Upgrades delayed and relief for Gasly: How Imola’s cancellation affects the competition

2023 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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The 2023 Formula 1 season was supposed to be the longest in history with a whopping 24 grands prix crammed into the span of 268 days.

Then, with the cancellation of the Chinese Grand Prix in April, the calendar fell to 23 rounds – still enough for the longest ever season.

Now, this weekend’s Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix is not taking place as a result of appalling flooding that has led to major damage and disruption in the region. With little prospect of the race being rescheduled until later in the season, it looks like this year’s world championship will once again be contested over 22 rounds.

But with another race off the schedule, what does that mean for teams and drivers when it comes to this year’s championship?

Components don’t have to last as long

The reduction in the number of races does not have any impact on power unit component allocations. As a result, the teams and drivers know their hardware has to complete one fewer race, which could prove the difference between taking and avoiding a penalty at the end of the year.

Ferrari, Miami International Autodrome, 2023
Drivers retain their power unit component allocations
They had already been given a helping hand through a rules change last month. F1, teams and the FIA agreed to increase the allocations of internal combustion engines, MGU-H, MGU-K and turbochargers each by one for the remainder of the season.

Drivers are still limited to the two energy stores and control electronics that they started the 2023 season with. There is no provision in the sporting regulations to reduce the maximum component allowance if races are cancelled while the season is in progress.

However, there is a mechanism for the number of so-called ‘restricted-number components (RNC)’ – such as gearboxes and gearbox casings – to be reduced if the number of races also falls. But this will not affect the 2023 season as things stand, as both gearbox cases and gearbox casings are limited to four each whether the number of races are 23, 22 or even 20 or fewer. Each driver would have been allocated five of each had the original 24-round calendar been achieved, however the allocation was reduced to four with the cancellation of the Chinese Grand Prix, meaning the loss of Imola has no additional effect.

Less pressure on budgets

One of the first questions that comes to mind in the aftermath of another race being cancelled so early in the season is what impact will the loss of Imola have on teams’ budget caps for the 2023 season. particularly as the base budget cap limit is now at its lowest level, just $135 million (£108.8m), before adjustments.

Teams’ budget caps will be unaffected
The late cancellation of the race means the spending limit won’t be adjusted. Under the current F1 financial regulations, article 2.3 outlines that any grand prix cancelled less than three months before it was set to take place will be deemed to have taken place under the budget cap. The cap will only be reduced if fewer than 21 grands prix take place in a season, and with Imola technically still counting under the financial regulations, the budget cap remains unchanged from how it would have been if both rounds had taken place.

But the cancellation of the second race of the season will not be without consequences for teams. As they will not be running their cars this weekend, they will naturally save on the costs of running and maintaining their cars. Teams will also escape damage costs from any potential accidents, crashes or technical failures that could have happened over the weekend and could earn back hospitality costs from refunds on hotels they will not be staying in, depending on arrangements.

The funds saved from this weekend will not simply sit in team’s accounts and allow them a buffer on the cap, however. They will likely invest that money into other areas – such as car development or in facilities – in order to maximise their competitive advantage.

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Upgrades delayed

One important impact of this weekend’s racing being called off is that many of the teams will have to wait at least one extra week to collect any data from their upgrades packages they would have brought to the Imola circuit. Following three weeks off from racing in April with the cancellation of China, many teams brought upgrades to Baku for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but Imola was marked on many teams’ calendars as when they would likely introduce their biggest upgrades of the season to date.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Miami International Autodrome, 2023
Many teams were bringing upgrades to Imola
With no race, there will be no opportunity for teams to gather data on their new parts around a conventional, permanent race track like Imola. Instead, teams now have to wait an extra week until Monaco – potentially the worst possible venue to introduce updates due it being another street circuit with by far the slowest lap speed on the calendar.

However, Mercedes say they will continue to bring their planned Imola upgrades to next weekend in Monte Carlo. Ferrari, it appears, will delay introducing their revised suspension until the following round at Barcelona, the next permanent circuit on the schedule.

The impact of the cancellation of Imola on team performance and the pecking order will be hard to quantify, but it will inevitably have some influence over how confident teams are in their cars by the time they arrive in Spain in just under two weeks’ time.

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Tyre test shelved

This weekend was supposed to see Formula 1 experiment with a brand new tyre allocation format at Imola. The ‘alternative tyre allocation’ was supposed to reduce the total number of compounds each driver could use through the weekend from 13 sets down to 11. It would also have compelled all drivers to run hard compound tyres in Q1, mediums in Q2 and softs only in Q3.

The alternative tyre allocation test will be delayed
The format change was supposed to help tyre suppliers Pirelli explore whether they could reduce the quantity of tyres they need to bring to each race weekend to decrease the environmental impact of transporting those 160 additional dry tyres to each circuit without having a major effect on the on-track competition. However, that test can no longer be carried out.

