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History repeating - the ‘other’ Sunday qualifying sessions

25 Oct 2015

Think this weekend in the United States is the first time qualifying will have to be completed on race day? Think again. It is in fact the fourth such occurrence in barely more than a decade…
Japan 2004

Nearby Hurricane Patricia has brought torrential weather conditions to Austin this weekend, but back in 2004 it was another monumental weather system - Typhoon Ma-on - that forced the FIA to postpone qualifying in Japan until the morning of the race. With appalling conditions contributing to several gnarly off-track moments in Friday practice, and the 160km/h super storm moving ever closer, the decision was made to close Suzuka on the Saturday. However, in the end the storm passed by without incident, with Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher sweeping to pole position on a drying track on Sunday morning before racing to his 13th victory of the season later that afternoon.

Japan 2010

Six years on from Ma-on, another huge storm passed over Suzuka, bringing with it an enormous amount of rainfall and leading to the eventual postponement of qualifying. Unlike before, race control waited in vain for a window in the weather before eventually cancelling the session, leaving the teams to create their own entertainment by racing makeshift miniature rafts down the flooded pit lane. “I know it is not an easy decision to take, but in those conditions we have no control of our cars,” said Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel.  "For the majority of people it's difficult to understand - you just think, 'Okay, put the rain tyres on and you'll be fine'. But it's not as easy as that. We would just be passengers…” The next day, under bright sunny skies, Vettel waltzed to pole position before leading Mark Webber across the line in a Red Bull one-two some five hours later. 

Australia 2013

Back in 1991 a biblical rainstorm caused the Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide to be abandoned after just 14 chaos-strewn laps. The weather wasn’t quite that horrendous in Melbourne in 2013, but it was bad enough to cause qualifying to be postponed mid-session. Q1 had taken place after a delayed start, with many drivers having off-track adventures, including Ferrari’s Felipe Massa who spun and hit a wall and Williams’ Pastor Maldonado who went off-roading and nearly took out an unsuspecting seagull. But with the rain worsening and daylight fading, race stewards decided to move Q2 and Q3 to race morning, when, in near perfect conditions, Sebastian Vettel took pole for Red Bull. However, the German wouldn’t find things so easy in the race, with Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen making use of a canny tyre strategy to pick up his 20th career win ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Vettel.