Typhoon Phanfone threatens Japanese Grand Prix

2014 Japanese Grand Prix weather

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Typhoon Phanfone could have a severe effect on the Japanese Grand Prix and may even have consequences for the following round in Russia.

However there is still uncertainly over whether the storm will reach Japan and when it will do so.

Phanfone has been intensifying since the beginning of the week and is now a major system which could bring winds of over 160kph when it makes landfall. Yesterday NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite measured the rate of rainfall within the storm at up to 76mm per hour.

There are three models for how the typhoon may reach Japan. One of these suggests the mainland could be spared the worst effects of the typhoon, however there is greater confidence in other forecasts suggesting it will move further inland.

One of the alternatives puts the storm on course for the Mie prefecture, home to the Suzuka circuit. But given the size of the storm, however close it comes to the track the effects are likely to be severe.

“I hope that we can race on Sunday,” said Jenson Button during today’s press conference. “With a typhoon coming this way it’s always very tricky. Hopefully it will miss us.”

The forecast for Sunday already predicts a significant amount of rain and a contingency plan for hosting this weekend’s race may need to be put into operation.

This is not entirely unprecedented: qualifying for the same race ten years ago was postponed from Saturday to Sunday due to typhoon Ma-On. The same happened four years ago due to more heavy rain (pictured).

The race start time is scheduled for 3pm on Sunday. With sunset falling shortly after 5:30pm there is little room for manoeuvre if the race is affected by heavy rain.

Due to the likely timing of the storm the FIA may need to take proactive steps to bring the race forward to avoid the worst of its effects – and to ensure the teams are in a position to fly out to Russia for the next round of the championship the following weekend.

Extreme weather is often a problem for race organisers in Japan. Heavy rain during last year’s World Endurance Championship round at Fuji Speedway meant the race, which was scheduled to last six hours, ran for just 16 laps, all of which were behind the Safety Car, and half-points were awarded:

For more updates on the track conditions during each session keep an eye on F1 Fanatic Live and the F1 Fanatic Twitter account.

Location of Suzuka

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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37 comments on “Typhoon Phanfone threatens Japanese Grand Prix”

  1. Just hoping safety car not intervent a great racing that we may will see, just like Korea 2010

  2. Is there a precedent for holding a GP early? Could they run it Saturday after qualifying? Surely that’s better than watching 4 hours of rain delay.

    1. They’d have to move qualifying to an earlier time then, too. I’m pretty sure the teams need an hour or two to prep for the race ;)

    2. @hutch Would seem a bit unfair What if one car has a problem in qualifying (breakdown, crash or failure) then doesn’t have the full amount of time to get it fixed before the race?

      The race is likely to start at 3pm on Sunday. Whether it actually gets going, or is indeed finished by 7pm (The last possible time for the race), is another matter. I’m willing to bet the race is called off…

      1. It would also be rather unfair on those who were only going on Sunday for the race.

        Better than no race, though.

        1. Host it earlier on Sunday. As appose to starting at 3pm, start at 10 onwards.

          1. But then we will have to wake up at 4 a.m. or something like that :P

    3. Not a chance, re-arranging the TV schedules at short notice wont happen.

  3. Excellent article, very informative and to the point. All the detail I wished to know. @keithcollantine

  4. Is the sunset at 5:30? I think it might be around 6:30.
    Anyway, pushing the start times to the limits is something I don’t really like.

    1. I agree but when the start times were earlier the TV viewing figures for the live broadcast were nearly always pathetically bad in Europe (Unless it was a championship decider).

      There was sometimes talk in the paddock among some European broadcasters on if it was even worth them showing things live for the flyaway’s & I recall ITV not bothering to show qualifying live for Suzuka a few times (Worked out for them in 2002 because of the long delay after McNish’ crash at 130R).

  5. I remember been there in 2004 where all of the Saturday running was cancelled due to a typhoon threat which ultimately never materialized. Although the rain was bad enough that it was unlikely they could have driven in it anyway & it did flood parts of the TV paddock & damaged/destroyed several broadcasters TV equipment.

