A number of drivers believe Formula 1 should make a decision on Friday about whether to try and hold qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix on Saturday or delay it, due to the expected arrival of Typhoon Hagibis.
A statement released by the F1 and the FIA early on Thursday said the typhoon is being closely monitored by race organizers, with it forecast to make landfall in Japan on Saturday. Two Rugby World Cup games have already been cancelled on Saturday due to the typhoon — with one of those having been scheduled to take place in Nagoya just 40 miles away from Suzuka.
With the potential for qualifying to be postponed until Sunday morning, Sebastian Vettel says any decision should be made with spectators at the circuit in mind rather than the inconvenience to the teams.
“I don’t think anyone wants to put anyone’s life in danger,” Vettel said. “So I think we need to keep things on the ground. There is a forecast, but how many times have forecasts changed? I don’t know. Currently it sits at a 100% so it’s quite clear. But I think we see what happens throughout the weekend, it’s the same thing,
“If we have a lot of rain in other places, then there is a red flag and maybe the light might never switch to green. It would make sense if by tomorrow at night, I believe, if there is more evidence, to give a proposal or take an action for Saturday — thinking not for us, as it’s cozy in the garage, but for all the people to be around the track is not so nice to sit there if there’s 80kph (50mph) winds blasting in your face.”
With many drivers stating their belief the FIA will make the safest decision, Daniel Ricciardo says he thinks a call should be made on Friday and that he’s happy to qualify on Sunday morning ahead of the race, when conditions are forecast to improve significantly.
“I wouldn’t mind because sometimes Sundays feel … quite long and dragged out,” Ricciardo said. “Lots of meetings and strategy and this and that. I feel like if we’d rock up, get in the car, drive, get out, quickly sort out the turnaround, eat some lunch, get out there and race, I’d not too be disappointed with that. So let’s see what happens.
“The earliest they could do it is probably Friday night. Come Friday at some point they should make a decision. Not wait to Saturday. They will get enough of an understanding what’s going to happen. Friday is OK.”
With the typhoon set to bring winds exceeding 100mph and torrential rain, Nico Hulkenberg says the conditions can quickly become dangerous for the drivers but is willing to wait longer than the rugby organizers before making any decisions to try and deliver for fans..
“I think we’ve seen in recent years that, in terms of rain, we don’t need too much for it to be unsafe,” Hulkenberg said. “Especially when you throw wind in there as well. It gets, I think, pretty tricky.
“We can obviously debate a lot and discuss but I think we just have to wait and see what actually hits us and how bad it is, or not, and make the right call at the time. Obviously there’s a lot of fans here. We want to race; they want to see us drive. So, I think we need to try and make this weekend happen — but obviously we need to see what happens and we’re at the mercy of the weather there.”
Pierre Gasly — who will sit out FP1 for Honda driver Naoki Yamamoto — says it would help teams to know if they are going to qualify on Saturday before they complete their Friday practice sessions, as it could impact on run plans.
“It’s coming from (the officials) what is the plan and what is going to happen,” Gasly said. “Looking at us, if they tell us Saturday is cancelled, as I will only have FP2 to run, my plan of the session will be quite different if we know that we’re not going to use any tires on Saturday.
“We will know a bit more what is going to happen, and I guess more for the spectators and fans. Of course there is our safety that is important, but if it is as they say, like 150kph of winds and people trying to come to the track, you don’t want anything bad to happen. I think for everyone, the earlier they can tell us, the better it is, but it’s not an easy decision, that’s for sure.”