One learns a lot of different things as a Formula 1 reporter and the latest adventure is an approaching typhoon (seen above from a NASA satellite). Some of us have been through this before because back in 2004 a Super Typhoon called Ma-on came plodding in and qualifying had to be pushed back to Sunday morning because of torrential rainfall on Saturday. It was majorly impressive to see the eye of the storm passing by, just off the coast, a reminder that we are just very small specks of dust on the face of a rather powerful earth. Anyway, on that occasion the race went ahead without too much drama and we were all able to get to the airports and get out of Japan afterwards.
This year’s storm is called Phanfone and right now, it’s blasting coconuts off trees out in the Pacific Ocean with gusts of 155 mph and some impressive surges of water for those unfortunate enough to be out at sea. The experts are saying that they expect the storm to continue to come north-west towards Japan and it will likely curl to the east. When that happens, and to what degree it turns, remains to be seen and this means that the storm could pass Japan on the eastern side, on the western side or could just simply plough through the middle, by way of Osaka and Nagoya. Suzuka sits between the two cities and it could be up being in the path of the storm.
For the moment the weather is warm and humid and Saturday looks like being the same, but on Sunday Phanfone could turn up at Suzuka at about lunchtime. The race is due to start at 3pm, but that is not going happen if there is a super typhoon in the area. This sort of storm knocks down trees and power poles, blows off roofs and causes flooding and mudslides. These will likely affect transportation. The F1 cars would not be able to run in such circumstances because they would be blown off the road or would aquaplane into the nearest barrier.
The Grand Prix being a global TV show, the race officials are looking at what could be done if the storm does arrive and the latest news is that the race could be brought forward to Sunday morning. If that happens the storm will be past and gone from the area late on Sunday afternoon when it will have move on to knock things over in Tokyo.
The race is one element of the problem because disruption in the region could affect the rapid movement of F1 equipment from Japan to Sochi in Russia, where the first F1 Russian GP is due to happen in eight days. If there are delays getting everything out of Japan, Sochi may be affected.
For the moment, however, it is all guesswork. F1 will be watching the storm. Decision will not come for at least 24 hours.