SUZUKA, Japan (Reuters) – Valtteri Bottas was fastest in practice for the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix on Friday ahead of team mate Lewis Hamilton, which could see the Mercedes pair lock out the front row of the grid if qualifying is cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis.
Formula One’s governing body said earlier on Friday that race promoters and the Japanese Automobile Federation had decided to cancel all practice and qualifying sessions scheduled for Saturday due to the typhoon’s approach.
The hour-long qualifying session that decides the grid order for the race will now be held at 10 a.m. (0100 GMT) on Sunday, while the final practice session, which would normally take place before qualifying, has been scrapped.
Friday’s second session assumed greater importance as it could decide the starting order for the race if conditions have not sufficiently improved for qualifying to go ahead.
That prompted some drivers, most notably Ferrari pair Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel, to fit fresh tyres in a bid to set a fast lap towards the session’s end.
Bottas had led Hamilton in the opening 90 minute session and was again quickest around the Suzuka circuit, posting a time of one minute 27.785 seconds, beating the Briton by 0.100.
Max Verstappen, fifth in the morning for Red Bull, vaulted ahead of the Ferrari’s to end the day third, 0.281 behind the Finn, making a solid start to engine-supplier Honda’s home race weekend.
Ferrari, who have started the last four races from pole and converted three of those to victory, were fourth and fifth with Leclerc (1:28.141) ahead of Vettel (1:28.376).
Alexander Albon was sixth for Red Bull ahead of McLaren’s Carlos Sainz and Racing Point’s Sergio Perez.
Pierre Gasly, who gave up his seat in the opening session so Naoki Yamamoto could drive his Honda-powered Toro Rosso in front of his home crowd, was ninth.
McLaren’s British rookie Lando Norris rounded out the top 10.
Mercedes, who have won every race at Suzuka going back to 2014, can seal a record-equalling sixth successive Formula One constructors’ championship on Sunday by scoring 14 more points than Ferrari.
Hamilton, 73 points clear of Bottas in the overall standings with five races to go, is also well on his way to clinching a sixth title.