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Rain forces Japanese GP qualifying delay, Hamilton penalised
Rain forces Japanese GP qualifying delay, Hamilton penalised
Posted By: James Allen  |  09 Oct 2010   |  7:47 am GMT  |  82 comments

Heavy rain and standing water on the track meant that qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix had to be postponed until race day.

The extreme and uncertain weather patterns of the country mean that for the second time in six years qualifying and the race will take place on the same day.

In 2004 a typhoon was expected to hit the area and the circuit was closed on qualifying day in anticipation. As it turned out the typhoon missed Suzuka by several hundred kilometres. Qualifying took place on Sunday morning with Michael Schumacher taking pole position.

Too wet for F1 cars - qualifying delayed in Suzuka (Getty)

Today there were rivers of water on the track at the scheduled start time of 2pm and race director delayed the session in 30 minute stages before calling it off altogether. As it goes dark at 5pm at this time of year, there was not much time to play with.

”I feel so sorry for the spectators in the grandstands,” said Kamui Kobayashi. “All the Formula One supporters were very much looking forward to the weekend, and now they have hardly seen a car today and got terribly wet. But safety comes first, that is clear. We cannot drive in these conditions. We have to wait for better weather.”

A track inspection will take place at 9-30am local time with qualifying starting at 10am, if the conditions allow. The forecast isn’t too encouraging; it is given as an 80% chance of heavy rain and thunder. Ironically the front is forecast to move on from the area leaving it dry in the evening.

With parc ferme rules meaning no work on the cars anyway between qualifying and the race, except for any broken components, the notion of qualifying and racing on the same day is not a great drama for teams.

Where it might get interesting if if the conditions stay damp and one of the championship contenders goes off and damages his car in qualifying.

Lewis Hamilton will start five places back from where he qualifies tomorrow after he was forced to take a gearbox change on Saturday,
“In Practice 3 today, we noticed abnormal gearbox oil pressure on Lewis’s car which we believed we had corrected ahead of this afternoon’s qualifying session,” a McLaren statement read.” Sadly they didn’t and he needed a change, which incurs a penalty of five grid positions.

* Any fans wanting to talk to me and Eddie Irvine on the LG Grand Prix Show on Talksport radio, Sunday 9pm UK Time, please email

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Thanks again for getting me on the show last night with eddie and Andy. He is definitely one of the only men on the planet who mustn’t have seen star wars!



It does seem a bit absurd that a modern day Formula One car is incapable of running in conditions that cars from less than two decades ago could handle (1994 was hardly bone dry for instance, nor Estoril in 1985 or Donington 1993). I understand the reasons why from a technical perspective – what I don’t understand is why no one has bothered to try and address it. We had this problem in Malaysia last year – all it would have taken was for the Technical Working Group to come up with a draft regulation permitting a different size of tyre with the most effective tread and diameter, call it “monsoon” and allow the teams to raise the ride height to allow for the plank. It could easily have been done were the will there, and it would prevent F1 looking quite so silly when something like this happens.

Re. the aerodynamics issue with raising the car up: I would imagine given the nature of the diffuser and front/rear wing designs the car would still generate a fair amount of downforce, complimented by the increased grip from different tyres. Failing that, it would give us a good idea of who’s got the best car control…


I bet Jenson is doing a rain dance for tomorrows quali. John will be out on the side of the track with a hose pipe 🙂

Although it wouldnt be fair, I would love to see them start in numbered order tomorrow. That would provide a great race.


Why dont they design appropriate tires or,

not,schedule a race in that part of Japan in the rainy season?


hi everybody,its crystal clear now lewis hope its over and mclaren title hope aswell,bad luck,bad car and bad grid position in suzuka is the last nail on lewis and macca coffin,i dont see how they can turn this arround.


Hamilton must be praying for rain. If it does he’ll have no problem making up 5 places — and it will be amazing to watch.


If the grid order is according to the car numbers and then Schumacher is in position 2. I can’t wait to see the rain maestro back….This might be what Schumi needed considering all pressure that he is under 🙂

michael grievson

At times like this the rules should be modified. If the cars are aqua plaining why not increase the ride height of the car? Then if it’s dry after qualifying allow it to be reduced again.

A lot of people have lost a lot of money today waiting in the rain for nothing to happen


Increasing the ride height of the cars will increase the likelihood of aquaplaning. If the ride height is increased, downforce is reduced, and therefore the resistance to the fluid force that is pushing the tyre upwards is reduced.


What has aquaplaning got to do with the ride height of an F1 car?

Aquaplaning is caused by water lifting the tyres off the road/track, thus removing grip. The only thing that would help maintain grip in torrential rain is to reduce the width of the tyres, create a deeper, more open, tread pattern — and to strap paving slabs to the upper surfaces of the car.


