The weather in Austin this weekend has taken no one by surprise. Just as was the case for the fateful 2014 Japanese GP, the weather forecast earlier this week accurately predicted what we are seeing. Thunderstorms, Lightening and localized flooding were all expected.
FP2 was right and properly cancelled yesterday because the medical helicopter was unable to fly and decisions on Saturday’s on track schedule are expected to be made by UK 13:00.
The weather forecast for today is expected to worsen and it could be there is no FP3 or qualifying possible. If this is the case and Qualifying cannot take place on Sunday morning, Charlie Whiting will most likely decide the starting order for the race will be based on FP1 times. This would see Red Bull start P2 and P3 on the grid on Sunday, with Rosberg on pole position and Hamilton down in 5th.
That said, the amount of rain due today added to the overnight downpour is increasing the chances of flooding and there being zero on track running today. The weather is set to improve on Sunday, though one senior paddock member told TJ13 the flooding and consequences may well yet see the race itself cancelled on Sunday. At present there are concerns over whether the roads into COTA may be closed.
Meanwhile, Mexico closed airspace yesterday as Hurricane Patricia became the strongest hurricane ever known to make landfall on the Pacific coast of Mexico after the centre of its eye crossed the coast of Jalisco state early Friday evening. This has caused some consternation over the planned logistics of getting F1 from Austin to Mexico on Monday.
Bernie Ecclestone commented yesterday as FP2 was cancelled, “there’s nothing we can do about the weather” and that the rain in Austin was “unexpected”. On the face of it, this is true, but in fact FOM and Ecclestone are again playing fast and loose with the F1 scheduling and likely weather patterns.
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1st to November 30th, and the Eastern Pacific hurricane season runs from May 15th to November 30th according to the National Hurricane Centre. The NHC is based at the Florida International University is the division of the United States’ National Weather Service responsible for tracking and predicting weather systems within the tropics.
Given this annual weather pattern it appears naive to claim a hurricane in the region and associated weather in Austin cannot be foreseen.
The summary of the investigation into the Bianchi crash in Suzuka 2014 published a list of recommendations and item 4 stated, “It is also recommended that the F1 Calendar is reviewed in order to avoid, where possible, races taking place during local rainy seasons”.
Clearly the continued scheduling of the US GP, the Mexican GP and the Japanese GP in September and October blatantly flouts this recommendation. Cutting Bernie some slack on the 2015 schedule, the report was published after this year’s calendar had been finalised. However, lessons are not being learned for 2016 because these three GP are all planned between October 9th and November 13th, again putting race weekends at risk of weather patterns, which are entirely predictable.
So when again spectators are disappointed by the weather and the race weekends are significantly affected, the cry of “there’s nothing we can do about the weather”, needs to be seen for what it is.
The good news for the returning Mexican GP is that Hurricane Patricia is losing strength. Reports within the hour say it has decreased from a category 4 to a category 1 and should soon become classified as a tropical storm.