Phanfone upgraded to Super Typhoon, but Japanese GP start time not set to change

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The start time for the Japanese Grand Prix looks set to remain unchanged despite the threat of Typhoon Phanfone, which has now been upgraded to ‘super typhoon’ status.

Phanfone has been lingering the Pacific for some time, and it was confirmed earlier this week to be heading towards Japan across the course of the grand prix weekend.

The worst of the weather is thought to be hitting Suzuka on Monday, which could seriously compromise the planned logistics of getting the paddock to Sochi in Russia for next weekend’s grand prix.

Heavy rain is set to affect tomorrow’s race, with some even speculating that it could be reduced to two laps behind the safety car to avoid being cancelled altogether. In such an instance, half points would be avoided.

One option raised was to bring the start time for the race forwards from 3pm local time, given that sunset is at 5:30pm. However, the plan is to go ahead with the race weekend as originally scheduled, and to deal with the weather as it comes.

The typhoon has today been upgraded to a ‘super typhoon’ by the US Naval Observatory, which will only further concerns about the logistics of getting to Russia over the next few days.

Speaking to Forbes yesterday, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said that there were no plans to make any changes to the schedule in spite of the incoming typhoon.

“I’m not moving anything anywhere,” he said. “Nothing is changing at the minute. If it rains the teams will race.

“Nobody knows what it’s going to be like. I asked somebody a few minutes ago and they said that the weather is nice. It rained on Thursday but otherwise it’s okay. Maybe there’s going to be a storm.”

You can watch tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix live on NBCSN from 1:30am ET.

UPDATE – 2300 ET

In a very interesting twist, veteran F1 journalist Adam Cooper has reported that the FIA actually asked the race organizers – Honda – to bring the race start time forwards by as much as four hours, only to be refused.

NBCSN’s Will Buxton confirmed that the weather was as expected, albeit bearable at the moment.