WHILE Super Typhoon Hagibis is already playing havoc with the Rugby World Cup fixtures in Japan, FIA officials are keeping a watchful eye on the Suzuka Circuit.
“I think it’s pretty clear if the typhoon is going to come here there’s no way we can drive,” said Ferrari’s great red hope Charles Leclerc today.
In which case, tomorrow’s Qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix would move to Sunday.
Dan primed for RWC
Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg got in some practice at Suzuka, then the bad news!
Saturday’s RWC matches – England v France and New Zealand v Italy – were cancelled well in advance of the expected onslaught from the Super Typhoon.
And now the good news. I’m pretty sure that means Australia could meet England in the quarterfinals!
Hagibis (“speed” in Filipino) is the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane and is predicted to hit Japan’s main island this weekend with winds of up to 270kmh and seriously heavy rain.
Romain Grosjean, director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association:
“There’s supposed to be gusts of wind at 120kmh at Suzuka on Saturday and if that’s the case I don’t think it’s safe to be on track. Or in the grandstands or anywhere!”
At Suzuka five years ago, the accident which ultimately led to Jules Bianchi’s death happened during the very wet conditions of Typhoon Phanfone. Qualifying has been postponed until Sunday morning twice before – in 2004 and 2010.
Last year’s winner Lewis Hamilton, donning his Mr Suave cap, commented today. “It’s cool when the format changes. You have to enter into two different mindsets, and two different rhythms. It’s a different challenge so I like that.”
F1 drivers rank Suzuka right up there in the popularity stakes due to its extraordinary corners – 18 in all – some of them quite extreme, as you can see.
And the asphalt at Suzuka is among the roughest and most abrasive of the year, which increases tyre wear and degradation.
To cope with these incredible loads Mario Isola, Pirelli’s Head of F1 and Car Racing, has nominated the hardest combination of tyres in its range – C1 as the White hard compound, C2 as the Yellow medium, and C3 as the Red soft.
“Lateral demands are the defining characteristic of Suzuka (rather than longitudinal forces) thanks to long and fast corners such as 130R and Spoon. There is a distinct flow to the track that is all about carrying momentum: the braking demands, for example, are relatively low,” he said.
“Japan is always one of the most exciting and unpredictable races of the year, with Suzuka being an old-school track that rewards bravery and commitment. Because of the considerable cornering demands that it places on tyres, we have selected the hardest possible combination in our range, which should help drivers push to the maximum even with a one-stop strategy. This is what the teams nearly always aim for, and most drivers chose at Suzuka last year.”MARIO ISOLA
MEANWHILE, Pirelli won the WRC2 class at Wales Rally GB with 2003 World Rally Champion Petter Solberg, who was reunited with long-time co-driver Phil Mills for his final rally, in a Volkswagen Polo R5. A new Junior WRC champion was also crowned on Pirelli tyres in Wales: Jan Solans from Spain, co-driven by Mauro Barreiro.
All KYM ILLMAN‘s stunning images may be digitally downloaded from www.prostarpics.com
EDITED by AC