Free Practice 3 was due to take place at 12:00 local time – however, the session has been officially cancelled due to 'Force Majeure'.
As per weather forecasts, heavy rain, together with thunder and lightning, hit the Russian track early on Saturday morning, leading to serious doubts over the possibility to complete the day’s programme. Conditions have improved slightly, but not enough to allow any running.
On Friday, FIA Race Director Michael Masi had already delineated the options available should weather affect Saturday’s session at the Sochi Autodrom.
The weather’s forecast has kept changing over the last few hours, however, with increasingly intense rain, Micheal Masi assumed it would have been better to call it quits prior to repeating the scenes of Spa.
“The procedure per today will be that we will aim to start all sessions, get everything ready from an operational perspective, and then judge the conditions at the time”, explained Michael Masi.
The intention is still to run qualifying later on Saturday’s afternoon, with the rain set to ease after lunchtime. Indeed, F1 cars don't need a dry track to run; they just need the standing water to clear.
“What we’re seeing from the forecast side is that we will have… rain until about 13.30-14.30 local time, and then it decreasing in the afternoon.
“The priority from today’s perspective is obviously Formula 1 qualifying this afternoon,” Masi commented.
“The determining factor this afternoon [for qualifying] will be the light,” said Masi.
If, and it is an if, qualifying cannot take place today, an attempt will be made to run it tomorrow morning before the race. The last time that happened was in Japan in 2019.
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“Sunset locally is about 18:15… but with weather conditions like this, obviously light diminishes far earlier, so that will ultimately be our cut-off point. If qualifying isn’t able to happen today, as we’ve seen a few times before in the past, then we will re-do a programme and hold qualifying on Sunday morning.”
The 2019 Japanese Grand Prix was the last time we witnessed a Sunday qualifying. And Masi said that, if the start of Saturday qualifying got pushed back to the point where light became an issue, the plan would be to move the session to Sunday morning, with the Russian Grand Prix then taking place in the afternoon.