FIA Race Director Michael Masi has outlined the options available should weather affect Saturday’s running at the Sochi Autodrom, with the potential for qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix to be moved to Sunday morning.
Torrential rain, as well as thunder and lightning, hit the track on Saturday morning, leading to doubts over the running of the day’s programme – with Masi revealing what he and his team were seeing on their weather radars.
READ MORE: 5 things we learned from Friday practice for the Russian Grand Prix at Sochi
“As we can see already this morning, the weather’s gone up and down like a yoyo, and the intensity of the rain has been increasing, with some thunder also joining us,” said Masi. “But effectively the procedure per today will be that we will aim to start all sessions, get everything ready from an operational perspective, and then judge the conditions at the time.
“What we’re seeing from the forecast side is that we will have… rain until about 1330-1430 local time, and then it decreasing in the afternoon.
“The priority from today’s perspective is obviously Formula 1 qualifying this afternoon,” Masi went on.
“So Formula 1 will take priority, then we were fortunate in restructuring the programme to have the first Formula 3 race yesterday, pre-empting the weather that was going to happen this morning, which based on what we saw when we came out to the circuit this morning was absolutely the right decision; it was torrential at the time we would have been having the F3 race. So we did that, and now we’ll just sort of look at the day ahead and just take it step by step.”
F3: Dennis Hauger clinches 2021 title as Sargeant wins opening Sochi race
Free Practice 3 is due to take place at 1200 local time – with Masi saying that the session could be abandoned if heavy rain continues.
“We would have a couple of options, as we’ve seen before, so we could start the session and red flag it immediately and let the clock run down and let’s judge what the weather’s like at that time,” said Masi. “Alternatively, if we can see that it’s just going to be torrential for the entire session, we would just abandon FP3 and aim for qualifying.”
The 2019 Japanese Grand Prix was the last time we witnessed a Sunday qualifying. And Masi said that, if the start of Saturday qualifying got pushed back to the point where light became an issue, the plan would be to move the session to Sunday morning, with the Russian Grand Prix then taking place in the afternoon.
“The determining factor this afternoon [for qualifying] will be the light,” said Masi. “Sunset locally is about 1815… but with weather conditions like this, obviously light diminishes far earlier, so that will ultimately be our cut-off point. If qualifying isn’t able to happen today, as we’ve seen a few times before in the past, then we will re-do a programme and hold qualifying on Sunday morning.”