“Aquaplaning is caused by water lifting the tyres off the road/track, thus removing grip.”

Yes, and lower downforce (a consequence of a higher ride height) will increase the likelihood of aquaplaning, as the force pushing the tyre down onto the road surface will be lower. Hence, it is more likely that the tyre will be pushed off the surface.

Are you suggesting that the hydrodynamic force pushing the tyre upwards will be lower if the tyre is narrower?


Oh, and I take your point, mtb, about a higher ride height reducing ground effect (the opposite of what Michael was suggesting). But in wet conditions a difference in ride height will be minimal unless the water is so deep the bodywork is touching it. Reducing tyre width would have a much greater effect — if there was that option.


The force is exactly the same but the narrower the tyre the less area the force has to act on — that’s why rally cars often use surprisingly narrow tyres in certain conditions (like snow). Narrow tyres tend to cut through the water rather than ride over it — what rubber there is is creating a higher contact pressure.


I know there’s a danger factor, but why not have an 8000 rpm / 4th gear limit for qualy in conditions like this? All the cars are using the same ECU so surely it could have a ‘torrential downpour’ setting?


Correction to my comment. The validity of the equation derived to predict the onset of aquaplaning has been called into question in a number of instances.


The onset of aquaplaning depends upon a number of factors, including tyre speed, tyre inflation pressure, water depth, the downforce acting on the wheel, the motion of the wheel (straight line or cornering), etc.

There is no magical formula for predicting the speed at which aquaplaning occurs (one was once used in aviation, but was discredited long ago), so it would be difficult to determine a ‘safe’ engine setting.


And what speed would that equate to — 100mph? Driving round on the rev limiter would prove nothing, they have to be on the limit of adhesion to show where they should be on the grid.


The effective abandonment of FP3 was good news for Alonso – less mileage for the engine that he is using this weekend.

I noticed that Hamilton has had to change his gearbox. Was the previous unit damaged in his off-track excursion?


No,practice and race gearboxes are different units.

It seems strange that the brand new gearbox had pressure problems. Can’t help thinking the wet has got into one of the sensors rather than an actual fault !


They noticed some abnormal oil pressure I think in the gearbox on the telemetry. Not sure what caused it.


I think that the most interesting and uncertain question is about the race. If the qualifying will not happen, it is not a big problem because you can arrange the grid in one way or another (championship standings, car numbers etc.).

But the big question is whether the race will happen if the conditions stay like this. There is a precedent from last year during one of the first races (don’t remember which it was but Button won it and everybody was awarded half of the points they would get in normal circumstances) but then they ran at least part of the race and it was clear what is what. But how they will receive championship points if there is no race?

Imagine that if there is no qualifying and they somehow arrange the grid and then there is no race (maybe except for some laps behind the safety car). I do not know the rules but it is hard to understand how the drivers get points if there is no race at all…

I know that most likely it will not happen (and they will race no matter what) but it is not totaly impossible that not a single competitive lap will be completed.


O.K. here’s what I’ve found in the regulations:

“If a race is suspended under Article 41, and cannot be resumed, no points will be awarded if the leader has

completed less than two laps, half points will be awarded if the leader has completed more than two laps

but less than 75% of the original race distance and full points will be awarded if the leader has completed

more than 75% of the original race distance.”

So that’s quite clear. I only wonder what happens if there’s a safety car start and the drivers do a few laps (e.g. 5 so they are entitled to get half of the points) behind the safety car and then the race is cancelled. Theoretically they were driving the cars around the circuit so they should get half of the points, but practically they did not race at all as they are forbidden to overtake behind the safety car. Moreover if there was no qualifying due to the rain then they didn’t have to perform too much (o.k. I know that driving in the wet even behind the SC if the conditions are really bad isn’t easy and you can still crash, but only theoretically there’s nothing to do – the grid is arranged according to the numbers/standings and then there’s the race which does not in fact involve proper racing), so do they still get the points for something like appearing on the grid?

Summing up, cause I don’t know if I made myself clear: if there’s no qualifying and the race consists of, let’s say, 8 laps behind the SC, do the drivers still get their points?

Theoretically the should and it might be “comfortable” (especially for Button this year as he would start first) but doesn’t make much sense to me and doesn’t really seem fair…


Thank you for answering and looking into the rules. It is really helpful.

As to the questions you asked – I was thinking of exactly the same thing when I made my original post.

It would be weird if almost no real racing is done and someone gets points based on qualifying results which were decided by one or another system. That means that nobody has done any racing and get points for nothing.

Maybe there is something that we don’t know but if it is like that then I agree that it is not fair and the sporting element is lacking.

Basically all this would mean that no real qualifing and race happen but the points are awarded. That is some kind of a lottery where one driver gains and other looses.

Some people are also debating how to make the grid if there is no proper qualifying – I think that car numbers and championship positions are not entirely fair so here is some hoping that it will be done in a decent manner.

