Japanese Grand Prix qualifying postponed

Qualifying for the sixteenth round of this dramatic Formula One World Championship has been rescheduled to take place on Sunday morning following torrential rain at the Suzuka International Circuit.

The heavy rain made the conditions for the drivers impossible to go out on track, as fear of losing control due to aquaplaning.

Despite several time delays to try and wait for the weather to improve, the sport governing body (the FIA) decided to postponed the session to Sunday morning.

The qualifying session is now expected to take place at 10.00 am local time to form the 24-car grid for the Japanese Grand Prix – just five hours before the actual race!

This is the second time in five races at Suzuka that qualifying has been postponed to Sunday.

Back in 2004 the approaching typhoon Ma-on led the race organisers to hold qualifying on Sunday instead of Saturday. Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher secured pole position on October 9th followed by a race victory a couple of hours later.

6 thoughts to “Japanese Grand Prix qualifying postponed”

  1. Championship contender Sebastian Vettel has supported the decision to postpone the qualifying session at Suzuka to Sunday morning following heavy rain at the track. Autosport.com has the story:

    Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel has backed the decision to postpone qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix to tomorrow.

    Torrential downpours initially forced the session to be postponed twice before race control made the decision to call it off, meaning that qualifying will instead take place before race tomorrow morning.

    The German said that he fully understood why qualifying’s postponement might be frustrating for fans, but said that he completely supported the race director’s decision.

    “I think the race directors did their best in sending the safety car out every 20 minutes to have a look, and it just didn’t get better,” Vettel said.

    “So I think it was the right decision. I know it is not an easy decision to take, but in those conditions we we have no control of our cars. So it was absolutely the right thing to do.

    “For the majority of people it’s difficult to understand [what it’s like in the car] – you just think, ‘OK, put the rain tyres on and you’ll be fine’. It’s not as easy as that. The cars are very light, we only have 600 or 700 kilos, which is usually half of a road car.

    “And the cars are very low, so it is very easy when there is standing water on the track to have aquaplaning, and then it becomes undriveable very fast.

    “I think it was the right decision, and there was no chance for us – we would just be passengers, rather than controlling, and being able to push to our limits and to the limits of the car.”

    While forecasts suggest that there will be less rain over Suzuka on Sunday, there remains the possibility that the grid could be decided by some other means if the weather takes another turn for the worse.

    Vettel said he is keeping an open mind about how the grid will be set.

    “Obviously right now there is lots of opportunity for all sorts of different possibilities of what might happen with qualifying,” Vettel said.

    “What everyone is trying to do and hoping for is to have a normal qualifying, but time is limited. So we will see what the decision is, we will see the weather, because at the moment the rain is forecast until late tonight, or even tomorrow morning.

    “But I think there is no reason to panic right now. Obviously what everyone is hoping for is a fair chance to qualify. But it’s a new situation for most of us, apart from those who were racing in 2004, when I think they had qualifying and the race on the same day here. So we’ll see.”

  2. As for Ferrari, the Italian team is unfazed by the idea of qualifying on Sunday morning following torrential rain on Saturday. Autosport.com has the details:

    Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali says his team will be unaffected by the postponement of qualifying to Sunday.

    Heavy rain forced the Japanese GP race director to call qualifying off and reschedule it for race day, with the session taking place five hours before the start of the Suzuka event.

    Ferrari is one of the teams to have lived a similar situation in the past, with Suzuka qualifying having been postponed to Sunday already in 2004.

    “For us, it does not change much and indeed, doing qualifying and the race on the same day is something we have experienced before, right here in Suzuka,” said Domenicali.

    The Italian said, however, that he fell sorry for the fans.

    “We feel really sorry for the thousands of spectators who had braved the bad weather to pack the grandstands in order to watch what should have been an exciting qualifying session.

    “There is always a great atmosphere here in Japan, with real enthusiasm for Formula 1: even today you could see lots of families with their children, something that is always nice to see and not just in our sport.”

  3. McLaren driver Jenson Button has said that to qualifying on Sunday morning – five hours before the actual race – will be no problem to the drivers. Autosport.com has the story and can be read below:

    Jenson Button believes drivers and teams will have no problem adapting to qualifying and racing on the same day in Japan.

