Formula 1: Typhoon Hagibis likely to hit Japanese Grand Prix
The storm on Thursday forced rugby governing body World Rugby to call off two matches scheduled for Saturday
Formula One is braced for stormy weather at this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix, with Typhoon Hagibis threatening to disrupt proceedings. The tropical storm, categorised as a super typhoon and among the most severe to hit the region in recent years, is bearing down on Japan's eastern cost. It is expected to hit capital Tokyo and adjoining areas over the weekend. The Suzuka circuit, which is located about 300 kilometers southwest of the capital, is expected to bear the brunt of it on Saturday when Formula One's final practice session and qualifying are usually held.
The storm on Thursday forced rugby governing body World Rugby to call off two matches scheduled for Saturday. F1 organisers, however, held off on a decision regarding any cancellation of track action saying they were working to minimise disruption to the weekend's timetable and keeping a close eye on the advance of the storm, with safety the main priority.
"The FIA (Formula One's governing body), Formula One, Suzuka Circuit and the Japanese Automobile Federation are closely monitoring Typhoon Hagibis and its potential impact on the 2019 FIA Formula One Japanese Grand Prix," said a statement issued by race organisers on Thursday. "Every effort is being made to minimise disruption to the Formula One timetable, however the safety of the fans, competitors and everyone at the Suzuka Circuit remains the top priority," it said, adding updates would be provided in due course.
Even if qualifying is cancelled on Saturday, it can be rescheduled so it is held a few hours before the race on Sunday which is expected to go ahead as normal, with the typhoon expected to move away and the weather expected to clear up. There is precedent for this, with the qualifying for the 2004 and 2010 races in Japan postponed to Sunday morning due to similar storms. Torrential rain also forced qualifying for the U.S. Grand Prix in 2015 to be moved from Saturday to Sunday.
"I think they do the utmost they can," said Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who, 73 points clear of team mate Valtteri Bottas in the overall standings with five races left, is well on his way to clinching a sixth world title. "I'm sure they already have procedures in place to move it to the Sunday morning." Like Hamilton drivers generally backed organisers' move to not rush a decision.
"There is a forecast, but how many times have forecasts changed?" said Ferrari's four-time champion Sebastian Vettel. "Currently it sits at a 100% so it's quite clear. "It would make sense if by tomorrow (Friday) at night, there is more evidence to give a proposal, or take an action for Saturday."
Safety is at the foremost for race organisers but they, the fans and drivers will all be hoping the worst of the weather stays away and track action goes ahead as planned. Mercedes will get their first shot at wrapping up a record-equalling sixth constructors championship this weekend.
The dominant German team have won 11 of the 16 races so far, eight of them in one-two formation, and head into the weekend 162 points clear of Ferrari, who currently hold the record for most consecutive title success (6, 1999-2004) and are the only team that can stop them.
Still the Maranello-based outfit's hopes are more mathematical than realistic. All Mercedes need to do is score 14 more points than the Italian squad to wrap up the teams' title this weekend. Still, Ferrari won't go down without a fight. It may be a case of too little too late but the sport's most successful team are enjoying a bit of a resurgence.
Charles Leclerc has started the last four races from pole position. The Monegasque and team-mate Sebastian Vettel have together won three of those. But for an ill-timed virtual safety car, triggered ironically by a retirement for Vettel, they would have been celebrating their fourth win in a row two weeks ago in Russia.
Regardless, this weekend offers the sport's most successful team another chance to prove their resurgence is real. For Honda Sunday's race could prove the happiest homecoming since the Japanese manufacturer, which owns the Suzuka track, returned to the sport as an engine supplier in 2015.
Now with Red Bull, they have already powered the former champions to two wins already. The Milton Keynes-based team's characteristically nimble chassis is ideally suited to Suzuka's high speed changes of direction and the team can realistically hope for a podium at the very least.
"That's definitely the target. First, also, let's wait and see how the weekend is going to go and also with the weather, but of course we'll try to do our very best this weekend to have a good result."
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