Powerful typhoon could affect race weekend: Five Japanese GP talking points

2019 Japanese Grand Prix

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Mercedes could wrap up the constructors’ championship at Suzuka but this weekend’s race is under threat from a severe typhoon heading to the area.

Typhoon threatens race

Typhoon Hagibis is heading towards Japan from the south-west and could reach the main island of Honshu some time late on Saturday. Exactly where it will hit is hard to predict, but the size and power of the storm is so severe it is likely to have an effect on the weather at Suzuka, unless it makes a sudden deviation over the next few days.

The Japanese Meteorological Agency has issued a warning for heavy rain, strong winds, high waves and storm surges.

If the conditions force a delay to proceedings on Sunday, the race organisers could quickly find themselves short of time to run the grand prix. The race starts at 2:10pm local time but sunset is due less than three hours later, at 5:09pm.

The last time the Japanese Grand Prix was affected by a typhoon was in 2014 (pictured above), when the race ran in very wet conditions due to Typhoon Phanfone. During the race Jules Bianchi crashed heavily and suffered serious injuries from which he later died.

Mercedes can clinch championship

The constructors’ championship could be decided this weekend. The only team left which can beat Mercedes to the title is Ferrari, and if Mercedes out-score them by at least 14 points the championship will be theirs. The only result which guarantees that outcome for Mercedes regardless of where the Ferraris finish is a one-two.

When, as is now almost certain, Mercedes eventually do win the championship, they will become only the second team in F1 history to win six in a row. Ferrari did the same between 1999 and 2005.

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The fall-out at Ferrari

Charles Leclerc, Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Sochi Autodrom, 2019
Vettel didn’t do as he was told in Sochi
Ferrari have had to contain disputes between their drivers at each three of the last three races. And the situation seems to be escalating.

At Monza Sebastian Vettel felt Charles Leclerc had failed to hold position in qualifying. In Singapore Leclerc lost victory to Vettel because of the team’s strategy, which he queried on the radio. Then in Russia Vettel repeatedly refused, and eventually ignored, his team’s order for him to let Leclerc pass him in the race.

Ferrari have tried to keep a lid on the controversy. However Mattia Binotto’s insistence that they did not use pit strategy to put Leclerc in front of Vettel in Sochi leaves many unanswered questions about exactly how Ferrari is managing this increasingly fractious relationship.

Honda seek home win

Honda has only tasted victory at its home track twice, both courtesy of McLaren. Ayrton Senna won for them in 1988 and Gerhard Berger did the same in 1991.

But they’ve already powered Red Bull to two wins this year and have readied an upgraded power unit for their home event. But the RB15 drivers will need it to bridge the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari, which has widened since the summer break.

Yamamoto debuts

As well as sponsoring their home race, Honda will ensure a Japanese driver will participate in Japan’s round of the world championship for the first time in five years. However Naoki Yamamoto will only drive Pierre Gasly’s Toro Rosso during the first practice session, not the race.

Yamamoto has serious pedigree in his homeland and especially at Suzuka. He has taken five wins here in Japan’s Super Formula season, one of few championships which come close to F1-level performance, since 2013.

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Are you going to the Japanese Grand Prix?

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Who do you think will be the team to beat in the Japanese Grand Prix? Have your say below.

And don’t forget to enter your predictions for this weekend’s race. You can edit your predictions until the start of qualifying:

2019 Japanese Grand Prix

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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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24 comments on “Powerful typhoon could affect race weekend: Five Japanese GP talking points”

  1. If the current forecast holds true, I can’t see them having any option other than shifting qualifying to Sunday. But even then it’ll be quite gusty, especially in the morning.

    1. It could be a Sunday Quali & race.

      It’s starting to look pretty serious as a storm but Sunday is starting to look much better with the eye of the storm now speeding up and could hook more right than earlier forecasted giving Suzuka less wind & rain. It has been getting stronger since this article; Currently has 165 mph sustained/195mph gust winds and looking to pass just to the right of race track on Saturday with about 109 mph sustained winds with 132 mph gusts when it’s nearest to the track area approx on Sat. night or earlier, then the eye will later go right over Tokyo and getting weaker. On Sunday there will be a mess to clean up. All depends on the storms speed & tracking but it’s looking like the eye will move dramatically faster to the north Sat night and on Sunday well away from the track.

      A good site to see up to date weather data on it, go to JTWC Tropical Warnings website

      1. Currently at Nagoya, and the weather is good here. It would be an absolute shame if the race is cancelled. Considering that we are seated at the S curves, I would not mind if they put the qualifying on Sunday…

        1. I think you maybe in luck. Sunday is starting to look better and better: wind and rain wise but it will be a matter if the area holds up to the pounding and resist damage but probably should be fine if it stay to the right, it’s not the 1st one to come through and the area quickly sheds water. Starting hoping for right turns (for the storm). Saturday will definitely be the worst day and you should start seeing some clouds on Thursday.

          I hope you get to enjoy the race.

