Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel back F1 over delaying call on Japanese GP

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have backed Formula 1’s decision to delay whether it will make changes to this weekend’s storm-threatened Japanese Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton with a young fan at an autograph signing session ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka. Picture: Clive Mason/Getty

Rugby World Cup organisers have already cancelled England’s match against France and New Zealand’s game with Italy on Saturday due to the approach of Super Typhoon Hagibis.

The critical Pool A match between hosts Japan and Scotland, due to be played in Yokohama on Sunday morning, is also under grave threat.

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Grand Prix qualifying at Suzuka, which is due to take place tomorrow, is in the potential path of the storm, with the region’s most powerful typhoon of the year set to bring violent winds and heavy rain to the area.

A contingency plan is in place to move the battle for pole position to Sunday morning before the race, but F1 bosses are not expected to finalise their scheduling until late this evening.

F1 and its governing body, the FIA, are staging twice-daily meetings with circuit officials and local authorities.

It is understood that the latter expressed its surprise at World Rugby’s decision to scrap two fixtures well in advance of their respective kick-offs.

F1 remains hopeful that the worst of the typhoon might miss the Suzuka track, located 250 miles south west of Tokyo.

Meanwhile, the race will not be staged on Monday if the cars are unable to run on 
Sunday.

Championship leader Hamilton said: “They are doing the utmost they can. I am sure they are preparing, are aware that it is coming, and have procedures in place.”

Sebastian Vettel echoed Hamilton’s comments. The four-time world champion said: “I don’t think anybody wants to put lives in danger. There is a forecast, but how many times has a forecast changed?

“We will see what happens as the weekend goes on. It makes sense that when we have more evidence tomorrow night to put together a proposal or an action for qualifying then.”

A statement from the FIA read: “Every effort is being made to minimise disruption to the Formula 1 timetable.

“However the safety of the fans, competitors and everyone at the Suzuka Circuit remains the top priority. All parties will continue to monitor the situation and provide further updates in due course.”

The race in Japan has been hit by bad weather in the past, with qualifying staged on Sunday morning on two occasions, in 2004 and 2010. Four years ago, qualifying for the US Grand Prix was pushed back a day due to heavy rain.

“I am happy for them to do that,” added Hamilton, who holds a 73-point championship lead over Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas with 130 available.

“It is cool when the format changes. You have to enter into two different mindsets, and two different rhythms. It is a different challenge so I like that.

“It is intense here when it rains, but I love driving in the wet. It doesn’t make a difference to me. It is quite exciting.”