando get the only McLaren podium of the 2022 season!
At the end of the race, they opened up the track for the fans and I SPRINTED to get a good view for the podium celebration. It was jam packed, but I couldn’t have been happier being immersed in a crowd of F1 fans.
Once the podium celebration was over, I pushed my way to the front of the pitwall to see into the garages. I had no expectations of driver appearances, but it was such a cool thing to see all the F1 cars being pushed back to their respective garages. Suddenly there was a LOUD commotion and Charles Leclerc came out to stand and wave at the fans! He even gave his hat to a young boy which was very endearing.
Charles wasn’t the only surprise! The Red Bull drivers, Checo and Max, ended up doing their Sky Sports interviews right in front of us. I was in shock! Red Bull also had their signature celebration of taking the picture and then spraying Red Bull on all the team members and that was incredible to watch. Lastly, McLaren had a sing along to commemorate Lando’s win and that was also right in front of me!
Keep in mind that I waited 2 hours after the race for this, mainly because I had the time, but also because I didn’t want to waste a single second of this experience.
Train back on Sunday
The train experience back to Bologna was very similar to the ride there. It was jam packed with people, but everybody was respectful and the ride went by fast.
Summary and Tips
The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was definitely an incredible race weekend experience. Not only is it one of the most historic races on the calendar, but the fans really make the atmosphere! Everyone there cheers for Ferrari and wants to get to know you. I may have traveled to the race myself, but I wasn’t alone for a single second at the track.
Bring your own water, bring Liquid IV/ electrolytes, AND freeze that water!
Check the weather - bring sunscreen OR umbrellas and rain gear
Plan and purchase your train tickets ahead of time
You can go alone! Everyone is extremely friendly- many people also choose to go alone and are also looking to make friends!
Participate in the track invasion if you’re near the start/finish line.
Want more information about the race directly from other fans? Join the community discussion on the app!
Read all the latest Formula 1 news from around the web in the app