F1 Japanese Grand Prix: Typhoon Phanfone threatens Sunday's race at Suzuka

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg's championship battle threatens to be derailed by powerful typhoon forming over the Pacific Ocean

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The Independent Online

Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix could be hit by Typhoon Phanfone, with drivers already expressing serious concern that the forecast could have a serious impact on not just the race but the championship battle between Mercedes team-mates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

The typhoon is currently building strength over the Pacific Ocean, and while it is not due to hit the location of the Suzuka track until Monday, rain could begin as early as Friday’s practice session.

The F1 circus heads to Japan after a dramatic Singapore GP saw Rosberg retire early in the race with an electrical issue, which saw Hamilton take an important victory that put him ahead in the Drivers’ Championship by three points.

With rain due throughout the weekend, drivers have admitted that there are serious concerns over whether the race will not only be completed, but whether it will take place at all.

Force India’s Sergio Perez said: “Rain will come tomorrow. The hurricane might come. If it comes, probably we won't be able to race.”

 

Both Williams drivers admitted that rain would be a problem in terms of completing the scheduled 53-lap race, which has seen the winner also claim the championship on 18 of the previous 19 years.

“There is a big chance of big rain on Sunday,” said Valterri Bottas, with Felipe Massa adding: “I hope we can have the race and the weather doesn't affect us.”

While the drivers may be experts on the track and not the skies, F1’s chief meteorologist Steffen Dietz predicts that the race will be hit by rain, but he is uncertain over the severity of it during the hours the race is scheduled to take place.

“There are still big uncertainties for the storm track in the coming days,” he said.

“The current forecast track for typhoon Phanfone keeps the eye of the storm to the southeast of Japan on Sunday, but with associated rainbands extending north towards Suzuka during the morning.

“Once it starts, the rain is likely to be prolonged and become increasingly heavy.”

Fuji.jpg
Sebastian Vettel rams Mark Webber during the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji

The last race to be significantly hit by rainstorms in Japan was the 2007 Grand Prix at Fuji, where a young rookie by the name of Sebastian Vettel infamously rear-ended his soon-to-be team-mate Mark Webber during a safety car period due to the poor visibility and treacherous conditions.

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