Last tests of Russian GP canceled due to rain, qualifying uncertain

September 25 (Reuters) – The final tests of the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix were called off due to heavy rain in Sochi on Saturday, with subsequent qualifying being uncertain and likely to be postponed until Sunday.

Race marshals said in a statement the decision was made for safety reasons and force majeure.

The session was scheduled to start at 12 p.m. local time (9 a.m. GMT) with qualifying at the Olympic Park scheduled for 3 p.m. local time (1200 GMT).

A Formula 3 race originally scheduled for Saturday morning took place on Friday, with the title won by Norwegian Dennis Hauger, 18, and a Formula 2 race postponed.

Formula 1’s governing body, the FIA, said it expected the local airport to reopen before the scheduled qualifying time, allowing the medical helicopter to resume operational flights.

“From what we are seeing on the forecast side … we will sort of have this level of rain until around 1:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. local time and then it will decrease in the afternoon,” said the director of Michael Masi race.

“The priority from today’s perspective is obviously Formula 1 qualifying this afternoon, so Formula 1 will take priority.”

Masi said the light would be the determining factor in the postponement of late qualifying.

“The sunset locally is around 1815 … but with weather conditions like this obviously (the) light is fading much sooner,” he added.

“If qualifying cannot take place today, as we have seen a few times in the past, then we will redo the schedule and hold qualifying on Sunday morning.”

Red Bull championship leader Max Verstappen is expected to start from behind wherever he qualifies due to an engine change.

Mercedes title rival Lewis Hamilton will look to overthrow the young Dutchman’s five-point advantage with what would be a 100th career victory, a record.

Mercedes have won every Russian Grand Prix in Sochi since the first in 2014 and Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas, race winner last year, said he would obey the team’s orders if necessary.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ed Osmond

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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