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Emilia Romagna GP: Imola race cancelled amid heavy flooding in northern Italy

Formula 1 personnel had been instructed to leave the track on Tuesday, before being told to stay away on Wednesday; eight people have been killed by flooding in the region, with thousands evacuated from their homes; Imola had been set to host the sixth round of the 2023 season

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Sky Sports News' Craig Slater explains why the Emilia Romagna GP was cancelled

The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix has been cancelled amid heavy flooding in northern Italy.

Formula 1 personnel had previously been instructed to leave the paddock at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on Tuesday, before being advised to stay away on Wednesday as heavy rain continued to fall.

The decision was taken by local authorities and organisers of the race with Italy's most severe red weather warnings in place for flooding and landslides, with other parts of the region having already been devastated.

A Formula 1 statement said: "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."

It is understood the race is unlikely to be rescheduled due to the congested nature of the sport's calendar, but organisers will look into any potential options.

Italian officials confirmed on Wednesday that the flooding had killed at least eight people in the wider Emilia Romagna region, while thousands had been evacuated from their homes.

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Severe floods are widespread across Italy's Emilia Romagna region after heavy rains caused the Savio River to swell and flood the city of Cesena, where this video was filmed. Credit: Sky News

The casualties follow two deaths in the region caused by flooding earlier in May, with heavy rains having made a devastating impact on land that had been parched by a prolonged drought.

AlphaTauri 'very concerned' | Tsunoda shares harrowing scene

Italy-based F1 team AlphaTauri, whose factory is in nearby Faenza, said they were "very concerned" by the situation and taking action to "ensure the safety" of their staff.

"Scuderia AlphaTauri is very concerned about events unfolding over the past hours in Faenza and indeed in the whole Emilia-Romagna area, with flooding and heavy rain causing considerable damage," the statement said.

"The team's factory is currently unaffected and everything is being done to ensure the safety of our employees and their families.

"Our sympathies go out to all those affected and we continue to monitor the situation, to see what can be done to help those in need as we await further developments."

AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda, who lives in Faenza, appealed for donations to the emergency flood relief fund after sharing a harrowing account of the situation in the city.

"After a horrible night the town is heavily impacted: dust, mud, and the smell of gasoline everywhere," Tsunoda posted on Twitter.

"Currently people are struggling to find food and especially places to stay, after many have been evacuated from their own homes. Please, anything you can do to help is appreciated."

The sport's other teams took to social media to offer support to the local community, while seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton was among several drivers to post personal messages in support of the decision.

"Hoping everyone in Emilia Romagna is able to stay safe and look out for each other right now," Hamilton wrote on Instagram. "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."

The cancellation means that F1's original 24-race schedule for 2023 could now be reduced to 22, with the Chinese Grand Prix, which was slated for April, having been unable to take place due to the country's Covid-19 restrictions.

The Emilia Romagna GP was scheduled to be the first of a triple-header of European races, meaning the season is set to continue in Monaco next weekend, before moving on to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen leads the world championship by 14 points from team-mate Sergio Perez, with Red Bull, who are already 122 points clear in the constructors' standings, having taken victory in all five races so far this season.

The Emilia Romagna GP had been highly anticipated due to the expected introduction of major upgrades for Mercedes and Ferrari, which both teams were hoping would reduce their deficit to the RB19.

Domenicali: The right decision taken

Formula 1 president Stefano Domenicali, who spent much of his career working at Ferrari's Maranello base in the Emilia-Romagna region, said the "right" decision had been taken.

"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," he said.

Imola wet track 2022
Image: There has been heavy rainfall at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari

"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 on 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."

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."

'Formula 1 organisers have acted responsibly'

Sky Sports News reporter Craig Slater provides analysis on the decision to cancel the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix and the likelihood of the race being rescheduled.

"It's not a big surprise. Remember, Formula 1 staff were told to leave the track on Tuesday and they weren't to come in today.

"The River Santerno absolutely borders the Imola circuit, and it is very high for this time of year. It has been inundated with heavy rainfall over the last few days and it has been considered unsafe essentially that this event should go ahead.

Firefighters use dinghies to cross a flooded road near Faenza in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy
Image: Firefighters use dinghies to cross a flooded road near Faenza in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy

"Some images from today show that the television compound may be flooded, but it's more about the safety aspect of getting tens of thousands of people in and out of there, the risks associated with that.

"As Formula 1 has expressed here, do they really want, as a sport, to be putting any more pressure onto the emergency services when they've already got their hands full at this time?

"Formula 1 may explore options in terms of whether the race could be slotted in at a later point in the calendar, but my understanding is that they do not see an obvious point in the season, which is already so congested, to bring it back in.

Cars are submerged in a flooded road in the city of Faenza. Heavy rains have caused flooding in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy
Image: Cars are submerged in a flooded road in the city of Faenza. Heavy rains have caused flooding in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy

"This was part of a triple-header for example - Monaco was the next race. So to slot it back in now, when would you do it - by cutting short the summer break potentially?

"There's no appetite to do that. Could it be done in the autumn? Then again, it's a very busy sequence of races, and by adding one in, it could mean you have five races consecutively, which is unworkable.

"This has been a tough moment for Italy. The flood zones cover a broad swathe of four provinces and it's a tragedy as well. F1 are recognising that, five people have been killed by the floods and 5000 have been forced to leave their homes.

"Formula 1 has acted responsibly here, I think, by working in concert with the other authorities to make sure this event is not an extra burden, in the circumstances."

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