Styrian GP Practice Three cancelled, qualifying in doubt due to rain

Formula 1 has cancelled the final practice session for the Styrian GP due to heavy rain at Spielberg, with Saturday’s qualifying also in doubt.

If qualifying cannot take place on Saturday, F1 are confident of running the session before the race on Sunday morning.

A torrential downpour had been predicted for Saturday and the rain started falling in the morning, with the feeder F3 race lasting just 14 laps before spins and crashes in soaking conditions led to an early abandonment.

  • Live updates from Austria as schedule delayed

There were hopes that F1 could still get some track action in, but the persistent showers led to the hour-long Practice Three being delayed indefinitely before being officially called off.

Plenty more rain is forecast for the rest of the day in Austria, meaning qualifying – which is due to start at 2pm – may not be able to take place as scheduled.

“We’ll wait and see when qualifying comes about and evaluate the weather conditions at that point,” F1 race director Michael Masi told Sky F1’s Martin Brundle.

“If the weather conditions are similar to now, we’ll delay the start of qualifying and continue to evaluate as time goes on.

“The likelihood is from what we’re seeing forecast wise that [the rain] will continue but we just need to make judgement as the day progresses.”

The medical helicopter being unable to fly in these conditions is another factor for Saturday running.

“At the moment our primary receiving hospital is an hour, an hour and a half away, by road in Graz,” added Masi. “The medical helicopter, because of the cloud coming in, it can’t fly at the moment.

“With the medical helicopter being unable to take off, that’s another factor in the equation and we wouldn’t start any session without that possibility at this venue.”

What are F1’s options for qualifying? And how else could the grid be set?
Sky F1’s Ted Kravitz reported that it was still “Plan A” for qualifying to go ahead on Saturday, but that it may need to pushed back until a predicted drier Sunday morning, before the race, should conditions not improve.

Last year’s Japanese GP saw qualifying and the race both take place on Sunday due to Typhoon Hagibis, while F1 also had that schedule for the 2015 US GP in Austin.

“There’s a chance that at the end of today we get some running,” said F1 chief Ross Brawn. “But certainly tomorrow looks fine. We think tomorrow we can fit everything in.”

Should qualifying not be able to take place on Sunday morning, the race grid order would be set by taking the times from the latest practice session.

“That would normally be P3, but as it’s too wet, that would refer to P2,” said Ted. “That’s why the times from P2 might be significant.”

Max Verstappen finished fastest ahead of Valtteri Bottas in Practice Two as teams, knowing of the weather forecast, pushed hard in the sunny Friday afternoon session.

Lewis Hamilton was only sixth in the other Mercedes.

Why couldn’t F1 cars run in these conditions?
Sky F1’s Jenson Button: “People always ask the question, why can’t you run a Formula 1 car in wet conditions? When it’s extremely wet and there are rivers running it’s very difficult because these cars are very low to the ground, and they basically just float across the water. And the tyres aqua-plain as well.

“Too wet right now, hopefully it’s going to dry up a bit because I’d love to see the cars running. It would be good to see who’s good in these conditions.

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