        2. I’m envious! Hope you enjoy the weekend @krichelle

  2. Worst case, they start in championship order. I hope there is race on Sunday, quali is less important.

  3. If you want the latest prediction there is a Google map for the typhoon at

    https://www.google.com/maps/@33.8081357,137.3355604,7.74z/data=!4m3!15m2!1m1!1s%2Fg%2F11h_y0zxfn

    1. Interesting @w-k, that (currently) predicts the track to be just outside of the probability cone, which grazes the coastline at Suzuka; seems like that promises a lot of wind and rain, and little chance of running a session.

      1. So, at current size, even the path on the furtherst side of the probability cone would mean the edges just about pass over Suzuka.

    2. Those types of maps don’t always tell the full story. Have a look at this: https://www.ventusky.com/?p=28.5;143.7;3&l=gust&t=20191011/2300

      We’re talking 100km+ gusts of wind covering the full width of Japan on Saturday. Unless the storm does a 180 and heads back out to sea, there is no chance quali will take place on Saturday IMO – certainly not when you factor in what happened last time.

      1. It looks the storm doesn’t turned as expected if seeing that map straight to land and is slowing down? Do i get up early 6 am or do i expect a delay of qualifly. I hope they cancel qualify before i go to bed then. But Sunday morning will be wet too.

  4. The sunset time in Suzuka for the race day is 17:22 actually, not 17:09 or 5:09 pm. In Tokyo, the sunset time for race day is 17:09, but Suzuka has later sunset times than the capital.
    https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/japan/suzuka
    https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/japan/tokyo

    1. I thought that the race had to start early enough for 4 hours of daylight be available for the race in any case? Wasn’t this a recommendation post Suzuka 2014 to try and ensure decent light?

      A further delay could end us giving a reduced points race if there are any significant incidents.

      1. @chimaera2003 Yes, but the 4-hour window hasn’t been applied to all the venues anyway. Not only Suzuka but Baku, and Melbourne as well.

  5. The race starts at 2:10pm local time but sunset is due less than three hours later, at 5:09pm.

    Why do they cut it so fine anyway? As @chimaera2003 says, shouldn’t they have at least 4 hours (the maximum time for a race to take place) before calling it a day? I know it’s probably because of the TV times and all, but surely, starting the race with more room for the unexpected can’t hurt… specially since typhoons and heavy storms disturbed races very frequently over there. I think it was 2004 when they had to postpone qualy for sunday, then again in 2010.

    1. @fer-no65 Yes, the start times should first and foremost be prioritized for the people on trackside before prioritizing the rest of the world.

  6. It could be a Sunday Quali & race.

    It’s starting to look pretty serious but Sunday starting to look much better with the tracking speeding up and could hook more right than earlier forecasted giving Suzuka less wind & rain. It has been getting stronger since this article; Currently has 165 mph sustained/195mph gust winds and looking to pass just to the right of race track on Saturday with about 109 mph sustained winds with 132 mph gusts when it’s nearest to the track area approx Sat. night or earlier, then with the eye later going right over Tokyo. On Sunday there will be a mess to clean up. All depends on it’s speed & tracking but it’s looking like the eye will move dramatically north on Sunday.

    A good site to see up to date weather data on it, go to JTWC Tropical Warnings website

  7. About the only thing worse than a cancelled race is waking up at 6:10am UK time on a Sunday morning to find out it’s been cancelled.

  8. I know many people think that the eye of the storm is the biggest concern. However outer bands are what brings most of the rain and once these storms hit land, especially with elevation, they tend to blow up and become pure rain dumpers. Especially if they move rather slowly. But lets hope it speeds up and maybe even encounters upper level wind shear that can weaken it some.

    1. @us-brian

      You’re right about the eye but the reason why most people talk about the eye is that it’s the most reliable and easiest way to see where its heading and track it. It’s also the center point where you can tell where the quarters are.

      Rain isn’t the biggest problem, they’re use to it in Suzuka (70″/yr) and water disperses and gets absorbed very quickly there, The problem for the race will be if there’s major wind causing significant damage on Saturday but it’s looking better with lower winds and faster (eye) tracking north. We may even see some blues skies Sunday afternoon and hopefully the puddling and rivers have cleared the track.

  9. Sounds like it may be a big test for Michael Masi this weekend as the responsibility for whether to race/not race, start procedures etc. all fall to him.

    Hopefully the weather won’t be too challenging, particularly on Sunday as he’ll be under enormous pressure to ensure a race happens even if conditions are barely safe.

  10. roberto giacometti
    10th October 2019, 4:07

    Now, if this typhoon situation does arise, again, wouldn’t it be a logical thing to move the Japanese race to a different part of the year when it is NOT typhoon season. Hasn’t the lesson been learned (at a very unfortunate price ) ?
    RIP Jules Bianchi.

    1. This will be a bit controversial but… The weather wasn’t the cause of Bianchis crash. If I recall correctly wasn’t he taking liberties on the sector times during a VSC? That combined with the tractor being on track is more of the cause in my mind. These are the best track drivers on the planet. They should be able to cope with some wet stuff. I really enjoy seeing the drivers struggling for grip and earning their wage and Suzuka is often a great opportunity to see that. So, personally, I wouldn’t like to see This GP moved to a different time of year.

      1. There were no VSC those came after because of that accident. During that event they were waving double yellow and the safetycar came after Jules crash.

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