The secret of Imola’s lucky F1 paddock cat

Following an enthralling tussle in Bahrain three weeks ago, the close fight between Mercedes and Red Bull looks set to rage on as Formula 1 returns to Imola this weekend.

The secret of Imola’s lucky F1 paddock cat

After Lewis Hamilton's narrow victory over Max Verstappen, both teams have been left knowing that tiny margins are likely to separate them for much of the year - meaning a little added fortune would be most welcome.

It's not like you will find a lucky black cat crossing your path at Imola. But you will find a grey tabby cat.

His name is Formulino. And he is the secret cat king of the Imola F1 paddock.

Little was known about Formulino prior to last year's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, which marked Imola's first F1 race since 2006, but as various preparations were carried out on Thursday in the paddock, he became a regular visitor to the teams' garages, keeping a close eye on those who had entered his paddock.

Then-Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel was graced by Formulino as he spoke to Sky Sports F1 in the media pen. "It's good luck if he comes and sees you," presenter Ted Kravitz told Vettel.

But Vettel wasn't so enthused. "I don't like cats," he said. "I have nothing to offer it. He's a bit overweight though…"

 

Lewis Hamilton was far more welcoming to the cat, who had a good nose around one of Mercedes' team units. Formulino was quick to say hello to the reigning world champion, who took a moment to give him a stroke and pet his head.

Aware his subject's interest was waning, Hamilton duly went on his way - but as Mercedes' Twitter account pointed out, both he and the team had been "blessed by the Imola cat".

 

The good luck offered by Formulino to Hamilton clearly paid off. After running third in the opening stint of the race, Hamilton was able to pull off an overcut on rivals Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen to vault into the lead, going on to clinch his first Imola F1 victory in the process.

Vettel, on the other hand, was less fortunate. He finished the race in 12th place following a 13-second pitstop caused by a faulty wheel nut, marking a disappointing final Ferrari appearance on Italian soil for the German driver.

Read Also:

The moral of the story? The Imola cat clearly holds the power to decide the fate of your F1 race weekend. Fans on Twitter have already been talking up the rivalry between Vettel and Formulino as one that needs to be settled this weekend.

 

Since his starring role at Imola last year, Formulino has joined the ranks of F1's many famous pets, including Hamilton's dog Roscoe and - this writer's personal favourite - Alexander Albon's various furry friends on the @AlbonPets Instagram account, led by the adorable Horsey Albon.

Formulino's Instagram account - in which he rightly claims to be "the owner of Imola" - features pictures of him sitting in on all of the circuit's important meetings, including scrutineering and planning for the return of this year's grand prix. If the boss is around, you need to be on best behaviour.

 

In the build-up to this weekend's race, F1 rightly credited Formulino by producing him a very special VIP paddock pass. As we all know, paddock access is currently extremely limited due to the COVID-19 restrictions, with exceptions made where deemed necessary, such as for one-eyed charity teddy bears (which strangely sparked one protest…). But Formulino does what he wants. After all, who is going to stop him?

Formulino's pass lists him as a member of Imola's personnel, his position being "cat", and grants him access for all days of the event. He even posed for a paddock pass photo like a true professional.

For all the talk of upgrades, Z-shaped floors and high versus low-rake car concepts heading to Imola, the reality is that Formulino is more powerful than any of those. Will he bless Hamilton once again? Or could Max Purr-stappen be in for some feline fortune?

shares
comments

Related video

Why the demise of F1's hypocritical spending habit is cause for celebration

Previous article

Why the demise of F1's hypocritical spending habit is cause for celebration

Next article

Alonso delays biography to tell the "truth" after F1 retirement

Alonso delays biography to tell the "truth" after F1 retirement
Load comments
The F1 champion who became an Indy king in his second career Plus

The F1 champion who became an Indy king in his second career

Emerson Fittipaldi’s decision to go racing with his brother led to him falling out of F1, but he bloomed again on the IndyCar scene. NIGEL ROEBUCK considers a career of two halves

Why Mercedes is pleased to be in the Hungary hunt at a 'Red Bull track' Plus

Why Mercedes is pleased to be in the Hungary hunt at a 'Red Bull track'

Mercedes ended Friday practice at the Hungaroring with a clear gap to Red Bull thanks to Valtteri Bottas’s pace in topping FP2. But there are other reasons why the Black Arrows squad feels satisfied with its progress so far at a track many Formula 1 observers reckon favours Red Bull overall

How Red Bull endured its second car crash in two weeks Plus

How Red Bull endured its second car crash in two weeks

OPINION: Red Bull was justified to be upset that Lewis Hamilton survived his British GP clash with Max Verstappen and went on to win. But its attempts to lobby the FIA to reconsider the severity of Hamilton's in-race penalty were always likely to backfire, and have only succeeded in creating a PR disaster that will distract from its on-track efforts

The ‘screaming’ F1 engine future that may not be out of reach Plus

The ‘screaming’ F1 engine future that may not be out of reach

OPINION: It wasn't just the Verstappen/Hamilton clash that had the Red Bull and Mercedes bosses at loggerheads at Silverstone, with the nature of Formula 1's 2025 engines also subject for disagreement. But hopes to have loud, emotive engines that are also environmentally friendly don't have to be opposed

Formula 1
Jul 29, 2021
The drivers that need to strike gold before F1's summer break Plus

The drivers that need to strike gold before F1's summer break

OPINION: Formula 1 is about to break up for summer 2021, with the title battles finely poised. But it’s not just the latest round of Max Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton that will be worth watching this weekend in Hungary, as plenty of drivers are eying big results to change the stories of their seasons so far

Formula 1
Jul 28, 2021
How Lotus F1 uncovered, then squandered its last ‘unfair advantage’ Plus

How Lotus F1 uncovered, then squandered its last ‘unfair advantage’

Cast in the mould of its founder Colin Chapman, Lotus was powerful and daring but 
flawed – as it proved through further soaring peaks and painful troughs into the 1980s. DAMIEN SMITH examines a game-changing era

Formula 1
Jul 27, 2021
The core problems Yas Marina’s long-awaited tweaks won't address Plus

The core problems Yas Marina’s long-awaited tweaks won't address

OPINION: Changes to the layout of Abu Dhabi’s circuit aim to reverse the trend of insipid Formula 1 races there - the promoter has even described one of the new corners as “iconic”. And that, argues STUART CODLING, is one of this venue’s abiding failings

Formula 1
Jul 26, 2021
How Ferrari offered Britain's next F1 prospect what Red Bull couldn't Plus

How Ferrari offered Britain's next F1 prospect what Red Bull couldn't

Last year's Formula 2 runner-up Callum Ilott could be on his way to becoming the first Briton to contest a grand prix in an Alfa Romeo since Reg Parnell in 1950. But, says OLEG KARPOV, the Ferrari Driver Academy protege is having to temper his ambition at the moment – outwardly at least…

Formula 1
Jul 25, 2021