Having twice announced that qualifying for the Japanese GP would be delayed by half an hour in an attempt to let conditions improve after persistent rain blighted Saturday's programme, race stewards finally decided to postpone the session until Sunday morning.

With just two drivers setting lap times in final free practice, speculation rose over the viability of qualifying, with suggestions that, with track conditions prompting extreme aquaplaning, the session could be deferred.

"It does not look like it will ease off enough tonight," Reuters quoted Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn as saying before the decision was finalised, "It gets dark about five o'clock, so four o'clock will be the cut-off time.

"The scenario we imagine is that there will be qualifying tomorrow morning and it will probably still be damp, so that'll be interesting - although the forecast is for conditions to improve and for there to be a dry race."

The postponement is not a first for Suzuka, with the 2004 race having its qualifying session similarly delayed by a passing typhoon, but determination to get the grid decided on Saturday has resulted in a short delay to evaluate the conditions.

Should the rain not relent, and the track continues to prove too treacherous for qualifying on Sunday morning, it is expected that the field will line up in entry list order, giving Jenson Button pole by virtue of being reigning world champion. Lewis Hamilton would start alongside his fellow Briton, with Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg on row two for Mercedes. Points leader Mark Webber would be only sixth, one place behind Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel, with the fifth title contender, Fernando Alonso, on the outside of row four.

"Given the torrential rain we've had throughout the day, the decision to assess conditions and then to finally postpone qualifying until tomorrow is the right one," Force India team manager Andy Stevenson insisted, "The rain hasn't abated and, when the decision was taken, the light was also fading, so for a potential 24 cars to be on track at the same time was just too much of a risk.

"We fully support the decision of the FIA and the promoters and will now put our efforts into optimising our performance for qualifying and the race tomorrow."

Qualifying is slated to take place at 1000hrs local time, following an 0930hrs track inspection.


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