Rain causes qualifying postponement in Japan

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The Independent Online

Persistent rain has forced the postponement of the qualifying session for tomorrow's Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.

Heavy downpours ruined this morning's final practice and with conditions showing no signs of abating and the light fading the decision was taken put back the session until tomorrow morning.

The start time for today's scheduled session had been delayed three times before race director Charlie Whiting abandoned attempts to get the action under way at 1520 local time

Race organisers confirmed the rescheduled qualifying hour would commence at 1000 tomorrow (0200BST), five hours before the race start.

Qualifying on a Sunday morning is not without precedent in Japan.

Back in 2004, both qualifying and the race took place on the same day after the whole of Saturday's running was lost due to Typhoon Ma-on.

The postponement was disappointing for the thousands of fans who attended the Suzuka circuit today.

Team personnel did their best to entertain the grandstands by racing makeshift boats along a river of water flowing down the pit lane, while mechanics from several teams came out to applaud the crowd for their patience at the end of a frustrating day.

Lotus driver Heikki Kovalainen felt the FIA made the right decision, however.

"Shame about the weather but it was the only decision to postpone the quali," the Finn said on his Twitter page.

"I hope all the fans turn up tomorrow for a busy day!"

The writing was on the wall early in the day when the incessant rainfall virtually washed out final practice.

Only two drivers set a lap time in the one-hour session, with rivers of water swamping the circuit and leading to aquaplaning.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton gave a bald appraisal of the conditions over his team radio, saying: "It's unbelievable. Impossible to drive. There are massive rivers everywhere."

All 24 drivers at least posted installation laps, but of those only two made a decent fist of tackling the appalling conditions.

Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari completed nine laps as he set the fastest time, although his best effort of one minute 55.902 seconds was over 20 seconds slower than Sebastian Vettel's benchmark in the dry yesterday.

Alguersuari's extended time on the track gave him chance to demonstrate just how thankless a task the drivers were faced with as he twice came unstuck at the final chicane.

Virgin Racing's Timo Glock was the only other man to post a complete lap time, albeit over 11 seconds slower than Alguersuari, having recovered from an early spin on the exit of Spoon Curve.