Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari was fastest in final practice ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix, as just two drivers completed a timed lap as rain battered Suzuka.
Virgin Racing’s Timo Glock was the only other car to post a lap time, albeit 12 seconds slower, as the majority of drivers opted to make solitary exploration laps in the treacherous conditions.
Alguersuari completed nine laps, compared with Glock’s six, while his team-mate Sébastien Buemi braved four laps. The McLaren duo of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button completed three exploration laps, the most of the front runners.
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton was sent out late in the session after having replacement parts, flown in from the team’s factory in Woking, tacked on to his car, but failed to complete a timed lap. The 2009 world champion said the conditions were “impossible to drive” with “massive rivers everywhere” as he struggled to drive at slow speed.
Both Toro Rosso drivers made a late return to the track for a final reconnaissance, and took the chequered flag after illegally practicing starts on an almost flooded home straight.
There are serious concerns that if the rain continues to worsen that qualifying could be postponed until Sunday morning, with a number of team bosses unhappy with the conditions.
The FIA’s race director Charlie Whiting could opt to delay qualifying until as late as 17:00 local time to give the track time to improve, with knowledge that Suzuka drains well, and usually offers extra grip when wet.
Should qualifying begin, the grid could be formed from the fastest timed laps when the session ends, or in order of drivers taking the track after the pit lane opened.
With less than an hour to go until qualifying, and rain still falling steadily, it looks even more likely that it will not begin as planned, with a decision expected from Whiting at 13:50 local time.