‘Imola cancellation hurts Max Verstappen more than Sergio Perez in F1 2023 battle’

Oliver Harden
Sergio Perez goes to congratulate race winner Max Verstappen. Miami May F1 2023

Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen offer their congratulations.

Formula 1 commentator Peter Windsor believes the cancellation of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix will hurt Max Verstappen more than Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez in the F1 2023 title battle.

With Red Bull winning each of the first five races of the new season, the reigning Constructors’ Champions were aiming to make it six in a row at the iconic Imola circuit this weekend.

However, extreme weather in the local area led to the cancellation of the race on Wednesday with PlanetF1.com sources indicating the event is highly unlikely to be scheduled for later this year.

Winner at Imola in 2021 and 2022, Verstappen currently holds a 14-point lead over Perez in the Drivers’ standings with the season now reduced to 22 rounds.

Speaking via a recent YouTube stream, Windsor feels Verstappen’s previous success and suitability to the Imola track means the loss of the Emilia Romagna GP will be felt more keenly by the reigning World Champion.

He said: “What will Max be thinking? ‘One less race for me to win’?

“Absolutely no doubt that was more of a Max circuit than a Checo circuit, so that’s more of a loss for [Verstappen].

“If these two guys are going to be very close on points getting towards the end of the year – which is a big if, of course – then Imola will be a race that Max will rue the absence of.”

F1’s move to cancel the race a full 48 hours before the first free practice session was due to begin drew much praise on Wednesday, with Windsor highlighting the influence of Formula 1 chief executive and former Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali – who was born in Imola and spent his formative years in the region – on the decision.

“I think a lot of input there came from Stefano Domenicali,” he explained.

“He grew up in Imola, he’s head of Liberty Formula 1 and it’s his circuit.

“If he doesn’t know if it’s OK to run a grand prix there or not then nobody on the planet does, so I think the FIA respected Stefano’s input on that one.

“That would be my guess.

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“I don’t think this was just the FIA acting too quickly.

“I think this was well thought through and it’s respect to Stefano’s opinion that they’ve done it.”

Windsor stressed that the decision to cancel the event would not have been taken lightly, claiming there will be major ramifications for those involved.

Imola only returned to the calendar after an absence of 14 years during the truncated pandemic-affected campaign in the autumn of 2020 before returning to its traditional spring date in 2021/22.

He said: “I want to talk about Imola and how it’s affected Formula 1 over the years and how big a race it is and how to lose it from the calendar at this stage is so ironic, isn’t it? It really is.

“It brings the total number of races – if they don’t replace it – down to 22, which I think a lot of Formula 1 people will breathe a little bit of a sigh of relief on that one.

“But, of course, it does mean a loss of revenue.

“There will be all sorts of dramas from this and I wouldn’t want to be involved in any of the insurance companies around at the moment being asked to look at this situation on behalf of any of the clients involved, but it is a big thing.

“I say this in the context of Stefano Domenicali, who grew up in the area.

“Imola was his hometown as a kid and as a young man as well, learning his trade in Formula 1 and in motorsport, and from there he went to Ferrari.

“I can’t imagine what this is like for him and how sorry he must be feeling right now for everybody in the region and for the race organisers and everybody involved.

“So as well as saying our thoughts go out to everybody, my thoughts go out to Stefano actually because he’s a real racer in the sense that he has racing blood in his veins and to have to live through this weekend as he is…

“I’m sure he’ll be down there getting his hands dirty, helping as much as possible, as will probably quite a lot of Formula 1 people.

“We know how much Mario Isola of Pirelli gets involved with the fire service in Italy – I’m sure he’ll be there, sleeves rolled up, getting involved as well.

“I want to say that about Imola because it’s more than just another grand prix, it’s more than just another motor race.

“It is Imola and it’s a serious grand prix.”