Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes are on the verge of writing Formula One history at the typhoon-ridden Japanese Grand Prix.
Following the decision to cancel all Saturday's course activities due to the typhoon Hagibis, qualifying will take place on Sunday morning at 10:00 local time (02:00 CET), with the race scheduled at 14:10 (06:10). takes place).
Hamilton and team-mate Valtteri Bottas won a double in the drivers and constructors' championship for the Mercedes team for the sixth time in a row.
This would break the record of five consecutive title doubles in a row by Ferrari with Michael Schumacher in 2000-2004.
Hamilton can not quite seal its sixth World Drivers Championship in Japan, but if the results are correct, Mercedes can win the Manufacturers' title and make sure that no other rider from another team can win the championship.
Hamilton, who is 73 points ahead of Bottas and 107 ahead of Ferrari's third-placed Charles Leclerc, will only need to score five points against his rivals in Japan and the subsequent race in Mexico in two weeks to win the championship.
The typhoon hits
Typhoon Hagibis, the biggest tropical storm of the year, hit Suzuka on Saturday and there is great uncertainty about the race day.
The area around the track is expected to miss the worst of the storm, which faded the day before the race and was strongest near the capital Tokyo in the northwest, where at least one person was killed and there were eviction orders issued in some areas around Yokohama ,
More than 1,600 domestic flights have been canceled and flights of the famous Shinkansen high-speed train between Tokyo and Osaka canceled on Saturday.
Suzuka, located in the prefecture of Mie in the Kansai region on the southern coast of Honshu Island between Nagoya and Osaka, was exposed to winds of up to 92kmh and 134mm of rain in 24 hours.
Sunday is expected to be dry, although the strong wind continues and gusts of up to 57 km / h are predicted.
The question mark over qualifying is essentially the degree of damage that could be done to the track and its facilities, and whether it will be possible to drive cars on Sundays at 10 am.
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel said after Friday's practice: "The track will be a big question mark, the condition it will be in because it should rain a bit and the wind will also play a role, but we can not say [how] now."
The teams and organizers have taken precautions to limit the damage caused by the typhoon, including the removal and raising of equipment from the ground to prevent flood damage.
It also raises the question of the readiness of the F1 television broadcasting center, which had to be dismantled on Friday, because it was not strong enough to withstand the predicted winds. This must be reconstructed in time for the qualifying on Sunday morning – not an easy task.
The officials were also concerned about the risk of the storm winds scattering debris on the track and how long it will take for the limited team of marshals on the racetrack to clear it up.
What are the teams on the track?
If qualifying is not possible on Sunday morning – because the facilities are not ready or the conditions are not suitable – the starting grid for the Grand Prix will be determined based on the results of the Friday practice session, where Bottas and Hamilton scored a one-two and one League saw their own.
Bottas was 0.1 seconds faster than Hamilton, who was less than pleased with his vehicle set-up, while Red Bull's Max Verstappen finished in 0.281s in third place, leaving Leclerc 0.356s behind on the fastest Ferrari. Ferrari's Vettel and Red Bull's Alexander Albon were fifth and sixth ahead of Carlos Sainz's McLaren.
The advantage of Mercedes was particularly strong on longer distances, as the teams trained in preparation for the race with high fuel quantities.
On average, Bottas and Hamilton were one second faster than Leclerc on the track. It was not possible to compare Mercedes with the routes of Verstappen and Vettel, as they performed with the Ferrari slightly faster than the Red Bull different tire programs.
Ferrari's lack of pace was unexpected, as although Hamilton and Mercedes dominated the first part of the season, with eight victories for the Brit in the first twelve races and two more for Bottas, the Italian team has since taken the lead from its summer break since the sport.
Since the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of August, Ferrari has won three of the four races and would have won them all if there had not been a poorly scheduled virtual safety car period in Russia two weeks ago.
Vettel said Ferrari's pace in Japan was "not bad – not as bad as you might think".
From Mercedes, the four-time world champion said: "Maybe they have taken a step forward, maybe the track will suit them, it was fine, but we can improve, the conditions will be the biggest challenge."
Mercedes has brought a significant aerodynamic advance for Suzuka, with new parts on the front edge of the side boxes of the car, and it seems to have a significant difference for the car.
Hamilton described his car as "work in progress," while Bottas said, "It felt good from the beginning, very pleased with the car in general, still optimizing smaller things with balance, but feeling both short and long runs It's always good It's so much fun to drive these cars and especially if the car feels good it's even more fun.
"It's just a workout, but I can still feel the progress we've made in the car, we can only push the car forward, but Sunday is just around the corner."
But their rivals fear that Mercedes could be out of reach.
Verstappen said he thought Mercedes looked "very strong", and Leclerc added, "It seems that we do not have enough pace this weekend, which is a little surprising as we have been very strong in the last four races and we expected to do quite well here.
"The balance is not that bad, we just miss the speed, there's also a bit of driving pleasure, I'm not driving very well, but I still expect it to be difficult to catch Mercedes at the top."