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Page last updated at 09:11 GMT, Saturday, 9 October 2010 10:11 UK

Heavy rain forces Japanese GP qualifying switch

Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton and Martin Brundle

Button & Hamilton relaxed about rain

JAPANESE GRAND PRIX
Venue: Suzuka Circuit Date: 10 October, qualifying 0200 BST & race 0700 BST.
Coverage: BBC One, BBC Radio 5 live and sports extra and text commentary on the BBC Sport website Find complete listings here

By Richard Rae and Sarah Holt

Japanese Grand Prix qualifying will take place on Sunday after heavy rain forced its postponement on Saturday.

Qualifying will start at 1000 local time (0200 BST) with the race start time unchanged at 0700 BST.

World champion Jenson Button said: "The fans have not seen us driving and it's very disappointing, I'm sure, for them.

"I feel sorry for everyone who's got out of bed especially to watch qualifying. But in these conditions there is nothing we can do."

With constant heavy rain leaving rivers of water on the track, FIA race director Charlie Whiting made the decision on safety grounds.

Jenson Button

Button looking forward to fun Sunday at Suzuka

Button's McLaren team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, saw his title hopes suffer a blow as he was handed a five-place penalty on the grid for an illegal gearbox change.

Hamilton said conditions at Suzuka were "horrible" and added: "I like going out in the wet but in an F1 car to keep the temperature of the tyres and brakes up you need to be going at a certain pace and I couldn't even go full throttle.

"It was just aquaplaning everywhere. Then you lose the temperature in your tyres and you're just a passenger. So it was a good call by the stewards."

Button added: "It's not driving a racing car; you are floating the whole time. You might as well stick a rudder and a sail on it. It's disappointing but in the morning we will have some good action in qualifying and race. For me, it's fun to have something different."

In dry conditions, the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were favourites for pole, but the German also backed the officials' decision.

"It's not an easy decision but in those conditions we can't control the cars," said Vettel.

"The race director did his best, sending the safety car out every 20 minutes to have a look.

Lewis Hamilton

Conditions were horrible - Hamilton

"For the majority of people outside, it's probably difficult to understand why we can't put our rain tyres on and it'll be fine.

"But the cars weigh only 600-700kg, about half what a road car weighs, and are very low so with some standing water it is easy to start aquaplaning and then it becomes undriveable for us. We would only have been passengers rather than being able to push to the limits of the car.

"It's a pity, but it was absolutely the right thing to do, and we'll see what kind of qualifying we have tomorrow. We now have two things to focus on tomorrow, so I will try and get a good rest tonight."

Lotus driver Heikki Kovalainen added that conditions were impossible, and a delay was the only possible decision.

It is the first time since the Japanese Grand Prix of 2004 that a qualifying session has had to be switched to the same day as the race.

In that instance, qualifying was called off the day before because of forecasts a typhoon would hit the Suzuka track. The storm eventually passed 25 miles away.

JONATHAN LEGARD'S BLOG

This time, an attempt was made to run qualifying but conditions only worsened from those experienced by drivers in final practice, when they were already complaining of excessive water on the track and bad aquaplaning.

With the race-day forecast for Suzuka being for dry conditions throughout, the switch is expected to favour Red Bull, whose drivers comfortably topped the time sheets during both practice sessions on Friday.

However, it is likely the circuit will still be damp and still slippery at the start of qualifying, five hours before the race.



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see also
Five-place penalty for Hamilton
09 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Ferrari dismiss doubts over Massa
09 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Japan qualifying day as it happened
09 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Japanese GP qualifying photos
09 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Hamilton suffers practice crash
08 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Alonso not worried by Suzuka rain
08 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Next two races critical - Vettel
08 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Japanese GP practice as it happened
08 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Japanese Grand Prix practice results
24 Feb 10 |  Results
Alonso declares himself favourite
07 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Hamilton eyes championship charge
07 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
McLaren duo 'still in title hunt'
06 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Sauber sign Perez as new driver
04 Oct 10 |  Formula 1


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