F1: Qualifying for Japanese GP pushed to Sunday due to Typhoon Hagibis
Although located about 300km southwest of the capital city, Hagibis is still expected to lash the Suzuka track, which hosts the F1 race, with high winds and heavy rains as it passes by
Tokyo: The qualifying for the Japanese F1 GP will be held on the morning of the race on Sunday with organisers cancelling all of Saturday's scheduled due to the approach of Typhoon Hagibis. The tropical storm, predicted to be one of the most violent to hit the region recently, is expected to reach Tokyo over the weekend and has already forced two rugby World Cup games to be cancelled.
Although located about 300km southwest of the capital city, Hagibis is still expected to lash the Suzuka track, which hosts the F1 race, with high winds and heavy rains as it passes by. Qualifying will now be held at 10 am local time (13:30 IST) on Sunday with the race expected to start as scheduled at 2:10 pm (17:40 IST). The final practice session, which precedes qualifying on Saturday, will not be held.
"I think it's a shame for the fans but it's a fully respectable decision but safety is first," said Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto of FIA's decision to cancel Saturday's schedule. Should qualifying be unable to go ahead even on Sunday, Friday's second practice session will decide the starting order for the race. That would put Valtteri Bottas on pole ahead of Lewis Hamilton in a front row lockout for Mercedes. The Finn, who led Hamilton in both sessions, lapped the Suzuka circuit in one minute, 27.785 seconds on Friday afternoon. Hamilton in second was 0.100 seconds slower.
Red Bull's Max Verstappen was third. Charles Leclerc led Ferrari's charge in fourth, ahead of Sebastian Vettel. The pair were third and fourth in the morning with the German ahead. The Maranello-based team have been the ones to beat since F1 returned from its summer break, starting all four races since from pole position and converting three of those into wins. But the Italian outfit appeared to have slipped back at technically-demanding Suzuka after its recent resurgence.
A flurry of activity followed yesterday's practice session as F1 braced to face the onslaught of the approaching Hagibis. The starting lights and broadcast screens around the track were taken down, the broadcast centre was dismantled and the equipment moved to the main pit building, the podium was also packed away. Temporary grandstands were rearranged so that the wind could pass through them. Organisers handed out sandbags to guard against flooding. Teams anchored their hospitality units down with pegs drilled into the tarmac, wall panels in the garages were being taken down, garage doors were shuttered, and pit wall gantries were secured.
Mercedes said they would also take down screens and speaker systems installed in their hospitality unit and lift most of their garage equipment off the floor to avoid flood damage.
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