Qualifying cancelled in Japan Grand Prix

THE decision to cancel today’s qualifying and practice sessions for the Japanese Grand Prix has averted a potential disaster, according to a majority of the drivers.

Yesterday’s practice sessions were held in atrocious conditions after persistent rain and with Typhoon Ma-on heading for Suzuka today, officials took the unprecedented step of postponing qualifying over safety fears.

Several cars spun off on the slippery track, which had rivers of water running across in many areas, and all drivers agreed racing would be impossible in such conditions.

A recent typhoon left parts of the circuit flooded and track officials yesterday moved swiftly to close the circuit completely, delaying qualifying until tomorrow morning and scrapping 90 minutes of practice entirely.

“The first practice session was wet and the start of the second was also wet but it was driveable,” said Jenson Button. “There was a bit of aquaplaning - you wouldn’t want to race in those conditions. You have no visibility - in the first session I almost ran into the back of a Minardi because he was going a bit slow.

“It’s very dangerous because with so much aquaplaning on the straights if someone spins on the straight it could be pretty disastrous.”

Button’s assessment was backed up by world champion Michael Schumacher. The Ferrari driver admitted his relief at having the championship sewn up as the prospect of a wet race and unpredictable qualifying grows.

Ex-Ferrari driver Niki Lauda famously threw away the 1976 world title at Fuji in Japan when he pulled into the pits after one lap, claiming the wet conditions were too dangerous.

Schumacher is glad he has no such conundrum after running wide in second practice yesterday.

He said: “From our point of view we are lucky the championship is already decided because imagine you have the championship still in place and you have to fight and you have to think about the conditions - that would be very tense.”

The revised timetable sees pre-qualifying take place at 9am (1am Irish time) on Sunday with qualifying proper starting an hour later. All support races have been cancelled.

In the meantime A final agreement on the future of the British Grand Prix has been postponed due to the typhoon.

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