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Russian GP practice cancelled at rain-lashed Sochi but qualifying in the clear

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Russian GP: The final practice session was cancelled on Saturday morning after torrential rain left the Sochi circuit under water.

With conditions steadily improving organisers confirmed qualifying for Sunday’s 15th round of the Formula One season would go ahead as planned at 14h00 local time (1200GMT).

Russian GP practice cancelled

“An updated timetable has been issued with the next session being F1 qualifying at the originally scheduled time,” a statement from the sport’s ruling body the FIA read.

The third and final practice session had been scheduled for 0800GMT.

The FIA statement added: “While the conditions at the track have improved, there is still inclement weather in the local area that is affecting the airport and road network.

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“This is why there won’t be any running between now and F1 qualifying, by which time we expect the local airport to reopen so that our medical helicopter can return to being operational and the session can go ahead as planned.”

Race director Michael Masi, speaking earlier Saturday, reported: “As we can see already this morning, the weather has gone up and down like a yoyo and the intensity of the rain has started increasing with some thunder already joining us.

“From what we’ve seen from the forecast we will have this level of rain to 1.30 to 2pm local time (10:30-11:00 GMT) and then decreasing. Priority… is Formula One qualifying.”

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A Formula 3 race scheduled for Saturday was run on Friday evening in anticipation of the bad weather. A Formula 2 sprint race, scheduled for Saturday, was postponed, with F1’s official twitter account posting a video of lightning cracking above the rain-washed track and the caption “WHOA!”.

Championship leader Max Verstappen took to twitter, posting: “So far, today brings lots of rain. Let’s see how the day will go,” with a photo of the driver under a Red Bull umbrella.

Typhoons delayed qualifying to Sunday at the Japan Grand Prix in 2004, 2010 and 2019.

This is the second time this season that rain has disrupted the championship. 

A deluge at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, at the end of August, ended the race after just three minutes with Dutchman Max Verstappen (Red Bull) awarded the win ahead of Williams’ George Russell and Lewis Hamilton. 

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In accordance with the rules, the drivers were awarded half points.

On a track where they have won every race since 2014, Mercedes dominated free practice on Friday, with Finn Valtteri Bottas ahead of seven-time champion Hamilton. 

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Verstappen has a five-point championship lead over Hamilton but the Dutchman will start at the back of the grid on Sunday after his team opted to put a new engine in his car.

Hamilton is aiming for his fifth success in Sochi to bring his career total to an unprecedented 100 wins.

© Agence France-Presse

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