Rain delays in the 2013 F1 season opener

  • Ferrari's Felipe Massi during the first day of pre-season testing a month ago. Photo: PA Wire.

    The fine, powdery dust typical of what would have covered the race track after the sandstorms in Bahrain. Photo: PA Wire.

    Mechanics in the Vodafone McLaren garage sweep out rain water after a storm floods the garage during a practice session at Monza, Italy. Photo: PA Wire.

  • Rain delays in the 2013 F1 season opener
    16.03.2013 15:34


    The first round of the 2013 Formula 1 World Championship kicks off in Melbourne this weekend. However, teams barely had the chance to get their bearings on the track before the most unpredictable element of Grand Prix racing reared its head – the weather. Happily, Friday’s practice sessions were completed in dry conditions, whilst rain threatened to derail final practice on Saturday afternoon. Later that evening, only the first part of qualifying managed to run whilst rain fell, before a wet track and fading daylight forced organisers to postpone Q2 and Q3 until early on Sunday morning.

    The highly competitive world of Formula 1 forces teams to control as many aspects of the race weekend as possible. However, as the opening round of the new season has already shown, the elements remain the one truly unruly factor with which to contend; a fact that has remained unchanged through racing history. Let’s take a look back at some of the more notable weather-beaten races from the past…


    Japan, 2010 rain

    The last time Saturday qualifying had to be postponed was in the Japanese round of the 2010 season. Standing water lay on the track at Suzuka after heavy overnight rain, forcing the whole qualifying to be shifted to before the race on Sunday.

    Japan, 2004 typhoon

    After two washout practice sessions on the Friday, and with the imminent arrival of Typhoon Ma-On, organisers pre-emptively cancelled all running for the following day. As occurred on the same circuit six years later, qualifying was deferred to Sunday morning, before the race itself. The precautionary measures were in vain in the end as the Typhoon took a different path, although the track remained wet for the start of the rescheduled qualifying session.

    Brazil, 2003 rain

    Another rain-hit event, this time during the race itself. Heavy rain both before and during the race caused a topsy-turvy running order due to tyre choice and driver retirements. Even the ‘rain master’ and reigning champion Michael Schumacher succumbed to a spin-off in the washout conditions. A red flag was brought out following a heavy collision, leading to confusion as to the true winner of the race. After the trophy was metaphorically bounced between both Giancarlo Fisichella and Kimi Räikkönen it was the former who was finally declared the winner.

    Canada, 2011 rain

    Surely one of the most notable washout races in the recent past. Even before the red lights went out, it had been declared a wet race, leading to cars being led off the start line behind the safety car. Ensuing downpours led to multiple tyre changes, various race leaders and several spin-offs and collisions. As a result, the safety car was deployed a total of six times through the race; the most in any race in history. The race was suspended for around two hours whilst marshals attempted to clear standing water from the sodden track, leading to a record-breaking total race length of 4 hours and 4 minutes.

    Japan, 1976 rain and fog

    The inaugural Japanese Grand Prix at the Mount Fuji circuit was also the championship-decider between James Hunt and Niki Lauda. Yet again, rain compromised running condition in the lead-up to the race, prompting some drivers to argue against the race going ahead at all. In the end, the full field of drivers set off into a blur of rain and fog. The lack of visibility and treacherous track conditions led to several drivers pulling out of the race, including one of the title rivals, Lauda. It was then up to Hunt to make his way through the rest of the race on an increasingly dry circuit. His eventual, and surprising, third place finish allowed Hunt to clinch the title from Lauda, who had to watch helplessly from the sidelines.

    Bahrain, 2009 sandstorm

    Although rain is the most likely culprit in a disrupted race weekend, the introduction of Formula 1 to the Middle East has brought another element into contention – sandstorms. Sand is highly undesirable both in terms of the running of the car and slippery track conditions. Bahrain in 2009 saw two days of pre-season testing lost as teams sheltered from sands whipped up by strong winds. 

    As for the Australian Grand Prix this weekend, Sunday’s proceedings should run largely interrupted – there will be sunny spells with just the chance of a shower to keep the teams guessing.

    By: Laura Caldwell