Sport

GP WASHOUT

Flooding in northern Italy forces FIA into cancelling the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

Flooding in northern Italy forces FIA into cancelling the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix
General view of the start of the Formula 1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari race track in Imola, Italy, on 24 April 2022. Formula 1 on 17 May, 2023, annnounced the decision "not to proceed with the Grand Prix weekend at Imola" while the region was seeing torretnial rains and floodings. The Formula 1 Emiglia Romagna Grand Prix was scheduled to be held on 21 May, 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE/Sanna)

The 2023 Formula 1 season is set to be reduced from 23 Grand Prix to 22 after the cancellation of the Emilia-Romagna race.

Torrential flooding in northern Italy has forced Formula 1 organisers to cancel this weekend’s scheduled Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at the Imola Circuit, which is home to the Ferrari team.

At least three people have died and thousands of citizens have been evacuated from the Emilia-Romagna region due to the heavy rainfall and flooding.

Earlier in the week, personnel from various F1 teams, who were at the Imola circuit setting up hospitality enclosures and car garages, were evacuated from the racetrack for fear of the nearby Santerno River, flooding its banks.

The sport’s governing body, the FIA said in a statement: “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 at 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.”

Earlier in the day, Italian transport minister Matteo Salvini called for the race to be postponed “to concentrate all efforts on coping with the emergency”.

Stefano Domenicali, the head of Formula 1, said: “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.

“I want to express my gratitude and admiration for the incredible emergency services who are working tirelessly to help those who need help and alleviate the situation — they are heroes and the whole of Italy is proud of them.

“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.”

Po River in Modena, Italy

High water levels following torrential rains on a distributary river from the Po River in Modena, Italy, on Wednesday, 17 May, 2023. Formula 1 has canceled the Grand Prix scheduled to take place in Imola, northern Italy, this weekend after the region was hit by torrential rains and flooding that led to several deaths. (Photo: Francesca Volpi/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

This race was scheduled to be the first of three races on consecutive weekends, with Monaco and Spain to follow. It’s not immediately clear if the race will be rescheduled to later in the season, but it is unlikely considering the densely packed schedule. The 2023 calendar already included 23 races, including the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

“Max is supportive of the decisions made by F1 and local authorities to cancel the Grand Prix,” world champion Max Verstappen said in a statement.

“Our thoughts are with all those affected in the greater Emilia Romagna region. We wish you all strength to ensure your safety throughout this period.”

Giro d’Italia also affected

Cycling’s Giro d’Italia, one of the three Grand Tours, which is currently in its second week, has also been affected by the weather.

Organisers of the cycle race earlier removed the highest climb in the Alps and shortened Friday’s 13th stage due to snow and the risk of avalanches.

Denmark’s Magnus Cort, who completed his Grand Tour Slam with a maiden stage victory at the Giro d’Italia in Tuesday’s stage 10, called it the “hardest day” as the entire peloton battled the weather.

Cort, 30, has won two stages in the Tour de France and six in the Vuelta a España and completed the Grand Tour stage sweep with his first Giro victory on his second appearance in the race.

 “I’m extremely happy to complete my trilogy, winning a stage of the Giro d’Italia after the Tour de France and La Vuelta,” said Cort. “But it’s been one of the hardest days I’ve spent on the bike.

“Firstly, I had to get back to the front. Then my radio wasn’t working because of the rain so I was never sure where the chasing peloton was. But we kept pushing hard. It was worth it. It’s hard to believe that it happened though.”

Race leader Geraint Thomas said: “Obviously not ideal conditions to be leading the Giro. It was pretty cold on top of the hill and crazy on the descent.

“I’m happy with getting through this stage alright. In this race, anything can happen, especially with the weather.” DM

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