Lewis Hamilton was talked out of flying to Tokyo on Friday night and will instead be confined to his hotel after the incoming typhoon caused Saturday’s Japanese Grand Prix qualifying session to be postponed.
After practice on Friday, the world champion told reporters that he wanted to while away his spare time in the capital 250 miles north east of Suzuka rather than at his trackside base.
‘If I am lucky, I will have the day off,’ said Hamilton. ‘It won’t be a data day.
Lewis Hamilton was talked out of flying to Tokyo with the Typhoon Hagibis closing in
‘They slaughter dolphins three hours away. It would be great to shine a spotlight on that. But I will probably go back to Tokyo.
‘I love Tokyo. I could have a nice night there, have good food. They have great arcades there. And then I will come back tomorrow.
‘Every Saturday here I take the team bowling. I don’t know if that place is going to be open.’
It was explained to him that 1,600 domestic flights have been cancelled ahead of the country’s biggest storm of the year – Typhoon Hagibis, which means ‘speed’ in the Philippine language Tagalog.
Even if Hamilton could get to Tokyo he might well not return in time for the rescheduled qualifying session on Sunday at 10am local time and then the race four hours later.
The F1 world champion signs autographs for fans while in the Mercedes garage on Friday
The Shinkansen – or bullet train – is suspended on Saturday. Power cuts are expected and the government is urging people to stock up with three days’ food and water supplies.
‘I am happy Lewis will be staying in his hotel,’ said one team insider, mindful of the forecast, a month after Typhoon Faxai destroyed 30,000 homes.
At the track, the podium and pit walls were dismantled and packed away. Local residents have been told to stay indoors while the anticipated 100mph-plus winds rip through the area.
The decision to delay qualifying – made by the local authorities – was announced just before 10am local time on Friday.
‘The FIA and Formula One support this decision in the interests of safety for spectators and competitors and everyone at the Suzuka circuit,’ said the sport’s governors and owners in a joint statement.
The FIA said on Friday night that they will monitor developments and issue further updates on the weekend’s timetable. It remains possible the race will be cancelled, something that has not happened before this century.
Typhoon Hagibis is being put on par with a category 5 hurricane with 160mph winds expected
If bad weather, or the debris it leaves behind, causes qualifying to be dropped but the race still goes ahead, the grid would be according to the standings in second practice on Friday: the Mercedes pair of Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and then the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel.
Which brings us to what Hamilton said before he took himself away to shield against the blast. He thinks Ferrari’s driver line-up doesn’t – and won’t – work.
Vettel and Leclerc were openly in dispute in Russia a fortnight ago, since then they have publicly made up after peace meetings at the Scuderia’s Maranello HQ. The first test of the entente cordiale comes this weekend, weather permitting.
Speaking before the sandbags arrived, Hamilton said: ‘It is an interesting dynamic because Seb was No 1, and now he clearly isn’t.’
Referring to Ferrari policy of favouring one driver over the other, he added: ‘They are trying to ramp Charles up. Is that good for a team? I don’t think so, but that is the philosophy they have had forever.
‘It hasn’t worked for a long time over there, and it doesn’t look as though it will work in future.’
Hamilton thinks Ferrari’s pair of Sebastian Vettel (left) and Charles Leclerc (right) doesn’t work
Events in Russia caused Vettel’s former boss, Dr Helmut Marko, Red Bull’s motorsport adviser, to say the four-time world champion had no future at Ferrari. That was because Vettel was ordered to make way for Leclerc, having used a tow to pass him at the start.
The agreement was struck before the race, but Vettel ignored repeated radio orders to comply. Since then all sides have smudged the issue by saying there was some ambiguity over what the exact arrangement was.
Marko believed Vettel’s position had become untenable. But speaking in the paddock this weekend, Vettel said: ‘I hope he is wrong. There are still a lot of things I want to achieve here.’
If he sees out his £36million-a-year contract that runs until the end of next season, the German has 27 races left to turn his ambitions into reality. Anyway, it’s now time to shut the door behind us. I’ll report back on events on Monday, I hope.