Typhoon-hit Japan Grand Prix qualifying moved to Sunday
Suzuka: The Japanese Grand Prix's entire Saturday track programme, including qualifying, has been cancelled as "violent" Typhoon Hagibis bears down on the Suzuka circuit, race organisers announced Friday.
Qualifying will be rescheduled to 10am (0100 GMT) Sunday, with the race taking place at 2:10pm (0510 GMT) as originally planned, providing the weather improves.
The Suzuka circuit will be closed, with no public or media allowed in for safety reasons as Hagibis, packing heavy rain and winds in excess of 200 kilometres (125 miles) per hour is expected to make landfall on Saturday.
"As a result of the predicted impact of Typhoon Hagibis on the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix, Mobilityland and the Japanese Automobile Federation have decided to cancel all activities scheduled to take place on Saturday October 12," said a statement issued Friday by the motorsport's governing body FIA.
"The FIA and Formula One support this decision in the interest of safety for the spectators, competitors and everyone at the Suzuka Circuit," it continued. The decision means the teams and drivers will just have Friday's two practice sessions in which to prepare for Sunday morning's qualifying session because Saturday's third session will not be rescheduled.
Formula One qualifying in Japan was also moved to Sunday in 2004 and in 2010 because of poor weather. The typhoon has already claimed casualties at the Rugby World Cup in Japan, with Saturday's England-France clash in Yokohama and the New Zealand-Italy match in Toyota City cancelled.
The volatile nature of Hagibis — classed as "violent" and the equivalent of a Category Five hurricane — means even Sunday's race could be under threat, though the current forecast is for clearer weather.
A postponement of the grand prix to Monday is impossible, the FIA said.
The latest forecast predicts Hagibis to make landfall near Tokyo on Saturday with the Suzuka circuit, which lies near the Honshu coast about 300 kilometres (180 miles) southwest of the capital, being battered on the fringes.
The safety-first stance of organisers comes after the tail-end of a typhoon led to tragedy at the 2014 race at Suzuka.
French driver Jules Bianchi crashed after losing control in rain and poor visibility and died the following year from his injuries having never recovered from a coma. Leading drivers backed changing the weekend timetable.
"I don't think anybody wants to put anybody's life in danger," said Ferrari's four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel at Thursday's media day.
"The decision is not for us, necessarily, because for us it's nice and easy, cosy, in the garage. But for the people out there around the track, it is not nice to be sitting there with rain going sideways."
The blank Saturday will be a huge disappointment to thousands of fanatical supporters at one of the best-attended races on the circuit.