A WEEKEND CLOUDED IN UNCERTAINTY
The schedule for the Japanese GP is set to be altered due to the Hagibis typhoon approaching, set to hit Suzuka on Saturday. Weather conditions were in the eye of the storm (quite literally) on Thursday, as drivers were asked to comment on the possible scenarios in the light of any session delays or cancellations.
The FIA along with the Japanese Automobile Federation is “closely” monitoring the situation, although support events as F4 have been precautionally cancelled for the weekend. With heavy rain and storms on Saturday, there is a chance for qualifying to be postponed to Sunday morning before the race. However, rain is set to compromise the entire race weekend, as Sergio Perez explains: “If it rains on Friday, it will be tough because then you go blind in qualifying on Sunday morning. It will be interesting actually. Let’s see what happens.”
Such a leap in the dark does not concern Lewis Hamilton, who apparently relishes wet conditions. “I love driving in the rain. -he said- It’s pretty intense here when it rains but I love driving in the rain so it doesn’t make any difference to me. It obviously makes it tricky for us over the weekend in terms of our procedure, but it’s quite exciting.”
AN UNPLEASANT SPECTACLE
Verstappen was rather vocal on the matter of racing regardless of the conditions, whereas Vettel’s main concerns went out to the fans on the grandstands in the grips of the typhoon.
“It would make sense if by tomorrow at night -said Vettel- [if we knew] if there is more evidence to give a proposal or take an action for Saturday. I’m thinking not for us, as it’s cosy in the garage, but for all the people to be around the track is not so nice, if you sit there if there’s 80kph of winds blasting in your face.
“We want to race; they want to see us drive. So, I think we need to try and make this weekend happen” said Verstappen.
THE ULTIMATE CHALLENGE HAS BEEN ISSUED
The Dutchman was also at the centre of a funny bit with Carlos Sainz during the press conference. In case qualifying gets postponed, Verstappen challenged the Spaniard to a FIFA game and the dialogue went as the following:
Verstappen: Bit more free time on Saturday and waking up a little bit earlier on a Sunday. I mean, we have done it before. From my side, I have experienced it once before, I think in Austin 2015? So, yeah, it is what it is. It doesn’t really affect me.
Sainz: More FIFA!
Verstappen: Yeah, I brought it here, so if you want to have a game on Saturday.
Sainz: Always up for it.
Verstappen: If you’re ready to lose…
Sainz: Hmmm...We'll see!
A TEMPESTUOUS RELATIONSHIP
Tensions rose within the Ferrari pairing back in Sochi, but both drivers played down the issue at Suzuka, the scenery of this weekend’s battle. Vettel and Leclerc appear to have moved on and insist that the dynamics were exaggerated by the outer perspective of the media and the spectators.
“Obviously there was some misunderstanding from the car but I think we’ve had a discussion and everything is clear now,” said Leclerc. “Obviously it felt like it was a huge deal from the outside, which it definitely wasn’t, but now everything is fine.
“What is clear is that the situation wasn’t clear for both of the drivers starting the race,” he added, “But what’s important is that we spoke about it and we’ll make sure this situation doesn’t happen again in the future.”
Vettel shares Leclerc's thoughts concerning the first-stint drama at Sochi: “We spoke about it obviously, more than once. We speak with each other. Maybe different to what some people think. But I think it’s pretty clear. Obviously now it’s two weeks ago so we look forward.”