The 20-odd kilometre trip from our hotel in Faenza - hometown of Giancarlo Minardi, founder of the eponymous outfit that today races as AlphaTauri - takes almost 90 minutes, so heavy is traffic. The situation is not aided by traffic controllers who closed a number of roads we had used on Thursday/Friday.
The fact is that Imola is a wonderful place to race but the facilities and surrounding infrastructure are no longer up to world championship standards – as evidenced by a number of cars still stuck in the F1 personnel and VIP parking area after Friday's rain. En route to the circuit I have plenty of time to wonder how bad the traffic will be on Sunday, when double today's 35k spectators are expected.
The delays mean that a number of appointments I'd made are cancelled or postponed due to the targets being delayed. The 10:00 FIA team boss press conference - brought forward from 13:00 under F1's new weekend format - is also notably empty, with a number of media colleagues later complaining about the jams.
The stock response from F1 honchos is, "There's not much we can do about the weather", but it rings rather empty after Spa-Francorchamps last year...
Talking of which, I believe that now that Singapore's contract has been extended and Las Vegas confirmed, the next venue in F1's sights is the Belgian circuit, whose contracts expires after this year's race. Apparently, renewal is not guaranteed, with F1 requiring a number of improvements before pen and paper meet.
The press conference is notable for Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto's response that the overall framework for the 2026 power unit regulations was agreed in December last year, and that the remaining open points will be discussed during Tuesday's F1 Commission meeting. I wonder whether the VW Group will then commit.
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After the conference, I head for Alpine for a chat with Bruno Famin, Executive Director of the team's power unit operation. En route, I'm introduced to Rudolf Ratzenberger, whose son Roland was tragically killed on the Saturday before Ayrton Senna's 1 May, 1994 fatal accident, by Peter Levay, who produced a movie about the Austrian's career. Peter tells me it should soon be translated from the original German to English.
The pain of losing his son is still clear in Rudolf's eyes, but they light up when I mention that I visited Roland's grave in Salzburg around 10 years ago and recite the inscription to him, which translates as "He lived his dream". Roland did not achieve the heights of Senna but deserves to be equally remembered as a driver who battled against many odds to reach F1, then sadly gave his life to the sport he loved.
After the Famin interview, during which Bruno outlines plans to upgrade the team's Viry-Chatillon facility and confirms that the 2026 PU regulations are agreed, a lady comes up to me and introduces herself as Odette Rossi, wife of Laurent, CEO of Alpine. It transpires Odette was born in the same South African city - Pietermaritzburg - as I was, so we reminisce about past times. Small world, indeed.
Dieter with Rudolf Ratzenberger in the Imola paddock
After FP2, as the Saturday session is known during Sprint race weekends, I delve further into some of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association recent activities - see yesterday's diary - and discover the directors have written to FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem requesting details on how Super Licence and fine income is spent.
All well and good, but given that the FIA is a non-profit organisation, and that these income streams have been around for years, why ask such questions now? Something seems to be brewing and I wonder when it will come to a head.
Thereafter it's time for the grid walk ahead of the Sprint race. Lawrence Stroll tells me Aston Martin have increased headcount by almost 200 since he acquired the team known as Force India in 2018. However, he does not deny talk that he is angling for an engine supply from VW Group should Audi and/or Porsche enter - "Everybody is talking to them" - but downplays the chances of an Aston Martin-Porsche or -Audi.
Whatever, it seems the bond Aston Martin had with Mercedes F1 Team is loosening.
After the various post-Sprint media sessions, it's time to head for dinner - superb pasta in the media canteen – and the hotel, but not before we assist some Williams team members with their stuck car.
A visa appointment at the US Embassy early on Monday morning in Brussels means I need to fly early Sunday, so will miss the race live. I plan to catch it on F1 TV Pro and will deliver my verdict on our post-race podcast on Tuesday.
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