Japanese Grand Prix: Typhoon Hagibis hits as Mercedes eye Formula 1 history

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By Andrew Benson
Chief F1 author at Suzuka
Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have the ability to make Formula 1 background at the typhoon-hit Western Grand Prix.
Following the decision to cancel all track activities on Saturday because of Typhoon Hagibis, qualifying will be set to be conducted on Sunday morning at 10:00 local time (02:00 BST), with the race as scheduled at 14:10 (06:10).
Valtteri Bottas along with hamilton could secure a sixth drivers and constructors World Championship.
This would violate the record of five consecutive title doubles.
Hamilton cannot really seal his world drivers championship but if results go their way, Mercedes can clinch the constructors name and ensure that no driver from a different team could win the championship.
Hamilton, who is 73 points ahead of 107 and Bottas clear of Charles Leclerc of all Ferrari, needs to acquire only five things in 2 weeks period and in the race in Mexico on his competitors in Japan.
Typhoon Hagibis, the years largest tropical storm, pounded at Suzuka on Saturday and now there is very good doubt.
The place around the track will be set to miss the worst of the storm, which weakened in the afternoon leading up to the race also was strongest near the capital Tokyo to the west, at which one person was murdered as well as emergency evacuation orders are issued in certain areas around Yokohama.
More than flights have been grounded and the assistance of the Shinkansenbullet train cancelled Saturday between Tokyo and Osaka.
Suzuka, located in Mie Prefecture in the Kansai area on the south shore of Honshu island between Nagoya and Osaka, was subjected to winds up to 92kmh (57mph) along with also 134mm of rainfall in 24 hours.
Sunday will likely be dry, although the strong winds will last and there are forecasts of gusts of around 57kmh (35mph).
The question mark over qualifying is the degree of harm that may be done into the track and its own facilities and if it will be possible to operate automobiles on Sunday by 10am.
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel said following training on Friday:The circuit is going to be a big question mark, the condition it is going to be in, because there should be some rain and the wind will also perform a role, however we cant say [the way ] now.
Organisers and teams have taken raising it in the ground to prevent flood damage and precautions to try to restrict the damage caused by the typhoon, including equipment.
There is also the matter of the willingness of the F1 television broadcast centre, which needed to be hammered on Friday because it had been was not strong enough to withstand the winds that are predicted. That might have to be rebuilt in time to film qualifying on Sunday morning no easy task.
Officials were concerned about the risk of debris and the length of time it will take to clean up that from marshals in the tracks group.
If qualifying cannot be conducted on Sunday morning — because the facilities arent prepared or conditions arent appropriate — that the grid to the grand prix is going to be set from the outcomes of Friday clinic, when Bottas and Hamilton finished one-two and appeared at a league of their own.
Bottas was 0.1 seconds quicker than Hamilton, who was not as pleased with his car setup, whereas Red Bulls Max Verstappen was 0.281secs off the pace in third and Leclerc in the fastest Ferrari 0.356secs adrift. Ferraris Vettel along with Red Bulls Alexander Albon were sixth and fifth fastest, ahead.
Mercedes edge looked large on runs, so once the teams practice fuel loads in preparation for the race.
On such, Bottas and Hamilton have been a period than Leclerc. It wasnt possible because they ran tyre programmes using the Ferrari marginally quicker compared to Red Bull to compare Mercedes to the runs of Vettel and Verstappen.
Ferraris lack of pace was unexpected because though Hamilton and Mercedes dominated the first part of the season, together with eight wins to the Briton in the first 12 races, along with the other two for Bottas, the Italian group have taken over as the major force since the sport returned from the summer break.
Since the Grand Prix in the end of August, Ferrari have won three of the four races and might have won them all had it not been for a timed security car period in Russia.
Vettel said Ferraris rate in Japan wasnot too bad — not as poor as maybe you believe.
Of course Mercedes, the four-time world champion said:Maybe they did a step ahead, maybe the trail suits them. It was OK however we could improve. The conditions is going to be the largest challenge.
Mercedes have brought a substantial aerodynamic upgrade to Suzuka, together with parts around the edge of the cars side pods, also it appears to have made a difference.
Hamilton described his car asa work in progress, although Bottas explained:Felt great from the start, really happy with the car in general, nevertheless minor matters with the equilibrium to tweak but equally long and short runs felt great. It so much pleasure this driving these cars and especially whenever the car feels great it is more.
It is merely practice but that I do feel that the gains we have made with the vehicle. We can push on the car than previously. But still Sunday is going to be close.
But their rivals fear that Mercedes could be out of the reach.
Verstappen stated he thought Mercedes werelooking quite strong and Leclerc included:It appears we are lacking speed this weekend, which is a little bit of surprise because we were very powerful in the last four races and we hoped to be very good here.
The balance isnt so bad, really. We are simply missing speed. There is in driving too a bit. I am not driving. But I still expect it to be difficult to catch Mercedes ahead.
Panorama investigates
Analysis and comment in the chief Formula 1 author of the BBC.
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