Belfast Telegraph

F1 chiefs expect green light for race day

 

Target: Lewis Hamilton
Target: Lewis Hamilton

By Ian Parkes

Formula One bosses are hopeful the Japanese Grand Prix will go ahead as scheduled despite shutting down Suzuka ahead of the predicted devastation caused by Super Typhoon Hagibis.

Lewis Hamilton heads into tomorrow's storm-threatened round needing to outscore Valtteri Bottas by a mere five points over the next two races - here and in Mexico in a fortnight's time - to secure his sixth world championship.

With the most powerful typhoon of 2019 threatening to wreak havoc on Japan, circuit officials took the decision to postpone qualifying until the morning of tomorrow's race when it is hoped conditions will have improved.

Bottas finished one tenth clear of Hamilton in yesterday's final practice session, with Max Verstappen third and Charles Leclerc fourth. Sebastian Vettel finished fifth.

That order determines the grid if it remains too dangerous for the cars to run in qualifying tomorrow morning.

Thousands of sandbags arrived at the track in a bid to prevent the 3.6-mile course from flooding.

The paddock was effectively packed away with high winds set to batter the area. Residents have also been instructed to stay inside.

Hamilton said that he intended to spend his day off in Tokyo, 250 miles to the north east of Suzuka, but soon abandoned the idea.

Japan's transport system is set to be on lockdown from this morning with 1,600 domestic planes grounded and train services from Tokyo to Nagoya, the closest big city to Suzuka, cancelled.

The sport's governing body, and F1 owners' Liberty Media, revealed the track will be closed today after delaying their decision by 24 hours.

The final call was taken by circuit authorities yesterday morning.

"The FIA and Formula One support this decision in the interests of safety for the spectators, competitors and everyone at the Suzuka Circuit," said both F1 and the sporting federation in a joint statement.

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