    This is always a risk for racing in Japan, Many local categories regularly have races postponed/cancelled due to the weather because when it rains in Japan at certain points of the year it really rains & not even the best wet weather tyres can cope with it.

    An additional problem with Suzuka is the undulation as that creates areas where rivers can form on the rises/falls & water can collect on the flat bits at the bottom of those & various different approaches to drainage over the years has failed to solve this problem.
    One of the bad areas tends to be exiting the final chicane as the water flows down that very steep downhill right at the point where you need the most traction under acceleration & because the river tends to cross the track/racing line aquaplaning there is always a massive issue although the slow speed tends to limit problems to big slides/minor spins.
    The biggest issue is in the middle of the esses & through the exit on Dunlop just before degner, Big puddle nearly always builds in those places & again aquaplaning is a massive issue but the higher speeds make it significantly more dangerous (See Morbidelli/Brundle in 1994).

    1. Bad weather in Japan. Hmm, I think we can all remember the splash-fest that was the 2007 Grand Prix at Fuji.

  6. Here’s my prediction, cancelled running on Saturday with Qualifying moving to Sunday and the rain will linger

    1. Actually the its storming at Friday and Sunday, in Saturday it will be sunshine (checked it on f1 official)

  7. Phanfone? Is this an idea stolen from Formula E?

  8. I’m attending this race, looks like I’m buying a pair of willies in Tokyo before heading down to the race.

        1. Double LOL. Looks like a Freudian slip to me.

    1. I hear Japan has vending machines made just for this!

    2. And there I was thinking F1fanatic was still a family friendly site.

  9. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    2nd October 2014, 13:43

    For sure the FIA need to put a proactive contingency plan in place, because I fear switching on Sunday morning to see a lake rather than racetrack would only have one outcome given how late in the afternoon the race takes place. Whilst it would be unprecedented, an earlier start or even a Saturday race could be the only way of seeing this race go ahead, because if things are left just simply as they are I would suggest there is a greater than 50% chance of cancellation. One would also hope that the FIA take into account just how much more of a handful these torquey V6 powered cars are when there is a premium on rear grip; put simply, if the typhoon has come anywhere near Suzuka, it will not be safe to start the Grand Prix.

    1. Of course, in typical F1 fashion, the FIA would simply state ‘safety is our concern’, placing any cancellation in Bernie’s corner.

    2. Postponing this time seems like its not viable anyway, because of the Sochi race they have to get to immediately too @william-brierty. In fact, even if they race, a heavy storm could mean a problem in packing everything up in time and the typhoon could then also upset flight plans for sunday evening/monday leading to not everything arriving to Russia in time (hm, maybe just cancel Sochi – good unpolitical reason ..)

  10. One of the best sources for the typhoon tracking is http://www.weather.gov.hk/wxinfo/currwx/tc_gis_e.htm
    Sunday so far looks to get nasty.

  11. Jack (@jackisthestig)
    2nd October 2014, 15:28

    As long as ‘Phanboost’ stays away from F1 Ill be happy!

  12. potential of half points????

    1. Or quarter-points depending on the way you look at it. ;)

  13. Judging from keith’s latest tweet and @spawinte‘s nice model showing the size of the storm, it’d only affect the circuit site if its eye would be situated anywhere on about 25% of the circle to which the meteo puts it (up to 70%) on Sunday.

    That’s – frankly and thankfully – not a high chance altogether: some 17.5%. And that includes everything from hitting nearly with its eye to only with its ‘skirt’ (assuming its overall diameter will be about the width of the main Japanese island).

    1. *Keith’s

  14. http://www.ubimet.com/partners/fia/
    This is the summary from the FIA official forecaster

  15. It looks like there will not be race on this weekend…

  16. Sounds like the FIA’s approach is just going to be ‘watch this space’. As these sorts of weather events are only going to become more frequent and severe over the years, the FIA probably wants to try & work out some sort of contingency plan that can be implemented.

  17. petebaldwin (@)
    2nd October 2014, 23:33

    These things can speed up or slow down without much notice. Certainly doesn’t look like we’re in for a dry one though!

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