This Sunday’s Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix at Imola has been called off after the region was hit by severe floods.
The decision to pull the race was made on Wednesday morning by Stefano Domenicali, F1’s chief executive – meaning a host of flights will be cancelled and hotel rooms left empty as most of the 2,000 or so travelling circus will now not travel to Italy.
All the portable facilities will now go straight to Monaco for the next race a week on Sunday.
Domenicali acted after speaking to the local authorities and promoter. It is understood F1 didn’t want to place an extra burden on the community or emergency services.
So packed is the schedule that the Imola race is unlikely to be staged later in the year, meaning the calendar will fall to 22 rounds.
This weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix has been called off due to extreme rain in Imola
The decision was made by F1 chief Stefano Domenicali – with fears the race will not be rescheduled amid a packed schedule
An F1 statement read: ‘The Formula 1 community wants to send its thoughts to the people and communities affected by the recent events in the Emilia-Romagna region. We also want to pay tribute to the work of the emergency services who are doing everything they can to help those in need.
‘Following discussions between Formula 1, the President of the FIA, the competent authorities including the relevant Ministers, the President of the Automobile Club of Italy, the President of Emilia Romagna Region, the Mayor of the City and the promoter the decision has been taken not to proceed with the Grand Prix weekend in Imola.
‘The decision has been taken because it is not possible to safely hold the event for our fans, the teams and our personnel and it is the right and responsible thing to do given the situation faced by the towns and cities in the region. It would not be right to put further pressure on the local authorities and emergency services at this difficult time.’
Domenicali added: ‘It is such a tragedy to see what has happened to Imola and Emilia Romagna, the town and region that I grew up in and my thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the flooding and the families and communities affected.
‘The decision that has been taken is the right one for everyone in the local communities and the F1 family as we need to ensure safety and not create extra burden for the authorities while they deal with this very awful situation.’
Formula One Group (F1G) will themselves pick up the bill for the cancellation of Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix in Imola, by not even asking the circuit for the hosting fee of up to £20million.
A source close to the situation told Mail Sport: ‘Nobody wants to bankrupt anyone.’
While anything between the estimated £15m and £20m fee is a significant amount for F1G to miss out on, it is less than a third of the cash paid by venues such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia as new ‘jewels’ of the £2billion-a-year sport.
Even after Imola was called off on Wednesday as terrible rain left the region prone to landslides and parts of Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari flooded, the season is still a bursting 22 races long.
Local organisers will refund ticket prices to fans, but this outlay is offset by F1G’s decision not to demand the fee.
It is the second time in recent years that a race has been cancelled at the 11th hour. The other was the 2020 Australian Grand Prix, which fell victim to Covid after the travelling circus of some 2,000 people had flown Down Under.
Imola was evacuated on Tuesday due to flood risks just days before the Emilia Romagna GP
A picture shared on Twitter today (left) showed the waters of the Santerno rising dangerously close to the edge of the famed circuit – but the area has seen flooding throughout May (right)
The region’s capital, Bologna, was pictured preparing for the flood risk on Tuesday afternoon
That was because one McLaren mechanic tested positive for Covid, and only a small minority of those there thought it responsible to press head in those febrile days as the world locked down. At issue then was a fee closer to £50m.
This time the danger around is clear. Two people died earlier in the month and hundreds have been evacuated from their houses.
It is understood that Domenicali, who grew up in the region and worked in the Imola car park as a boy directing Bernie Ecclestone to his space, thought it would be a bad look for his plutocratic sport to play on in such grim circumstances.
And what if someone had been swept away while walking to the race by the adjacent and swollen Santerno river? Who would have been liable?
Qatar Airways, who pay up to £50m as one of F1’s global partners and were due to be title sponsors of the race, will be offered further exposure during the season to compensate.
The TV rights deals are not impacted because, at 22 races, F1G, who are owned by American conglomerate Liberty Media, are well above the required threshold to receive full payment for the season.
Most personnel would have flown out on either Wednesday or Thursday ahead of practice on Friday morning.
Some staff were already in the paddock, erecting the infrastructure and preparing garages, before being ordered to stay away from the track on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday after a flood and landslide warning.
The level of the Santerno river, running just yards from the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, was rising alarmingly.
In recent weeks, a violent rain storm resulted in the death of two people, with several hundreds forced to leave their homes. AlphaTauri’s HQ in Faenza was caught up in the damage.
Rescuers take people to safety in Forli after floods hit Italy’s northern Emilia-Romagna region
A home is nearly completely submerged in the flooded water in Ponte delle Grazie, near Ravenna, Italy, on Wednesday
Cars are submerged in a flooded street in Cesena, Italy, after heavy rains caused major flooding on Wednesday
A view of the overflowing Savio river in Cesena, central Italy, on Wednesday
On Wednesday horrifying pictures showed desperate families forced to climb on to their roofs in the hardest-hit Italian region of Emilia-Romagna as they awaited rescuers to reach them on helicopters.
In the city of Cesena, in the Emilia-Romagna region, locals were forced to swim through the submerged streets, past sunken cars and floating furniture, to reach higher ground, as the mayor said the situation there is ‘critical’.
Italian Deputy PM Matteo Salvini had been leading calls for the F1 event to be curtailed, saying: ‘In the light of direct contacts between the minister, the institutions and the associations involved, let’s dedicate ourselves to relief efforts.’
By chance, Imola was already set to be the stage for the launch of a new Pirelli rain tyre that will not need to be heated up beforehand.
Pirelli’s head of car racing and F1, Mario Isola, said the new tyres had shown ‘even better performance’ than the Cinturato Blue full wet tyre currently in use.
‘The result of studies carried out by Pirelli, it is the first concerte step towards the use of dry tyres without preheating,’ Isola added.
Stefano Domenicali said the decision was taken to ensure safety and prevent ‘putting further pressure on the local authorities and emergency services’
Toto Wolff had advised his drivers to manage their expectations ahead of the Imola upgrades
The weather delay could not have come at a more difficult point in the F1 calendar, with Imola the first grand prix of a run of three consecutive race weekends.
Mercedes may rue not having the ideal race weekend to show off their much-discussed upgrades to the W14.
Toto Wolff first mentioned the proposed upgrades that the constructor were looking to make to the car after a disappointing start to the season ahead of March’s Australian Grand Prix.
The Mercedes team principal has since attempted to downplay expectations, saying that it was unlikely that the upgrades would mean the car could ‘drive circles around Red Bull’.
Last year’s constructors champions look unlikely to be challenged once again this season with both world champion Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez unable to put a foot wrong.
Perez is just 14 points behind Verstappen at the top of the standings, with a gaping chasm of 30 points between the Mexican driver and the next-closest contender, Fernando Alonso, who sits third.
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