Michael Schumacher led the wet practice yesterday for the Japanese Grand Prix, as teams cast a wary eye to the skies with a typhoon approaching. \nA tropical storm with winds possibly up to 180kph is expected to hit the area today. Tomorrow may be clear and teams were reluctant to use their cars in the rain. \nPat Symonds, Renault's engineering director, was not optimistic about qualifying today. \n"We are expecting conditions to worsen tomorrow but Sunday should actually prove to be a mirror image of today with weather improving as the day goes on," Symonds said. \nIf the storm does hit today -- which could bring torrential rains dumping 40cm of rain in central Japan -- Formula One officials are looking into a number of options to determine the starting grid if qualifying is canceled. They include the possibility of starting the cars in the order of the last race or season standings. \nThat would put a Ferrari in the top spot -- either Barrichello, as the winner of the last race, or Schumacher, who is leading the season standings. \nSchumacher showed why he is considered the best driver in the rain. \nThe German was fastest in both sessions on the 5,807km Suzuka Circuit as teams ran only limited laps in the slick conditions. He did just five laps, his best being 1 minute 47.906 seconds in the morning. \nThen in the afternoon, with rain getting harder throughout the one-hour session, he did 1:45.388. \n"Now we have to wait and see what happens tomorrow with the weather," Schumacher said. "Already today it was almost impossible to drive and if conditions get worse, which seem likely, I don't think we could go out on the track." \nAlthough the rain was steady, it was not hard compared to typhoon conditions. More than half the 25 cars had some kind of sliding problems or went off the track. \nSecond in the both sessions was Giancarlo Fisichella in a Sauber. He recorded 1:48.362 early, then improved to 1:46.102. Kimi Raikkonen of McLaren, one of two-non-Ferrari winners this season, was third in the afternoon with 1:46.749. \nSchumacher's Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello was third in the early session and fourth in the later practice. \n"As much as I like driving in the wet, today's conditions have made it almost impossible to do any meaningful work," Barrichello said. "I was not even pushing on the straights and it was not worth it." \nBarrichello had pole position last year at 1:31.7. He has won the last two races -- the Italian and Chinese Grand Prix -- taking advantage of some unusual mistakes by his teammate and seven-time world F1 driving champion. \nSchumacher has spun in the last two races, and had another spinout in qualifying at the new Shanghai circuit that put him at the back of the pack. Barrichello, meanwhile, finished first in each race to give Ferrari a total of 14 victories in 16 races so far this season -- losing only to Raikkonen and Jarno Trulli. \nThis season, Raikkonen had his problems at the start of the season, failing to finish five of the first seven races. However he won August's Belgian Grand Prix, where Schumacher secured the season title with a second place. \nTrulli makes a return to Formula One after missing last race. He was dropped by Renault for poor recent showings after winning the Monaco Grand Prix in May and will debut for his new team, Toyota, this weekend. \nTrulli had a 14th in both the morning and afternoon sessions. \nBAR-Honda -- led by Jenson Button's third in the individual standings -- and Renault are battling for second spot in the team standings, with BAR ahead by nine points. \nJacques Villeneuve, who replaced Trulli at Renault, said the conditions were terrible. \n"The car was aquaplaning a lot, which meant it was actually floating on the track surface and the driver had no control," Villeneuve said. \nIronically, rain affected last year's qualifying in Japan. \nBarrichello set a fastest lap of 1:31.7. Within 10 minutes a sudden shower came and wet the track, and Schumacher had the 14th fastest time, almost ruining his title chances.
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