Japanese GP qualifying postponed due to heavy rain
Qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix has been postponed until Sunday after heavy rain battered Suzuka.
The FIA’s race director Charlie Whiting initially decided to delay the start the session on safety grounds as large rivers ran across the circuit during free practice, with 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 1:55.902 – 12 seconds quicker than Virgin Racing’s Timo Glock.
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.
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, with heavy rain expected until 17:00 local time, before getting lighter through the night.
Whiting originally delayed the start of qualifying by 30 minutes to 15:00 local time but conditions worsened still, with safety car driver Bernd Maylander almost losing control of his car during an inspection.
By just after 15:00 local time, UK broadcaster BBC had pulled its coverage of qualifying with the only action from Suzuka limited to innovative boats created by teams to negotiate the river in the pit lane.
Maylander’s inspection at 15:20 was in even worse conditions and the stewards finally decided to give up on any hope of qualifying on Saturday.
Qualifying will now take place on Sunday morning at 10:00 (02:00 BST), subject to a track inspection at 09:30, with the race still due to start at 15:00 (07:00 BST).