The cancellation of the 2023 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix has reignited memories of the COVID-19 pandemic that led to the cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix in 2020. While the decision to cancel the 2020 event was controversial, in hindsight it was the right one given the unfolding global situation. Fast-forward 17 months to the 2021 Belgian GP, which was also marred by controversy after four failed weather updates and three hours of waiting in the rain before the race was eventually called, resulting in a “race” that continues to taint F1‘s history books.
The decision to cancel the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was made in the aftermath of severe flooding that has affected the region. The Giro d’Italia cycling race had encountered the bad weather on its route just a day before it was scheduled to begin. The resulting floods have claimed the lives of eight people and forced over 5,000 people from their homes. The Santerno river, which runs alongside the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, rose above its safety threshold of 3.5m, flooding the broadcasting area and support paddocks on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The decision to cancel the race was driven by concerns about infrastructure. The surrounding roads had already been seriously affected by the floods, and the arrival of thousands of personnel and vehicles would only have made the situation worse. Nearby hotels were also flooded, leaving some teams without accommodation. Teams had been arriving since Monday, with initial garage set-up crews leaving from across the UK, Switzerland and Emilia-Romagna, as the rain began to fall. Regular team manager and travel coordinator contact with F1 had kept everyone informed of the situation as it developed, and the decision to cancel came on Tuesday afternoon as the extent of the flooding became apparent.
There are concerns that the Grand Prix will not be rescheduled because of the significant infrastructure requirements for an F1 event, and the tsunami of logistical challenges the thousands of personnel involved, television crews, and global media bring. However, teams and fans alike are disappointed to miss out on Imola, a circuit steeped in history, and the hope is it won’t be too long before they’re back.