Japanese Grand Prix: Super Typhoon Hagibis poses great risk to race weekend with 160mph winds forecast

Jack de Menezes
The Independent
The Japanese Grand Prix is under threat from Super Typhoon Hagibis: AFP/Getty
The Japanese Grand Prix is under threat from Super Typhoon Hagibis: AFP/Getty

The Japanese Grand Prix weekend is facing serious disruption, with Saturday’s qualifying session the most likely to be under threat from Super Typhoon Hagibis.

This weekend’s Formula One event and the Rugby World Cup both look certain to be affected by Hagibis, which has formed in the Western Pacific Ocean and is expected to bring wings of up to 160mph to Japan.

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It is the 21st typhoon of the season and is forecast to be the most violent one in 60 years, following just a month after Typhoon Faxai battered the Tokyo area and left three people dead and nearly 1,000,000 households destroyed.

According to satellite imagery, Hagibis is considerably larger than Faxai and of similar or higher intensity after going through “among the most explosive rapid intensifications of any tropical cyclone on record anywhere on Earth”, though the hope is that it’ll weaken the close it gets to making landfall.

But the Japanese Meteorological Agency called an emergency press conference on Wednesday to detail how they expect the typhoon to develop cross the next few days, with the tropical cyclone not expected to leave Japan until Sunday when it will head back out over the Pacific towards the United States.

Initial expectations suggested that Sunday’s race was under threat from extreme weather, but the forecast now predicts Hagibis to make landfall on Saturday, meaning the afternoon’s qualifying session is now at risk.

This is not the first time that Suzuka has been in the hands of a typhoon. In 2004 and 2010, qualifying had to be postponed until Sunday morning before the race, with the FIA considering a similar move unless forecasts change in the next 48 hours.

The FIA is in talks with the race organisers, the Japanese Automobile Federation, and Liberty Media in order to restructure the weekend timetable if necessary.

Heavy rain and high winds are expected across the weekend, with satellite images revealing Hagibis to be larger in size than Japan itself, with stormy conditions stretching for thousands of kilometres.

In 2014, the Japanese Grand Prix was hit by heavy rain that caused the crash involving Jules Bianchi, who suffered injuries that he would pass away from nine months later. F1 was criticised at the time for allowing the race to take place in such bad conditions.

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