Japanese Grand Prix Qualifying Postponed as Heavy Rain Batters Suzuka

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Japanese Grand Prix Qualifying Postponed as Heavy Rain Batters Suzuka
Clive Mason/Getty Images
Jenson Button negotiates treacherous conditions at Suzuka

Qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix was postponed today after heavy rain battered Suzuka, making the circuit undriveable for Formula 1 cars.

The FIA’s race director Charlie Whiting decided to delay the start the session on safety grounds as large rivers ran across the circuit during free practice, with large areas of standing water causing cars to aquaplane during practice.

Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari was the bravest of the 24 drivers, completing nine laps to top the time sheets with a 1m55.902, 12 seconds quicker than Virgin Racing’s Timo Glock–the only drivers to complete a timed lap.

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button both braved three exploratory laps–the most of the front runners, but with very little to do, team mechanics turned their attentions to floating tin and paper boats down the pit lane river.

Several team bosses told BBC 5Live during the final practice session that they expected qualifying to be postponed, and they would push the FIA to call it off until Sunday morning.

Several options were available to Whiting, including delaying the session, to allow for the rain to pass, knowing that the track drains quickly at Suzuka, but as the expected qualifying time approached, the latest forecasts anticipated heavy rain for a further two hours through to 17:00 local time (09:00 BST).

That the deluge appeared on Saturday was no surprise, and the final free practice session saw very little running from the majority of drivers, as track conditions worsened.

It was twice delayed by 30 minutes to give the weather a chance to blow over, but as conditions worsened, and the safety car struggled to negotiate the standing water, stewards finally postponed the session at just after 15:15.

Qualifying should now take place at 10:00 on Sunday morning (02:00 BST), subject to a track inspection at 09:30 ahead of the race at 15:00 (07:00).

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