Although right now some radars show that at least the race will be dry.


Luckily we got a proper race and qualifying and there were no problems with the rules. Yet – we still don’t know how such a problem would be solved.

When it comes to arranging the grid without qualifying – I also think every solution would be somehow unfair, but I guess arranging it according to the championship standings is more fair than doing it according to the car numbers as the numbers often do not reflect the driver’s and team’s present form (e.g. Alonso is second in the championship now but his car number is 8 or MSC who is ninth in the standings and isn’t doing well this season but has number 3 on his car).


That was Malaysian GP and it was red flagged because of the rain and then totally cancelled. The drivers got half of the points because they completed less than 75% of the distance (31 out of 56 laps), but still – they started the race.

I don’t know the exact rules (in that respect), but logically speaking, if the race does not take place at all then there are no points to be given as there are no points for the qualifying, only for the race itself. So: no race – no points. However, as I said – I don’t know the exact rules here, so I might be wrong – I only say how I get it.


That’s a really good point. I’m sure there is a rule that says x% of race must be completed for any points to be awarded, but I can’t find the rule…


Yes, it must be something like that.

But the interesting thing will be if the required x% is not completed.

It would be strange if there is no race and no points. Can’t remember any precedent.

Let’s hope that the race will happen and the full distance will be completed.

It is just a shame that today nothing happened as a lot of people were hoping for a wet qualifying that would bring some excitement.

Maybe tomorrow there will be some excitement.


“b) If more than one driver fails to set a time during Q1, Q2 or Q3 they will be arranged in the following

order :

i) any driver who attempted to set a qualifying time by starting a flying lap ;

ii) any driver who failed to start a flying lap ;

iii) any driver who failed to leave the pits during the period.

c) Once the grid has been established in accordance with a) and b) above, grid position penalties will be

applied to the drivers in question in the order the offences were committed. If more than one driver

incurs a penalty under Article 28.4a) or Article 28.6a) preference will be given to the driver whose

team first informed the technical delegate that an engine or gearbox change will be carried out.

d) Any driver who incurs a penalty under Article 28.4(a) will take precedence over any driver whose

qualifying times have been deleted for any reason.

If more than one driver falls into a single category in b) or d) above they will be arranged on the grid in

numerical order.”$FILE/1-2010%20SPORTING%20REGULATIONS%2023-06-2010.pdf

So based on this – does not Alguersuari and Glock start 1-2 .. then numerical?


IMO it will not be the case, as long as there would be no drivers failing to set a time on Q1 to Q3. Actually, there would be NO qualifying. The rule seems to be written for the case that more that one driver not being able to set a time, and how to draw them on the back of the grid.


But Alguersuari and Glock set the times in FP3 and if I understand it correctly then the drivers who set their times in qualifications are at the front of the grid.


Eh? Explain, please… not sure I follow. What would put Alg & Glo 1-2…??


This 5 place grid penalty for Lewis is good new for Alonso. He proably knows that in the dry the 2 Red Bulls are ahead and that the only real threat for qualifying is Lewis. so he can take it easy in a way and secure a 3rd tomorrow and then hope Korea and last two races do the job for Ferarri!

Of course if it rains or is wet tomorrow all best are off!


If quali is wet/mixed the grid could be mixed up – and if someone bins the car in quali they will likely be out of the race.

Could be very interesting.

But if quali can’t start straight away at 10am local time, quali is going to have to be cancelled, and if the second attempt at qualification is called off on account of weather we could have either:

Numerical Order







7.Hamilton (5 place drop)




That would be an interesting race, with the Red Bulls fighting past the Mercedes and then Button, and the Hamilton/Ferrari battle.


Championship order








8.Hamilton (5 place penalty)



A possibly less interesting race with The Red Bulls and Alonso surging ahead, then everyone else backing up behind Button – most of action would likely come from Kubica/Hamilton.


I really like how on the numerical order grid, Alonso would be the first not to gain a position because of Hamilton’s penalty and he would be a row behind his teammate. If Ferrari were being honest from the very beginning and had Alonso as the team number 1, he would have ended up in 6th place rather than 8th!


LOL. So in your opinion Ferrari is not being honest even in giving numbers to its drivers’ cars… I’ve read many laughable things against Ferrari and Fernando, but definitively nothing compares to this.

Btw, you can check on the reason why Alonso preferred to have number 8 on his car. Just try tipping “alonso first WDC car number”.


If its the same tomorrow…do they abandon the race? What happens there?


They should hand the safety car to each driver to post their fastest lap in for qualifying !


That would be awesome, Barrichello would be certainly on pole.


I know there are a lot of people grumbling about the decision not to race, but it is important to reiterate that the reasons of calling it off was not due to wrapping the drivers in cotton wool.

