F1: Five Past Grand Prix Hampered By Tricky Weather

Image courtesy of Clive Mason/Getty Images.

Five Previous F1 Races Hampered By Tricky Weather Conditions.

On Friday, the FIA made the decision to cancel all track activities on Saturday at the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix.

It was the logical decision to protect the safety of spectators, track officials, team members, media organisations and of course, the drivers.

Qualifying at Suzuka is scheduled to take place at 2am on Sunday morning.

That will be just over four hours before the start of Round 17 of the 2019 season.

It is the third time in 15 years that qualifying has been delayed at the famous figure-of-eight circuit due to inclement weather conditions.

Like in 2004, it is because of the threat of a typhoon. Typhoon Hagibis is already causing havoc in Japan.

Seven million people have been urged to evacuate the country’s East Coast.

Along with two Rugby World Cup matches including England vs France were cancelled because of the impending rain and high winds.

Here are examples of five other F1 races or weekends affected by tricky weather.

1991 Australian Grand Prix

The shortest race in Formula One history remains the 1991 Australian Grand Prix. The Adelaide street circuit hosted the last race of the championship.

Ayrton Senna had already wrapped up the drivers’ championship but the constructors’ title was still up for grabs.

Williams Renault had slim hopes of catching McLaren Honda at the final event.

Senna took his customary pole position in dry qualifying but race day was a different story. The rain fell relentlessly and the circuit quickly turned into a lake.

Ayrton Senna leads Nigel Mansell in the 1991 Australian Grand Prix. It remains the shortest-ever race in World Championship history. Image sourced from MotorSportBlog.com

Senna led Nigel Mansell away but the conditions continued to get worse.

Nicola Larini’s Lamborghini, the Ferrari of Jean Alesi and Pierluigi Martini in the Minardi all aquaplaned on one of Adelaide’s long straights and crashed out.

Even rainmaster Senna was waving his hands furiously, pleading with race organisers to stop the show.

They did on Lap 14 but not before Mansell had crashed out exiting turn two, leaving him sore and bruised. Third-placed Gerhard Berger also spun off on the same lap.

Although the FIA were keen to try to restart the race, there was no improvement in the weather and eventually, the Grand Prix was abandoned with half-points awarded.

1994 Japanese Grand Prix

Suzuka has seen plenty of rain-affected races over the years, none more so than in 1994 where a biblical rainstorm caused carnage.

Michael Schumacher led arch-rival Damon Hill by five points with two races left and started on pole position.

In these days, it was a two-day qualifying process but only Friday saw dry conditions with rain ruining Saturday’s involvement.

Michael Schumacher shakes Damon Hill’s hand after their epic battle in the Suzuka rain of 1994. Hill won to take the title fight to the last race. Image sourced from Pinterest.

The weather was even worse on Sunday. The event started on schedule but soon, the Safety Car was deployed.

Two local drivers, Ukyo Katayama and Taki Inoue crashed on the pit-straight with Katayama limping away from his bent Tyrrell Yamaha.

Further accidents involved Ligier debutant Franck Lagorce, Pierluigi Martini and Michele Alboreto.

Then, Gianni Morbidelli ripped the front-end of his Footwork chassis off with a huge crash at the Degner Curves.

A lap after Morbidelli’s shunt, Martin Brundle went off in the same place in his McLaren.

He collided with a marshal who was attending to Morbidelli’s car.

The marshal sustained a broken leg and only then, did the officials decide to stop the race. Some wanted to continue, others wanted to stop completely.

The race did eventually restart behind the Safety Car and became the last-ever race to be decided by aggregate timing.

Hill won as darkness plunged across the circuit. The Brit beat Schumacher in an epic scrap to take the tumultuous 1994 season to a last-race decider in Adelaide.

2004 Japanese Grand Prix

10 years after the 1994 race, the 2004 weekend was badly disrupted by the threat of a typhoon.

Typhoon Ma-On was predicted to hit the Suzuka circuit during the weekend.

The FIA noticed the weather warnings. As early as Thursday afternoon, they decided to shut down the Suzuka circuit on Saturday.

This meant after Friday practice, the teams was forced to pack up their belongings and leave the track.

It was the first time in modern-time F1 that such an outcome had taken place.

Ultimately, the typhoon changed course and passed south of Suzuka which meant damage was limited.

The teams returned on Sunday to carry out qualifying and the race.

A damp circuit meant the likes of Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, Juan Pablo Montoya and Rubens Barrichello all qualified in the back half of the grid.

Michael Schumacher cruises across the line after a crushing victory in a two-day Japanese Grand Prix weekend of 2004. Image sourced from Tumblr.com

Michael Schumacher made little fuss. The seven-time world champion took pole position and dominated the race to take his 13th win of a record-breaking season.

Brother Ralf brought his Williams BMW home in second place for the last-ever Schumacher 1-2 in Formula One.

2009 Malaysian Grand Prix

Malaysia is used to monsoon weather. Formula One got a taste of it briefly in the early stages of the 2001 race. In 2009, the race almost turned into a Powerboat Grand Prix.

Jenson Button took pole position for Brawn GP but a slow start saw him slip to fourth place. This allowed Nico Rosberg to lead for Williams in the early stages.

There was a threat of rain all day. Ferrari gambled badly and put fifth-place Kimi Raikkonen out on full wets on a bone dry track!

His race was ruined and ultimately, ended with him famously taking an ice cream out of the fridge in the Ferrari hospitality truck.

This time, the rain when it began came slowly and caused teams plenty of problems with fitting the correct tyre compounds.

When the monsoon finally arrived after half-distance, Giancarlo Fisichella, Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Buemi were among the casualties.

The race was stopped. Despite hanging around on the grid for another hour in the hope of an improvement in the conditions, the 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix was not restarted. Half-points were awarded.

Jenson Button claiming victory after the red flagged grand prix. Image sourced from MaxF1.net

Button won so took five points with Nick Heidfeld and Timo Glock completing the podium positions. Early leader Rosberg finished only eighth so gained half a point for his efforts.

2013 Australian Grand Prix

The 2013 Australian Grand Prix saw a delay in the schedule because of heavy rain that engulfed the Albert Park circuit on Saturday afternoon.

Qualifying got underway on schedule but the track was not in the best of conditions.

Felipe Massa’s Ferrari had a sizeable impact with the barriers. He was fortunate to escape with only front wing and turning vane damage.

Rookie Esteban Gutierrez wasn’t so lucky. He did bigger damage to his Sauber which brought Q1 to a halt earlier than anticipated.

Five cars were knocked out. However, Q2 and Q3 were postponed until Sunday morning as the rain got heavier.

Again, it was the first time that this happened since knockout qualifying made its debut in 2006.

On Sunday morning on a drying track, Sebastian Vettel took pole position for Red Bull.

However, heavy tyre wear restricted him to third place in the race held a few hours’ later.

It was Kimi Raikkonen who came through from seventh on the grid to win the first race of the season.

Kimi Raikkonen on his way to victory in Melbourne. Image sourced from Telegraph.co.uk

It remains the last win as it currently stands for the Enstone-based team who in those days were called Lotus.

Taking The Safe Option

Formula One has taken the safe option and it is the right decision.

While all Grand Prix fans will want a qualifying and race to take place at the legendary Suzuka circuit tomorrow, it is essential it only takes place in a safe and secure environment.

When the country of Japan is bracing itself for its most powerful typhoon in six decades, racing is not as important.