F1 calls off Grand Prix at Imola after devastating Emilia Romagna floods


This weekend's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola has been cancelled after widespread flooding in the Italian region, which has left five dead and areas of the paddock under water

Emilia Romagna flooding in 2023

F1 said it wouldn't be right to put more pressure on emergency services in the flood-stricken Emilia Romagna region

Alessandro Serrano/AFP via Getty Images

This weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix has been cancelled by Formula 1 after the “tragedy” of mass flooding in the region, which has left at least eight people dead and 10,000 evacuated.

The Imola circuit was also affected, with pictures showing the already-built TV compound flooded. Some staff who work for AlphaTauri were evacuated from their own homes and spent the night at the Faenza factory, 10 miles down the road from the circuit.

AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda, highlighted the worsening conditions in Faenza and urged followers to donate to the town’s flood relief fundraising campaign. “The town is heavily impacted,” he wrote on Instagram. “Dust, mud and the smell of gasoline everywhere. Currently people are struggling to find food and especially places to stay, after many have ben evacuated from their homes.”

F1’s announcement leaves the option of rescheduling the race open: in a statement, F1 said that it had taken the decision “not to proceed with the Grand Prix weekend”, after discussing the situation with national and regional politicians. “It is not possible to safely hold the event for our fans, the teams and our personnel. It would not be right to put further pressure on the local authorities and emergency services at this difficult time.”

“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,” said F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali.

“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.”

The decision followed calls by senior Italian politicians for the race to be postponed so that emergency services could concentrate on the rescue efforts and avoid crowds of spectators on the roads, heading towards the 78,000-capacity circuit. It’s likely that the cancellation will free up thousands of hotel rooms that could be used for evacuated households.

Hosting a race requires significant resources, with 14 ambulances and 70 staff deployed on site at last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as well as a large police presence.

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Transport Minister Matteo Salvini released a statement saying it was “imperative to concentrate all efforts on coping with the emergency.” He added: “Let’s dedicate ourselves to relief efforts.”

More than 20 rivers in the Emilia-Romagna region, including the Santerno, which runs past the circuit, are reported to have flooded, affecting 37 neighbourhoods, some of which received half the average annual rainfall in 36 hours. Sections of motorway are under water and a bridge has collapsed, along with several houses.

Teams had already begun setting up in the Imola paddock when they were evacuated on Tuesday as heavy rain fell. They will have to assess any damage quickly ahead of the following weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.


Will the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola be rescheduled?

F1’s statement was carefully worded to allow the possibility of rescheduling the Imola race, but it did not comment on the matter. Rather than saying the race had been cancelled, it said: “the decision has been taken not to proceed with the Grand Prix weekend.”

However, it won’t be easy to slot the race in to a packed schedule and maintain the planned four-week summer break during which time members of the paddock will have booked holidays.


Why couldn’t F1 race at Imola?

Emergency services are fully committed to dealing with the widespread flooding in the Emilia Romagna region, where flooding has blocked roads, caused landslides and affected 37 neighbourhoods.

Politicians were swift to call for the postponement of the race to avoid the build up of fans in the areas around Imola, which have been affected by flooding, and to ensure that emergency services could concentrate on the disaster at hand.

Calling the race off should also liberate large numbers of hotel rooms in an area where residents are being evacuated from their homes.


When was the last F1 race cancelled?

Covid continued to affect the F1 calendar into 2023, with this year’s Chinese Grand Prix cancelled as a result of restrictions. The pandemic has been responsible for dozens of cancellations and date changes in previous years, including at the last race to be called off at such a late stage: the 2020 Australian Grand Prix, where spectators were queuing at the gates to watch Friday practice, when they were told that the cars would be staying in their garages.