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OCTOBER 9, 2010

Japanese qualifying on Sunday morning, but what if it rains again?

Qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix has been postponed until 10am Sunday Japanese time due to incessant rain at Suzuka. Normal parc ferme conditions will apply from the start of the session.

The weather forecast for Sunday is better but there remains the question of what will happen if it changes and there is further heavy rain on Sunday morning. The light fades shortly after 5pm at Suzuka and so the latest that the race can feasibly start would be 3pm Japanese time if there are further delays in the schedule.

Article 36.2 b of the F1 sporting regulations says: "If more than one driver fails to set a time during Q1, Q2 or Q3 they will be arranged in the following order:

1) Any driver who attempted to set a qualifying time by starting a flying lap.

2) Any driver who failed to start a flying lap.

3) Any driver who failed to leave the pits during the period.

If more than one driver falls into a single category they will be arranged on the grid in numerical order.

In the event that qualifying is cancelled again on Sunday morning but conditions improve to allow a race to be started, that could be interpreted to mean that all drivers would therefore fall into category three, meaning that Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton would comprise the front row, Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg the second row, Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber the third row, and Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso the fourth row.

We understand, however, that this article of the code was designed to cover individual cases in the event of a session actually taking place and that grid order for the race would be at the FIA's discretion, with some suggesting that championship order would be a fairer method. Red Bull and particularly Mclaren could be expected to have different opinions!

In all likelihood, however, the situation will not arise, with meteorological equipment currently pointing to a dry or slightly damp session on Sunday morning.