Sochi final practice cancelled due to rain, qualifying could be postponed

The third practice session at the Russian Grand Prix has been cancelled due to heavy rain at the Sochi Autodrom on Saturday morning, with qualifying now at risk of being postponed.

The session was due to get underway at midday in Sochi, but after the Formula 2 support race was called off in the morning it soon became clear the practice session was unlikely to go ahead.

Qualifying is due to get underway at 3 p.m. local time, but is likely to be delayed if the weather fails to improve. The FIA issued a statement two hours before saying much will depend on whether the local roads and airport are open to allow a medical evacuation if necessary.

"An updated timetable has been issued with the next session being F1 qualifying at the originally scheduled time," the statement said. "While the conditions at the track have improved, there is still inclement weather in the local area that is affecting the airport and road network.

"This is why there won't be any running between now and F1 qualifying, by which time we expect the local airport to reopen so that our medical helicopter can return to being operational and the session can go ahead as planned."

FIA race director Michael Masi said if there is a break in the weather, the priority will be to hold F1 qualifying on Saturday afternoon but admitted there was a possibility that it will be postponed to Sunday morning.

"From what we are seeing from the forecast side, is that we will have this level of rain until about 1:30-2 p.m. local time and then it decreasing in the afternoon," Masi said. "The priority from today's perspective is obviously Formula One qualifying this afternoon, so Formula One will take priority."

Masi said a decision on running qualifying on Saturday would not only be determined by how wet the track is but also fading light in the early evening at Sochi.

"The determining factor this afternoon will be the light," Masi added. "So sunset locally is about 6:15 p.m., quarter past six in the evening, but with weather conditions like this obviously the light diminishes far earlier.

"So that will ultimately be our cut-off point. If qualifying isn't able to happen today, as we've seen a few times before in the past, then we will redo the programme and hold qualifying on Sunday morning."