Japanese GP typhoon: Qualifying postponed as Typhoon Hagibis nears

Typhoon Hagibis

Formula 1 has cancelled all activities at the Japanese Grand Prix on Saturday as Typhoon Hagibis approaches.

Organisers said they had taken the decision “in the interests of safety for the spectators, competitors, and everyone at the Suzuka Circuit”.

The tropical storm, the year’s biggest, is due to hit Japan on Saturday.

Qualifying, which had been due to take place at 15:00 local time (08:00 BST) on Saturday, has been postponed until 10:00 (02:00 BST) on Sunday.

The race will be held as scheduled at 14:10 (06:10 BST).

The potential impact of the tropical storm has already led to the cancellation of two matches at the Rugby World Cup.

F1 organisers delayed a decision on Thursday to have a clearer idea of the path of the storm.

In the first practice session – held in dry, but humid conditions on Friday morning – Valtteri Bottas led Lewis Hamilton to a Mercedes one-two, their times nearly a second quicker than the Ferraris.

Valtteri Bottas

Bottas was just 0.076 seconds ahead of Hamilton as the two tried out an aerodynamic upgrade on the car that the team hope will wrest back the advantage from Ferrari, who have won three times and taken four pole positions since F1 returned from its summer break.

It was an imposing performance from Mercedes, with the caveat that fuel loads are not known, as the silver cars were faster than the Ferraris even when using a slower tyre.

Hamilton was 0.4secs ahead of Leclerc and Vettel when he was using the medium tyres and the Ferraris the soft, and the gap only extended when Mercedes switched to the soft, with Vettel 0.989secs off the pace.

However, given the disruption to the weekend timetable, there was a greater than usual possibility that the teams could be running different programmes, as they try to cram their data-gathering into a shorter time frame.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was fifth fastest, 1.315secs off the pace and just over 0.3secs quicker than team-mate Alexander Albon, a decent effort from the Anglo-Thai rookie on his first experience of the daunting Suzuka track.

McLaren’s Carlos Sainz was best of the rest in seventh, ahead of the Racing Points of Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll, and Sainz’s team-mate Lando Norris in 10th.

Japanese Naoki Yamamoto was driving Pierre Gasly’s Toro Rosso in this session on his first experience of F1 and was a creditable 17th fastest.

Yamamoto was just 0.1secs off team-mate Daniil Kvyat but was running the soft tyre while the Russian was on the medium.

George Russell was 18th in the Williams, 0.6secs ahead of team-mate Robert Kubica despite it being the Briton’s first visit to Suzuka.

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BBC Sport – Sport

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