Formula One is on high alert for a “violent” tropical cyclone hurtling towards Suzuka Circuit in time to disrupt this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Tropical Cyclone Hagibis, the 19th of the Pacific typhoon season, has been rapidly intensifying this week as it tracks towards the Japanese archipelago. The Japan Meteorological Agency rates it as a “violent” typhoon, the most extreme category in its rating system, with maximum wind gusts of up to 270 kilometres per hour.
The agency’s modelling forecasts Hagibis will make landfall on Saturday night near Shizuoka, around 170 kilometres east of Suzuka, before travelling north-east towards Tokyo.
Friday is expected to remain generally dry until the early evening, but up to 200 millimetres of rain is forecast to fall throughout Saturday until the weather clears in time for Sunday.
In a statement released via the FIA website, the sport said it would be closely monitoring the forecast for potential impacts on the race weekend, leaving the door open to schedule changes to avoid the worst of the weather on Saturday.
“Every effort is being made to minimise disruption to the Formula One timetable; however, the safety of the fans, competitors and everyone at the Suzuka Circuit remains the top priority,” it read.
“All parties will continue to monitor the situation and provide further updates in due course.”
A Sunday qualifying session is tipped as the most likely scenario to avoid the predicted heavy weather, with the race scheduled for 2:10pm local time.
All four sessions of the Japanese Formula Four championship, including the races on Saturday and Sunday, have been cancelled to create additional flexibility in the schedule to shift the F1 programme. There were also concerns that the F4 paddock would be susceptible to flooding owing to its position at a low-lying area of the circuit.
Organisers of the Rugby World Cup have already acted to avoid the typhoon, cancelling two Saturday group-stage matches – New Zealand vs Italy in Toyota City, near Nagoya, and England vs France in Yokohama, near Tokyo — on Thursday afternoon. A third match that evening, between Ireland and Samoa, will procede in the south-western city of Fukuoka.