The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix this weekend has been cancelled due to adverse weather in the region, Formula One confirmed on Wednesday.
The race at Imola, due to be round six of the 2023 F1 season, will now not take place due to flooding in the area and the risk of further downpours over the coming days.
Persistent rain in the region saw the paddock at the circuit in northern Italy evacuated on Tuesday due to the rising level of water in the nearby Santerno river – with teams and media told to stay away from the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on Wednesday.
Yet now the decision has been made, with emergency services and thousands of fans in mind, to call off the whole racing weekend due to take place from Friday to Sunday.
An F1 press release read: “Following discussions between Formula One, 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.
“The Formula One 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.”
The Independent understands the race is unlikely to be rescheduled this year due to the already congested 2023 calendar.
Although the track is not yet underwater, the surrounding area is struggling to cope with the extreme weather and the rain is forecast to continue on Wednesday.
While the circuit has not been flooded, there are concerns about the safety of transporting spectators to and from the venue, and also about having to divert emergency services to stage the race.
F1 president Stefano Domenicali, who is from the region and is the former chief at Ferrari, 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.”
The Emilia Romagna region has been badly affected by torrential rain that caused extensive flooding, killing two people and forcing hundreds to be evacuated from their homes, earlier this month.
The race in Imola was due to kick off F1’s first triple-header of the season, with races to follow on consecutive weekends in Monaco and Spain in the sport’s record 23-round campaign.
FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem added: “My thoughts and those of the entire FIA family are with those affected by the terrible situation in the Emilia Romagna region. The safety of everyone involved and recovery efforts are the top priority at this time.”
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who won at Imola in 2020 and holds the lap record, said: “Hoping everyone in Emilia Romagna is able to stay safe and look out for each other right now.
“Thoughts are with those affected by this tragedy and the amazing emergency services working on the ground. I know we all understand that safety comes first. I can’t wait to see you all at the next race.”
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who won last year’s race at Imola, holds a 14-point lead at the top of the drivers’ standings to teammate Sergio Perez after five races.
The Dutchman said in a statement: “Max Verstappen and Verstappen.com are supportive of the decisions made by F1 and local authorities to cancel the grand prix.
“Our thoughts are with all those affected by the severe rainfall and flooding in the greater Emilia Romagna region. We wish you all strength to ensure your safety throughout this period.”
Perez added: “All my thoughts and prayers are with the people in the Italian region of Emilia Romagna. We’re not racing there this weekend but hopefully we can get back soon. Please stay safe!”
The next race of the 2023 F1 season is now the Monaco Grand Prix, taking place over the weekend of 26-28 May.