The Japanese GP is under threat from Typhoon Phanfone, which is expected to pass close to the Suzuka area on race day.
The biggest issue is not so much wind as heavy rain, which could be bad enough to stop the cars from taking to the track at all. With the cars and equipment due to be packed on Sunday night for travel to Sochi there is no possibility for a rain delay, and in any case the weather is likely to get worse on Monday.
Bernie Ecclestone is not in Japan, but he is contact with the FIA’s Charlie Whiting about potential scenarios. At their regular Thursday meeting team managers were told that an early start on Sunday – it’s currently scheduled for 3pm – could create a bigger window in which to get the race run. There are also concerns about the weather worsening on Sunday evening, when the teams are packing their equipment for shipping to Russia.
In the past Suzuka qualifying has been postponed to Sunday due to weather issues. One possibility could be to squeeze both qualifying and race into Saturday, although that will have big implications both for TV broadcasters and of course paying spectators.
Clearly that decision will have to be taken sooner rather than later, but with the forecast changing, it will be a big call for the FIA and other key parties to make.
Steffen Dietz of official F1 weather forecaster Ubimet said: “There are still big uncertainties for the storm track in the coming days. The current forecast track for typhoon Phanfone keeps the eye of the storm to the south-east of Japan on Sunday but with associated rain bands extending north towards Suzuka during the morning. Once it starts the rain is likely to be prolonged and become increasingly heavy Winds will be mostly light initially but freshen as the days goes on. At this time, nothing too severe is expected before Monday.”