Formula 1 Racing

The grim reality that made Imola’s F1 weekend impossible to save

Hydrometric level river graphic

Sure, there have been rain impacted races, like Spa in 2021, and days lost to extreme events like the typhoon that hit Suzuka qualifying day in 2019, but the abandonment of an entire grand prix just days before it starts is quite unprecedented.

But just like the last non-COVID cancellation, of the 2011 season opener in Bahrain because of the political situation in the country, there are times when what is going on outside of a circuit make it impossible for anything to take place on track.

Red alert

From the moment the Emilia Romagna region was placed under a red alert weather warning on Monday evening, it was always likely that there was going to be some disruption to the Imola event.

However, with the long-term forecasts predicting improvement as the race weekend got nearer, the hope was there that once the worst 24 hours of weather passed, the way would be clear for things to improve enough for F1 to go ahead.

However, throughout Tuesday, the situation changed dramatically as the extent of rain that fell in the local region far exceeded even the worst case scenarios that had been predicted.

Whereas there had been talk of 100mm on rain falling in the worst affected areas throughout that day, and 150mm average by the end of Wednesday, things were considerably worse than that.

By Wednesday lunchtime, rainfall in the mountains south of Imola – which crucially feed the rivers in the local areas – had been measured as reaching up to 250mm over the previous 36 hours.

River alarm

This excessive rain served to swell the rivers dramatically throughout Tuesday. At the circuit, which is situated right next to the Santerno River, alarm bells went off pretty early about how fast it was rising.

Having been just one-metre high at 6am on Tuesday, it had hit the first warning level of two metres just after 11am – and showed no signs of slowing.

As it neared the second flood warning level of 2.5m at 12pm, the decision was taken to evacuate the circuit as a precautionary measure in case the river burst through the banks and flooded the entire track.

The below graphic of the river levels shows just how quickly it rose, and how the peak was so much greater than the floods that affected the region recently.

Hydrometric level river graphic

Photo by: Uncredited

Even without the impact of the river, some areas of the circuit were already under water by Tuesday afternoon, with footage of F1’s television compound being flooded circulating on social media.


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