There is one other test of the alternative tyre allocation planned for later this year, however the track which will be used has not been determined. Due to the lead times involved in manufacturing and transporting tyres, it is unlikely to take place at any of the immediately following races.

Sprint events such as the Austrian Grand Prix are not an option either, and Pirelli plans to introduce a new specification of dry tyres from the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, which may rule that event out. It may not be until the Hungarian Grand Prix, just before the summer break, that the format can finally be tested.

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Street race streak

With Imola’s race not taking place, teams and drivers will now face their fifth street circuit in succession when they arrive in Monaco next weekend. Following the opening round of the season in Bahrain, drivers have now had to contend with Jeddah, Albert Park, Baku, Miami and now Monaco.

While all of those circuits have their own characteristics and vary in many ways from each other, it’s the first time that Formula 1 has ever had five consecutive grands prix all taking place around temporary street circuits, rather than a conventional road course.

Gasly gets a reprieve

While no one in Formula 1 will be happy with the tragic reason for Imola’s cancellation, the lack of racing this weekend works in Pierre Gasly’s favour.

Having been just two penalty points away from a potential race ban after accruing ten over the bulk of last season through a series of incidents, Gasly has managed to avoid picking up any more up to this stage in the early part of the 2023 season. He’s had a few near-misses during this time, notably in Australia, where he was lucky to avoid a sanction after taking out his team mate at the restart.

Imola was set to be the last weekend at which Gasly would race with the cloud of a ban hanging over him, with two points set to be wiped from his record on Monday. Now it’s been called off Gasly will be down to eight penalty points at Monaco next weekend.

While still under risk of a ban if he collects more points over the year – and still more than any other driver – it will allow him some breathing space. Gasly will next lose a point following the British Grand Prix weekend in early July.

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2023 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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    Will Wood
    Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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  • 8 comments on “Upgrades delayed and relief for Gasly: How Imola’s cancellation affects the competition”

    1. Whats with F1’s latest obsession with street tracks, every new track they talked about adding is a street track. I want Istanbul Park, Shanghai, Buddh, Sepang and the S korean circuit back on the calendar not another street track.

      1. @illusive Presumably, the general temporary & or street/city track trend has been about bringing F1 closer to people + making race venues more accessible for commuting. All in all, a sustainability plan thing.

        1. Gavin Campbell
          19th May 2023, 20:12

          They tried building new tracks in the 2000s to host Grand Prix and many a white elephant was built.

          The problem is that not too many other motorsport series attract anything close to a F1 crowd (MotoGP is probably closest but that brings its own issues with track design and run off etc.). So you have to build huge infrastructure for 1 weekend a year.

          Thus for new races it’s easier to put the races in cities/parks close to hotels, restaurants, public transport, toilets, plumbing, power, airports etc.

    2. Coventry Climax
      19th May 2023, 11:18

      The first thing that comes to mind, would be having the FIA, Liberty and teams collect the money saved from this cancelled race, and spend it on help and repairs in the Emilia-Romagna regio.
      But actually, that would be just as stupid as the Dutch government currently and temporarily paying (part of) the energy bills for people that can’t afford it any longer, due to the surging prices, instead of putting money in improving the energy efficiency in housing and all sorts of building, which would be helping people -and the world- longtime. Effectively, they -and the rest of the world- have been sitting on their lazy a.s.ses since the first worldwide oil crisis, back in, what was it, 1974? That’s well over 50 years of virtually doing nothing with available knowledge. And then they wonder how come people have no faith in politics?
      So I suggest they put the saved money from the cancelled Imola race in energy efficiency projects. And I wouldn’t mind if these were concentrated in the Emilia-Romagna region.
      And, byproduct, it would keep the racing season more honest too.

    3. To my knowledge, Hungaroring is the other originally-planned circuit for the hard/Q1-medium/Q2-soft/Q3 experiment.
      I assume another circuit, further into the season, will get chosen as a direct replacement for Imola.
      Nevertheless, I’m still looking forward to seeing how this experiment works.
      Gasly must be the luckiest person with the unfortunate cancellation, although teams & drivers are also somewhat lucky with their PU component allocations.

    4. It may have cost RBR their 1000 point bid

      1. Yes, it already looks unlikely mathematically speaking, if then a team takes a step up and can really challenge red bull at some race (example mercedes were actually faster in brazil last year) their points-average will drop too, atm they’re getting 44,8 points per race, which is really high, I know there’s been sprints too but without sprints that would be higher than 1-2 all races + fastest lap.

      2. Thinking about it, you actually have to get basically all possible points to get past 1000, because even if you have 1-2 on every race with fastest lap, 44 points x22 races, it’s only 964, with 6 sprints you can get a further 90 points, not a lot of margin even in a perfect season.

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