The standing water on the track was over 50mm deep (2 inches) in places, even the most extreme wet weather set up cannot deal with that level of standing water, as that is deeper than the ride height of the car.

The only way an F1 car could possibly deal with that level of standing water would be to raise the ride height by 50mm.

Even if this was an option, should you do that, the car loses most of its downforce. Without downforce, an F1 car cannot stay on the track as it cannot go fast enough to put heat in the tyres. The result of this is that although the car can pass through the standing water, it would have no mechanical grip from its tyres and thus would not be able to steer around in the corners.

There was no technical way that a car could have driven a flying lap around the track with the conditions of the race track today. Had the cars have gone out, it would have been a lottery of who would have completed a lap and a lottery of who would have been fastest of those that did. There would have been zero skill, and zero Formula 1 spectacle.

The only spectacle would have YouTube moments of million-dollar machinery pirouetting into the barriers.

The race officials did not make the right decision today because sending them out was never an option so no decision needed to be made.

Tom Haythornthwaite

I disagree. I mean, I agree in terms of safety, because there would be too many drivers putting too many drivers and marshals at risk, but I disagree that the cars *can’t* be driven around the track. Your physics apply to F1 cars being driven fast through 50mm of standing water, but while most cars might aquaplane, there ought to be at least one driver who would just drive SLOWLY, steer, and win. Driving the best way in any conditions is proper racing.


Beyond this, it isn’t only the safety of drivers, but marshals too.

Martin Brundle was telling the story this morning of when he floated off the track at relatively low speed, almost hit a tractor in the gravel trap and knocked down a marshal, breaking his leg seriously.

It’s not fair to put people in this situation, regardless of how entertaining it is. I remember Germany a few years ago with everybody going off at turn 1 (?) and it was a similar situation with car after car going off into a gravel trap full of marshals.


Yes, and one particular driver re-entered the race after being lifted back onto the circuit by a crane – in clear violation of the rules! Nevertheless, this driver was not disqualified from the race, and there was no outrage accompanying the stewards’ failure to enforce the sporting regulations.


Yes, a real vicious circle! An additional drawback of the lower downforce if the cars were raised would be the increased likelihood of aquaplaning. The fluid force that attempts to push the tyre up would meet lower resistance from the lower (vehicle + aerodynamic) load trying to push the tyre down.


Wonder how many folk here in the UK will be doing an all nighter!


All nighter for me. Cant wait! Just hope its not canceled again…


And theres the BTCC tomorrow as well! Might get some sleep at some point this weekend tho its looking doubtful.



I read somewhere else that parc ferme conditions were not applied until qualy had finished tomorrow morning, as qualifying had not taken place yet the teams were free to work on the cars until then?

If this is the case are we going to see teams watching the weather until the last minute before qualy to decide on a wet or dry set up?


A rainy qualifying is wat Lewis needs now. His 5 positions penalty will put him suerly 8th or worse at the grill on dry conditions with his rivals on the top. Rain could make everything a little bit more “caothic”.

Thomas in Australia

I spent a year in Japan and experienced downpours of rain that I didn’t think were possible. I can’t imagine driving in open wheeler in those conditions.

Normally I love a wet race, but Suzuka is one track that really doesn’t need to be helped along by mother nature.

Hoping Vettel can do it to really spice up the WDC (and my bet…)


James it would be fantasic to see a mixed up grid and a unpredictable race. The leading teams would disagree but can you imagine a lotus on the podium?

Have you any information on Lewis’s state of mind? With Qualifing and the race on the same day I’m sure he will be feeling the pressure.


if your on twitter, follow TheFifthDriver, he’s a VMM mechanic i think and does have regular updates on lewis an the team but the over all general feeling on twitter is it makes no difference to any of them.


No it’s one of the comms department doing it.



Is your JA on F1 tweets site broken? Latest tweet showing is dated 10 days ago…



Yes and no, it’s an interface problem with Twitter, they are stopping this kind of aggregator at the moment. All very dull


If the weather stays like this (which I really wouldn’t like to happen) and the race cannot take place – is it then totally cancelled or only postponed for e.g. next day?

Anyway, I got up before 7 (which I normally don’t do on Saturday morning) to watch the qualifying so it was quite dissapointing not to see anything. Next session will be at 3 am my local time and as I plan to watch it (with the prospect of the race at 8am, so not much time for sleep in between), I really hope it will take place. It can be really exciting if it takes place!


Bring back the monsoon tyres from Goodyear


They wouldn’t help — there’s so much standing water that the cars just aquaplane on their underfloor planks, regardless of which tyres are in use.

Even the safety car was aquaplaning at one point on the circuit today, every time it went round!

Steven Pritchard

Hi James,

What would happen if Qualy was also cancelled, would the Cars line up in Championship order, or numerical car order?



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