Vettel warns against 'putting lives in danger' as Formula One drivers await verdict with Typhoon Hagibis looming

There is an understandable sense of unease ahead of this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka as a typhoon described as 'violent' in its intensity is poised to strike the mainland.

With Japan's capital city in the path of Typhoon Hagibis that is set to unleash 140mph winds, Rugby World Cup organisers have already taken the step of cancelling Saturday’s matches; England versus France in Tokyo and New Zealand versus Italy in Toyota.

Although Suzuka is 200 miles west of the Japanese capital, its tail is poised to whiplash one of the country’s most famous sporting venues.

For now motorsport's world governing body, the FIA, is holding fire on cancelling Saturday's entire programme - including F1 qualifying. They will see whether the typhoon takes another turn, as it already has done this week.

It is understood a decision will be taken early evening local time on Friday. At this stage, fine weather is forecast for Sunday, so the race itself is not in any danger.

If necessary, F1 will run qualifying on Sunday morning. That would not be unprecedented as it did so in 2015 for the United States GP after torrential rain continuously lashed the Circuit of the Americas in Austin.

Frenchman Jules Bianchi was involved in a tragic crash five years ago due to poor weather.
He died, aged 25, nine months later from the subsequent head injuries. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)

What is anticipated in this part of the world this weekend, however, is considerably more severe in nature.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen joked he has "his speedboat on standby"; Lewis Hamilton declared "I'll bring my wellies".

Levity aside, it has to be remembered that five years ago - on October 5 to be exact - Jules Bianchi was involved in an accident that ultimately and tragically claimed his life, crashing in heavy rain from Typhoon Phanfone that brushed the circuit that fateful day.

No doubt such an incident will be in the backs of the minds of those within the FIA whose decision it is on whether any action will take place on Saturday, or whether they postpone until Sunday.

As Vettel said: "I don't think anybody wants to put anybody's life in danger. But we need to keep things on the ground, and we will see what happens throughout the weekend.

"Just as when we have a lot of rain in other places and there is a red flag and the lights never switch back to green, so it would make sense if, by tomorrow night I believe, there is more evidence to make a proposal or take an action for Saturday.

"That's not for us. We're nice and cosy in the garage, we're sheltered, but for the people around the track, in the grandstands, it's not so nice if there is 80kmph wind blasting in your face and the rain is sideways."

It is hard to imagine anybody being at the circuit on Saturday, never mind Vettel and his fellow drivers being tucked up safely in their garages if the ferocity of the typhoon - even 200 miles away from its heart - is as predicted, and not at 80kmph as suggested by Vettel.

When initially asked about the typhoon, Hamilton was quite sanguine in his response. He said: "It's pretty intense here when it rains but I love driving in the rain.

"It makes no difference to me. It obviously makes it tricky for us over a weekend in terms of our procedure but it's quite exciting."

Reminded of Bianchi's death five years ago, Hamilton's tone was then naturally more sombre.

"It's already been five years?" replied Hamilton. "Wow! I can't believe it's been that long. It feels so recent, so fresh.

"I have the worst memory but what I remember of that day is the poor weather, sitting in the pit lane wondering what had happened, and of course, what followed.

Sebastian Vettel urged caution as decision makers analyse the risk involved in Saturday's Grand Prix action. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
British Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton also reminisced on a tragic day for F1. (AP Photo/Toru Hanai)

"As I say, it's still quite fresh, still such a sad thought. I like to think his spirit stays alive within the sport, within the drivers."

With that in mind, Hamilton then addressed a potential postponement of Saturday's events in a more considered fashion.

"I'm sure the FIA are preparing, aware that it's coming, with procedures in place to move it to the Sunday," said Hamilton.

"We're already planning to see what we might we do in first and second practice (on Friday) if we're lucky enough it's dry. I'm sure there will be back-ups."

Following his "speedboat" quip, Verstappen was also more studied in his response when asked whether the drivers should be consulted about the conditions.

"It’s going to be very clear anyway if it’s possible or not (to drive)," he added. "At the moment, it doesn’t really look very likely on Saturday."

Vettel's Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc was of the same mind as he said: "I think it’s pretty clear if the typhoon is going to come here there’s no way we can drive.

"From my previous experience – and I’ve only done one year and a half in Formula One - but they (the FIA) have always been quite safe with the conditions. They’ve always asked what we thought about the track once we’re in the car."

It has been suggested a decision may be taken out of the hands of the FIA, and instead, the Japanese government will make the call.

At the moment, the F1 circus waits with bated breath on any decision, and on the exact nature of just what Typhoon Hagibis will unleash.

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