F1 'closely monitoring' potential impact of Typhoon Hagibis on Japanese GP

SUZUKA, Japan -- Formula One has vowed to keep the safety of fans and competitors at the top of its priorities as it monitors the potential disruption Typhoon Hagibis could have on the Japanese Grand Prix.

The typhoon, which has been compared in strength to a Category 5 hurricane, is tracking towards Honshu and could make landfall on Saturday and Sunday. The latest forecasts predict heavy rain and high winds around the Suzuka Circuit on Saturday before the weather clears on Sunday morning.

If the forecast holds true, the conditions would rule out running qualifying on Saturday and they could prove too dangerous for fans to come to the circuit. A statement from Formula One's press office on Thursday confirmed the sport is monitoring the situation and will make a decision on this weekend's timetable based on the safety of those attending the circuit.

"The FIA, Formula One, Suzuka Circuit and the Japanese Automobile Federation are closely monitoring Typhoon Hagibis and its potential impact on the 2019 FIA Formula One Japanese Grand Prix," the statement said. "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. All parties will continue to monitor the situation and provide further updates in due course."

Qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix has been postponed twice before at Suzuka in 2004 and 2010 when bad weather hit on the Saturday of the race weekend. In both instances, qualifying was held on Sunday morning ahead of the race, which would likely be the contingency plan this weekend if the forecast rain hits on Saturday.

In 2004 the weather was caused by Typhoon Ma-on, a tropical cyclone that was comparable in size to Typhoon Hagibis, and on that occasion the sport took the decision to postpone qualifying on Friday night. In 2010 the bad weather was not caused by a typhoon, but track conditions still proved too treacherous for qualifying to get underway on Saturday afternoon. In the 2014 race, Jules Bianchi crashed in heavy rain from Typhoon Panphone and died from his injuries the following year.