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OCTOBER 9, 2004

Meanwhile in a typhoon

The Formula 1 circus spent Saturday morning holed up in various hotels in the Suzuka area, a number of people nursing sore heads after a little too much time off on Friday night. The arrival of Typhoon Ma-on was expected to be around midday on Saturday but the storm's progress slowed slightly which resulted in a certain amount of disappointment when things did not seem very dramatic on Saturday morning.

However in he course of the morning rain fell steadily and as the day wore on there were increasing reports of swollen rivers, flooding, landslides and disruptions to the transport networks. The storm has already caused the cancellation of 35 domestic and 40 international flights with disruption also to the train services in central Japan. The Japan Meteorological Agency continues to say that it expects around 20 inches of rain. One inch of rain amounts to 22,650 gallons of water per acre.

Typhoon Ma-on is the most powerful storm recorded so far this year in Asia and, according to the agency, it is the most powerful to hit Japan in 10 years. It is worth noting that some areas in the Suzuka area have had 78 inches of rain in the last two months and the ground is already saturated, making flooding more likely.

The big question now for F1 is how much damage the storm will do and whether everything can be fixed in time for the Grand Prix cars to start running at nine o'clock on Sunday morning. As the storm will not finishing passing through the Suzuka area before the early evening it may not be possible to get everything cleaned up in time and the race could be cancelled. No-one seems to be very keen to hold the race on Monday as there would be no crowd and no TV audience and there is also pressure on the teams to move on quickly as all the freight needs to be on its way to Brazil as quickly as possible and the weather problems could slow down this process. The only precedent for F1 was the Belgian Grand Prix of 1985 when it was impossible for the cars to run because qualifying resulted in so much damage to the new tarmac of the Spa circuit that the race had to be postponed until the autumn. Rain stopped the 1991 Australian Grand Prix after only 14 laps when conditions had become so bad that Mauricio Gugelmin crashed his Leyton House in the pitlane, slightly injuring two marshals. The rain continued and eventually the results were declared and half points were awarded.

The cancellation of the race would be a big bonus for BAR and Williams which are both fighting for position in the Constructors' World Championship. BAR is under pressure from Renault and Williams is being chased by McLaren. It is anticipated that the cancellation of the race would mean that insurance companies would have to pay the organisers of the race.