Heavy rain today at Suzuka meant that the Saturday qualifying session was a complete wash-out, and the grid order for the grand prix will now be determined just hours before the race on Sunday.
Rain disrupted the final practice session earlier today to such an extent that only seven of the 24 drivers completed more than a single installation lap, and only two set a time. Jaime Alguersuari topped the timesheets with a time of 1:55.902, a laptime over 24 seconds slower than that set by Sebastian Vettel on Friday.
All drivers venturing out in the practice session reported to their team that conditions were impossible to drive in, and with no let up in the rain before qualifying, it was clear that the session couldn’t start. Rivers were running along sections of the track, making aquaplaning a real risk. Much to the amusement of the mechanics, the pit lane had its own network of streams, allowing them to sail improvised model boats.
Race director Charlie Whiting kept postponing the start of qualifying by half an hour in a vain hope that the rain would stop and the track would become drivable, but as the threat of darkness loomed, he eventually had to admit defeat.
Qualifying will now take place at 10:00 local time (02:00 BST) on Sunday morning, with the race scheduled to start at 07:00 BST. The weather forecast predicts a dry day tomorrow, although some suspect that the track may still be damp for qualifying, which could throw up some unexpected results.