FIA playing a waiting game over qualifying; Sunday session likely
FIA race director Michael Masi is to adopt a wait-and-see approach with regard to Styrian Grand Prix qualifying before making a final judgment call on whether to postpone until Sunday morning.
Heavy rain over the Red Bull Ring has already led to the F3 race being red-flagged after 14 laps and the cancellation of final practice.
While it appears highly unlikely qualifying will take place on Saturday afternoon, Masi is prepared to hold fire on a decision for as long as possible.
"We will wait and see when qualifying comes about at the scheduled time of 1500 hours, 3pm [2pm BST], and evaluate the weather conditions at that point," Masi told Sky Sports F1.
"If the conditions are similar to now we will delay the start of qualifying and just continue to evaluate as time goes on and see. The likelihood is, from what we are seeing forecast-wise, it will continue. We just need to make a judgment as the day progresses."
One of the key concerns for Masi is not just the safety of the drivers on track, but also whether the medical helicopter can fly should it be required following any incident.
"Our primary receiving hospital is an hour away, or an hour-and-a-half away by road, in Graz, and the medical helicopter, because of the cloud we can see around us, can't fly at the moment," added Masi.
"With the medical helicopter unable to take off, that's another factor into the equation, and we wouldn't start any session without that possibility at this venue. Obviously, it's different case by case."
Masi confirmed that aside from the FIA's official weather provider, Météo France, providing updates, there is also an on-site meteorologist, while safety car driver Bernd Maylander and medical car driver Andy van der Merwe can also be utilised to assess track conditions.
As to the likelihood of a Sunday qualifying session, Masi said: "It will be an earlier start for all of us, and a busy day. If we can't qualify tomorrow, and with FP3 not having happened, we will rely on the free practice two times yesterday.
"The teams were all advised yesterday morning that in the case of qualifying and FP3 not happening, we would revert back to FP2 times, so there was an increased level of technical checking from our side during FP2 and following FP2 to make sure that was the case, if by chance it does set the grid.
"At the moment we would probably aim for a 10am qualifying tomorrow, and then the race would commence as scheduled."
F1 has been in this position before, most recently last year in Japan when Typhoon Hagibis forced the postponement of qualifying that then took place on Sunday morning, similarly with the 2015 United States GP.
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