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Italian GP qualifying on hold after heavy rain, Grosjean crash

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Formula 1 qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix has been put on hold after heavy rain hit Monza in the lead-up to the start of the session, resulting in a crash for Haas driver Romain Grosjean.

In the area’s first rainfall since July, rain through the night and in the lead-up to the first practice session of the day saw running in FP3 be cut to just 16 minutes, with only seven drivers completing a lap.

The rain resulted in the cancellation of GP3 qualifying and a delay for the Porsche Supercup session, but officials deemed the track fine for F1 qualifying to begin at 2pm local time as planned.

A number of drivers reported low visibility heading out on-track, with Grosjean complaining that he could not see where he was going.

Moments after crossing the line, Grosjean lost control of his Haas VF-17 while applying the throttle on the main straight, spinning into the wall.

The shunt forced officials to throw a red flag, before confirming that the session would remain on hold, with the next update due at 2:30pm local time (8:30am ET).

Grosjean was left fuming after the shunt, but was able to get out of his Haas car unharmed.

UPDATES

14:30 – Qualifying will not restart until 14:45 at the earliest.

14:45 – Further information to be issued by race control at 15:00. The rain does appear to have stopped, but track conditions still not good enough yet.

14:50 – Race director Charlie Whiting has offered an update on conditions.

“It’s raining, but it’s easing off a little bit, but the weather seems to be swirling around quite a lot and we can’t get a very clear picture of what might happen,” he said.

“We’re just waiting for the water to drain off the track a little bit more because our safety car driver still feels the car is aquaplaning on the straights and we don’t want that of course.

“And then we’ll have to try and do the best we can to read the radar images to see if this is going to clear up or not. It’s very tricky at the moment because the weather is very unpredictable.”

15:00 – Another update, and another delay. More information at 15:15.

15:15 – Aaaaand the same again: more information in another 15 minutes. Race Control also confirms there will be 10 minutes warning before any restart.

15:30 – More information at 15:45. Rain growing heavier.

15:45 – More information at 16:00…

16:00 – More information at 16:15. It’s not looking hopeful.

16:15 – Another 15 minutes. Race Control is reportedly looking at making a decision either way soon about qualifying today or not soon.

16:30 – Great news! Qualifying will resume at 16:40 local time.

Fernando Alonso will decide this summer whether to pursue F1 again

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Fernando Alonso said he will determine by this summer if he would consider a return to Formula One next season.

After announcing Tuesday that he will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May with Arrow McLaren Racing SP, Alonso said “right now the Indy 500 will take all of my concentration” but left the door open for F1 in 2021.

“In my case, probably during the summer period, I’ll make a decision on 2021 if Formula One is still appealing to me,” Alonso told IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview (watch the video above). “The 2021 rules (in F1) are definitely a step forward, and hopefully things can be more mixed and not only three teams capable of winning races. So all this factors into play. I may consider that possibility.”

Alonso won consecutive Formula One championships in 2005-06 with Renault. He has 32 victories in an F1 career that started in 2001 and also includes stints at Ferrari and McLaren.

His last victory on the circuit was May 12, 2013 in Barcelona. He is winless in his most recent 110 starts, including the past 77 races with McLaren in 2015-18.

The Guardian recently reported that McLaren CEO Zak Brown said Alonso wouldn’t be returning to F1 with the team.

Alonso also told Diffey that returning to F1 from a two-season absence wouldn’t necessarily be linked to McLaren’s performance.

“I think they did well last year, and hopefully they make another step forward and close to the top three because they deserve it and are a fantastic team,” he said.

Though he is optimistic about more parity, Alonso said six-time champion Lewis Hamilton should be a favorite for the 2020 title based on preseason testing in which Mercedes turned heads with a new steering system.

“It seemed Mercedes is still quite competitive,” Alonso said. “They show enormous potential on the development side and on the progress from one year to next. Formula One is impossible to predict because many things happen in season.

“At the starting point, (Mercedes) are the favorites. When you have Lewis in the car and Mercedes with the potential they have, they have to be No. 1 probably.”