Why F1’s condensed calendar leaves Imola 2023 return unlikely

The writing was on the wall for the first European round of the season after extreme rainfall caused severe floods throughout the Emilia Romagna region, including parts of the Imola circuit’s paddock. Following crunch talks between F1, the FIA and the local authorities, the decision was taken on Wednesday to call off this weekend’s event, so all focus could go to restoring infrastructure and freeing up medical services to help the affected communities.

F1’s official statement read: “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.”

As always, the wording of F1’s press release mentioned the decision was “not to proceed” with this weekend’s event rather than any hint of a cancellation.

That particular phrasing, albeit for contractual reasons, opens the door for Imola to be postponed rather than cancelled outright and delayed until 2024. But one look at the rest of the 2023 calendar suggests Imola is highly unlikely to find a spot elsewhere.

The frantic June-July run before the summer break is already a no-go, because the only slot would be on 16 July in the one-week gap between the Austria-Britain (2-9 July) and Hungary-Belgium (23-30 July) back-to-backs, creating an impossible quintuple header.

With factories set to close for the summer shutdown and most staff having already booked well-deserved time off, bringing forward the second part of the season by one week is no option either, so that covers the period until the end of August.

Start box

Start box

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

On a more logically structured calendar, twinning Imola with Monza in September could have been a logistically sound emergency solution, but in this case that would again create a streak of five back-to-back races, starting with Zandvoort on the final weekend of August before F1 then departs to Singapore and Japan for four races in five weeks.

With September’s Singapore and Suzuka rounds being twinned, that also leaves no way to avoid a quadruple header with the following race in Qatar in early October.

The dreaded, existing triple-header of Austin, Mexico and Brazil in late October and early November then puts paid to any remote chance of slotting Imola in before mid-November, when it starts getting too cold in Emilia Romagna.

In any case, November’s season-ending duo of Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi would rule out the vacant 11 November date, as that would then create six races on the trot.

Given how far advanced the 2023 season is, it is also too late to organise a date change with one of the races mentioned above.

And as the Imola event was called off due to force majeure, there is likely to be little appetite to go above and beyond, with a simple ticket refund the most likely outcome.

That means fans will have to wait until 2024 to flock to the historic F1 venue for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, the penultimate year of Imola’s contract that runs out at the end of 2025.

However, it is not out of the question that Imola’s current three-year deal, which was only signed last year, will move up by a year as a consequence of this week’s events.

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