    After the race director was forced to call off qualifying due to the poor weather today, the grid-deciding session will take place five hours ahead of the race on Sunday.

    The situation is a repeat of what happened at Suzuka in 2004.

    “It is pretty easy to get your head around, we just have to get up earlier,” said Button. “It is a much longer day for us but I quite enjoyed it when we did it here five or six years ago.

    “I liked having the qualifying in the morning because you are really buzzing after whatever happens and it is good going into the race in a positive mood.”

    He added: “t is a very difficult situation because we want to be out there as much as anyone on the circuit, but we know that this is impossible to drive an F1 car around, when the tyres are not touching the road or you are not driving the car, you are not in control of it at all.

    “So it is sad we are not able to run today and I really feel for the fans that are here, it is pretty horrendous weather here, they have come to watch us qualify and they have not been able to see us driving at all, it is tough for them and I feel sorry for them and all the people who have been watching qualifying or getting up early in the morning or late at night in Europe or US, it is pretty tough for them but there is nothing we can do about it.”

    McLaren Team-mate Lewis Hamilton also reckons the change doesn’t alter things much.

    “I don’t think it is any more pressure than it is a on a Saturday, you have P3 and if you damage it in P3 you cannot qualify so it is the same going into tomorrow,” he said.

    “Depending on the weather even if it is dry tomorrow it is still very tricky as you are pushing the car to the limit and you have to go sometimes over the limit to get your qualifying lap, but we should be okay and it has been done before so we should be okay.”

    Despite doubts about how the weather could affect the session tomorrow, team boss Martin Whitmarsh is confident there will be qualifying nonetheless.

    He said: “The options that they had today was to continue to delay until it got dark trying to qualifying, that the stewards could decide as they have done to put qualifying in tomorrow morning or if there is no qualifying then they can start the grid in race number order which we are not averse to but I suspect we are not going to get.

    “One way or another I suspect there will be some qualifying tomorrow.”

    BBC Sport report and video can be seen here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/9076310.stm

  4. After crashing out in the previous two races at Monza and Marina Bay (Singapore), Lewis Hamilton is under pressure to score a good result at the Japanese Grand Prix but following yet another crash in Friday’s practice session – in which he went off at Degner and damaged the MP4-25 heavily against the tyre barrier – the McLaren driver will face a difficult challenge despite a lack of serious laps around Suzuka. Autosport.com has the story.

    Lewis Hamilton believes he can still score a good result at the Japanese Grand Prix, despite a severe lack of running.

    The McLaren driver has managed just six timed laps until now, having crashed at the start of yesterday’s first practice session.

    Today’s practice was washed out and Hamilton did not even set a time, while qualifying has been postponed to Sunday.

    Despite all the problems, Hamilton says he will go for it in the race and reckons he can still achieve a good result.

    “It has not been the most convenient of events,” said Hamilton, 20 points behind championship leader Mark Webber. “I think I have only done six laps in the day and a half – six timed laps really – and this is a circuit where the more laps you get the more you can push and the more you can find the limit.

    “And so practice of course is a huge benefit but the situation is the way it is and this evening I will prepare myself in the same way I always do – and there is no reason why we still cannot get a good result here as we have been driving all year, so I am game. I’m going to go for it.”

    The Briton, who has crashed out of the last two races, admitted the extra time to prepare the car will be welcome by his mechanics.

    “We knew the whole time that it was not good as the rain never let off,” he said. “It was inevitable that it wasn’t going to go ahead so we were just waiting for them to say it was going to happen on Sunday.

    “It gives the guys in the garage a little bit more time to prepare the cars and do an even more of a solid job than they have done.

    “I guess the guys are always on a real short timescale so this gives them a little bit more time, tomorrow will be exciting, tomorrow will be exciting and I am looking forward to it – hopefully it will be nothing like it is today.”

    And to make matters worse, the team has replaced the gearbox meaning a five-place grid penalty. Autosport.com has the details:

    Lewis Hamilton’s championship hopes suffered another big blow on Saturday after he was given a penalty for changing his car’s gearbox.

    The British driver, who has not scored in the previous two races, will require a gearbox change ahead of tomorrow’s qualifying.

    “In P3 today, we noticed abnormal gearbox oil pressure on Lewis’s car, which we believed we had corrected ahead of this afternoon’s qualifying session,” said a McLaren spokesman.

