The global pandemic forced Formula 1 to get creative with its 2020 schedule, resulting in the series’ return to several locales where it hadn’t raced in years. Among those was Imola, in Italy, and a report from RaceFans indicates that the San Marino Grand Prix venue is currently the favorite to replace the canceled Vietnam race on next year’s calendar.
RaceFans doesn’t identify its sources, though the article highlights Turkey’s Istanbul Park and Portugal’s Autodromo do Algarve as the other frontrunners for the date. Whichever circuit is chosen will fill the fourth spot on the season calendar, on April 25, between the Chinese and Spanish grands prix. The 2021 F1 season will last 23 rounds, making it the longest campaign ever.
This past season was supposed to host F1’s first event in Vietnam, in Hanoi, though the pandemic got in the way of that. The race’s debut was then pushed to 2021 — until a government official who’d been supporting the race was arrested under suspicion of sharing state secrets. In the fall, F1 revealed its provisional schedule without Vietnam, and now it seems less likely than ever that the sport will one day race on the Hanoi street circuit.
This has prompted F1 to search for a replacement, and if nothing else, 2020 gave management several alternatives to choose among. RaceFans notes that Turkey is the unlikeliest in the running because the vacant race weekend falls within Ramadan.
Whichever track is chosen, it doesn’t seem F1 is looking for a long-term replacement here. Still, another year of racing at Imola should delight fans who have missed the track since it disappeared from the calendar after the 2006 season. While the circuit is arguably too narrow for modern F1, with few passing opportunities, if there’s one thing 2020 demonstrated it’s that F1 can thrive at tracks not explicitly designed for it. And besides, the drivers really seemed to enjoy it.