Typhoon-hit Japan GP qualifying moved to Sunday
SUZUKA, Japan (AFP) — The Japanese Grand Prix’s entire Saturday track program, including qualifying, has been canceled as Typhoon Hagibis bears down on the Suzuka circuit, race organizers announced Friday.
Qualifying will be rescheduled to 10 a.m. Sunday, with the race taking place at 2:10 p.m. as originally planned, providing the weather improves.
The Suzuka circuit will be closed, with no public or media allowed in for safety reasons as Hagibis, packing heavy rain and winds in excess of 200 kilometers per hour is expected to make landfall on Saturday.
“As a result of the predicted impact of Typhoon Hagibis on the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix, Mobilityland and the Japanese Automobile Federation have decided to cancel all activities scheduled to take place on Saturday,” said a statement by the motorsport’s governing body FIA.
“The FIA and Formula One support this decision in the interest of safety for the spectators, competitors and everyone at the Suzuka Circuit,” it continued.
The decision means the teams and drivers will just have Friday’s two practice sessions in which to prepare for Sunday morning’s qualifying session because Saturday’s third session will not be rescheduled.
If qualifying is not possible on Sunday morning because of continuing bad weather, then the grid will be decided based on Friday’s second free practice times, the FIA later confirmed in a further statement.
“Should this eventuality come to pass, the stewards will exercise their authority… and direct that the grid for the Japanese Grand Prix will be established based on the second practice session classification, with any penalties applied as necessary,” said the FIA statement.
Formula One qualifying in Japan was also moved to Sunday in 2004 and in 2010 due to poor weather.
The typhoon has already claimed casualties at the Rugby World Cup in Japan, with Saturday’s EnglandFrance clash in Yokohama and the New Zealand-Italy match in Toyota City canceled.
The volatile nature of Hagibis — with Japan’s weather bureau warning of “brutal winds and violent seas” as well as record-breaking rain — means even Sunday’s race could be under threat, though the current forecast is for clearer weather.
A postponement of the grand prix to Monday is impossible, the FIA said.
The latest forecast predicts Hagibis to make landfall near Tokyo on Saturday with the Suzuka circuit, which lies near the Honshu coast about 300 kilometers southwest of the capital, being battered on the fringes.
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands gets on his car for the first practice session for the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit in Suzuka, Japan, Friday.