Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix could be threatened with cancellation after the Imola paddock had to be evacuated due to the risk of flooding.
The northern Italian region has been battered by torrential rain and flooding throughout May, earning a red weather warning as rain and wind are expected to continue.
Heavy rain is forecast every day of this week except Thursday – the race weekend is due to start on Friday – and the Italian Meteorological Office has also issued landslide warnings for Tuesday and Wednesday.
The circuit itself sits on the banks of the Santerno River, the level of which is rising rapidly and if the banks burst, water would flow into the paddock.
According to The sun, Staff working at the circuit on Tuesday have been sent back to their hotels as sport officials face a nerve-wracking wait to see if the much-anticipated event can go ahead as planned.
Imola was evacuated on Tuesday due to the risk of flooding just days before the Emilia Romagna GP
A picture shared on Twitter today (left) showed the waters of the Santerno rising dangerously close to the edge of the famous racetrack – but the area was hit by flooding in May (right)
The region’s capital, Bologna, was pictured Tuesday afternoon preparing for the threat of flooding
Up to 100mm of rain is expected by Wednesday evening in the region, where hundreds of residents have already been evacuated, local schools are closed and all but essential travel is advised against.
Formula 1 has said the race will currently go ahead as planned and it is hoped televised coverage of the event will not be affected by the extreme weather.
Coincidentally, Imola was already set to be the site for the launch of a new Pirelli wet tire that doesn’t require pre-heating.
Pirelli’s Head of Auto Racing and F1, Mario Isola, said the new tires had performed “even better” than the current Cinturato Blue all-weather tyre.
“The result of the studies carried out by Pirelli is the first concerted step towards the use of dry tires without preheating,” added Isola.
The possibility of a delay due to weather could not have materialized at a more difficult time on the F1 calendar as Imola hosted the first Grand Prix of three consecutive race weekends.
Whatever the weather, should the race go ahead, Mercedes might regret not having the ideal race weekend to show off its much-discussed upgrades to the W14.
Toto Wolff has advised his drivers to keep an eye on their expectations ahead of the Imola upgrades
Red Bull are unlikely to be affected by the adjustments having carved out a massive lead
Toto Wolff first mentioned the proposed improvements the designer wanted to make to the car after a disappointing start to the season ahead of the Australian Grand Prix in March.
The Mercedes team boss has since tried to downplay expectations, saying it was unlikely the upgrades would result in the car being able to “orbit Red Bull”.
Last year’s constructors’ champions are unlikely to be challenged again this season, with both world champions Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez unable to go wrong.
Perez sits just 14 points behind Verstappen at the top of the standings, with a 30-point gap separating the Mexican rider and nearest competitor Fernando Alonso, who sits in third place.