Sochi (Russia) (AFP)

As the rain finally eases over Sochi, qualifying for the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix is ​​held on time (2 p.m.), the International Automobile Federation said on Saturday.

"Although the conditions on the circuit have improved, there is still bad weather in the area which affects the airport and the road network. That is why there will be no race until qualifying for the F1 ", specifies the FIA.

"We hope that the local airport will be reopened by then so that our medical helicopter can become operational again and the session can take place as planned."

Free practice 3 of the GP was canceled at the end of the morning "for safety reasons", when the rain, which has fallen since night in Sochi, had turned into an intense thunderstorm.

In the worst of the weather, on the F2 and F3 paddock, the mechanics had water up to their ankles, according to videos posted by French driver Victor Martins.

It must be said that the Russian circuit is particularly flat, so water is difficult to evacuate.

Sochi circuit of the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix on September 26 Vincent LEFAI AFP

As race director Michael Masi has assured, F1 qualifying is "a priority".

If the weather permits, they will then be followed by the F2 race postponed on Saturday morning.

Nightfall will be another constraint, especially as "in such weather conditions, the brightness decreases much earlier," Masi recalled.

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"If the qualifications could not be held on Saturday, (...) they will take place on Sunday morning," he added.

It has already happened, especially during the Japanese GPs in 2004, 2010 and 2019 because of the passage of typhoons.

Anticipating the bad weather, the first of three F3 races scheduled for this weekend was held late Friday afternoon, instead of Saturday morning.

This is the second time this season that the rain has disrupted an F1 GP.

Under the deluge in Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, at the end of August, the race lasted just over three minutes before devoting the Dutchman Max Verstappen (Red Bull), ahead of the British George Russell (Williams) and Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) .

Employees at the edge of the Russian F1 Grand Prix circuit after the cancellation of free practice 3, September 25, 2021 in Sochi Alexander NEMENOV AFP

In accordance with the regulations, half of the points were awarded at the end of this non-GP in dire conditions, behind the safety car, while overtaking was impossible, causing a deluge of criticism against the organizers of the championship.

Hamilton himself referred to "a scenario for the money", which F1 president Stefano Domenicali denied.

On a track where they have been unbeaten since 2014, the Mercedes dominated free practice in Russia on Friday, with Finland's Valtteri Bottas ahead of his British teammate.

In the drivers' standings, Verstappen is five points ahead of the seven-time world champion, but the Dutchman will start at the back of the grid on Sunday, penalized for an engine change beyond the limit authorized per season.

© 2021 AFP

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