    “This afternoon, as we fired up Lewis’s car several times in preparation for qualifying, we became aware that the symptoms were worse than we’d originally diagnosed, and a decision was later taken to change the gearbox ahead of tomorrow’s qualifying session and the grand prix.

    “As a result, Lewis will receive a five-place grid penalty for tomorrow’s race.”

    The grid-deciding session will take place on Sunday – five hours ahead of the start of the race – after officials were forced to cancel today’s qualifying because of the poor weather.

    Hamilton, 20 points behind championship leader Mark Webber with four races to go, has endured a tough weekend at Suzuka so far, having crashed out on Friday and having managed just six timed laps so far.

  5. In the words of Jack Bauer, Sunday October 10th will be the longest day of my life! With qualifying to air at 2.00 am on BBC1 and then the race itself at 7.00 am!

    I was actually up in the early hours of Saturday morning (around 5.00 am) expecting to see an exciting qualifying session. With four races left, the championship battle is becoming very intense but the heavy rain meant it was impossible for the drivers to set a grid time.

    Here’s the BBC1 television schedule for the qualifying session and the race itself. Will catch some sleep in between!

    Qualifying show – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00vkbm4
    Japanese Grand Prix – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00v9g4f

  6. Ross Brawn says Formula 1 may have to accept that there is nothing it can do to prevent a repeat of the Japanese Grand Prix qualifying postponement, if such bad weather ever hits an event again in the future

    For the first time since the 2004 Japanese Grand Prix, when a typhoon battered Suzuka, F1 had to postpone a scheduled qualifying session to take place on Sunday.

    And although there have been suggestions that the sport could look into finding a way to improve wet-weather tyre performance to allow cars to run in much worse conditions than is currently possible, Brawn thinks that ultimately no design tweaks would have allowed track action at Suzuka on Saturday.

    “It is hard to imagine how we could cope more effectively with these circumstances,” said Brawn. “We have two types of tyre, and the deep groove wet is the best we can do.

    “And with a car that weighs less than 700kg, with the size of tyres we have, there is a limit to what we can do. You saw the safety car going around today and that struggled. So I don’t think anything else could be done.

    “The decision [to postpone qualifying] was right and I don’t think there is anything we can do to change these cars under these circumstances.”

    Michael Schumacher backed Brawn’s suggestion that no matter what is done, there will be times when events have to be delayed or cancelled.

    “With our cars it is impossible to drive in conditions like this,” explained Schumacher. “I spoke with Bernd Maylander who drives the safety car – and even with this car it was very difficult. Even the SLS has fantastic systems to stabilise the car but it is tricky – so with us it is impossible.

    “That is it unfortunately. It is similar to IndyCar as they have to cancel events and delay it, and some sports are like this unfortunately.”

    Williams technical director Sam Michael reckoned, however, that a return of ‘monsoon’ tyres in F1 would help cars run in worse conditions that they can currently cope with.

    “Although change and things that are different makes the sport interesting, it is not good watching on television people floating boats down a pit lane,” said Michael “It is funny for about 30 seconds – but not for an hour.

    “To come up with something would not be that difficult. You would change the sporting regulations and have a tyre available, a proper monsoon tyre with 10-12mm tyre thread. It would be five or 10 seconds slower in normal wet conditions, and you would run them only in conditions like today. The FIA would also have to say you have to run monsoon tyres in this session or until further notice.

    “In a single tyre supplier series you can do that. You couldn’t do it before…If this was Sunday the race would have been cancelled and you would be into a Monday race. The cost of having a set of monsoon tyres would be minimal and you wouldn’t even have to mount them, as you would only use them once every three years or something. But at least there would be something there to run with.”

    Although weather conditions are expected to be much better for Sunday, there is still a chance of the track being wet for qualifying – something Brawn thinks could produce a mixed up grid.

    “It is probably still going to be wet in the morning when we start qualifying, so we anticipate drying conditions through qualifying and that will mean that you have to be out at the right time on the right tyres,” he said.

    When asked what he believed would happen if qualifying could not take place on Sunday, Brawn said: “I think it is then done on numerical order, which we would not complain about! And Michael will be glad that he picked number three rather than four this year.”

    Source: Autosport.com

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