The Undercut: Japanese Grand Prix preview
Our man @GrandPrixDiary is setting his alarm clock for Suzuka
And so to the Japanese Grand Prix, the race where TV viewers in far flung time zones can have a good laugh at us Brits, having to get up before sparrows fart to watch a race.
In days gone by, I used to frequent a village pub, where the landlord was a certified F1 nut. The Japanese Grand Prix weekend was always a good one. We’d have a lock-in and push right through to the start of the race, where beer would be replaced with a fry-up and some much-needed strong coffee. I’m tired just thinking about doing that these days.
Each year, the event became a bit more of a party, fancy dress or pyjamas had to be worn. It was all very mad, though at the 1991 bash I met my current wife, so I have fond memories of this race. It was a shame, when during the 1992 party, Mr Plod knocked on the window around 3am and suggested we might all like to go home. That then, was the end of that. Happy days.
You don’t have to be mad to be a McLaren Honda fan but it helps (Pic: Sutton)
Wind forward 25 years and this one is still one of those you’d get up in the dark to watch. While not always the case, Japan, being at the end of the year, can often be the title decider. Indeed, 13 World Championships have been won during the 30 Japanese Grands Prix held.
That can’t happen this weekend of course, with five races to go there are a lot of points to be won and lost, though if Ferrari continue to shoot themselves in the foot (sometimes both feet) then the bloke who looks after the trophy cabinet in Brackley might need to think about making some space free.
The wheels, quite literally, continue to fall off Ferrari’s title bid (Pic: Sutton)
After Ferrari’s Malaysian debacle, Sebastian Vettel’s astonishing run to fourth aside, Damon Hill tweeted that it was like a big red carpet was being laid out for Lewis Hamilton’s fourth title.
You can just imagine, seeing how defeat is being slowly plucked from the jaws of victory, Ferrari boss, Sergio Marchionne, running around his Maranello office, shouting “DON’T PANIC! DON’T PANIC!” in true Lance Corporal Jones style.
As for the constructors title, that is all over bar the shouting. Mercedes are a points scoring machine. On 503 points, they have 146 more than Force India, Williams, Toro Rosso, Renault, Haas, McLaren and Sauber all combined.
F1 news since Malaysia has been a bit thin on the ground. Haas would like the Sepang Circuit to cough up for the damage they sustained due to a dodgy drain cover. Apparently it may be covered by insurance. I’d love to see the claim form. ‘Please draw a sketch of the accident and tell us what happened’.
Haas left Malaysia with no points and an estimated $750,00 repair bill. Draining (Pic: Sutton)
Elsewhere, Williams are to test Robert Kubica and Paul di Resta in a shoot-out to see who, if anybody, is to replace Felipe Massa next year. Like many, I’d like to see the great story that would be a Kubica return but how on earth are the young guns, the next Jenson Buttons, going to get a chance in F1 when teams do this? I know the Martini sponsorship dictates an older driver but Paul di Resta? Really?
Looking at the future of F1? (Pic: Sutton)
So, what to expect this weekend?
Red Bull, first and third in Malaysia, seem to be getting stronger every weekend as the title battle seems to be taking its toll on Mercedes and Ferrari, so they may well be in the mix again.
Suzuka though is a track that should suit Merc (although to be fair, they still win on tracks that don’t suit them) and if Lewis get’s pole number 71 then you’d have to bet on him to do the business, even if his team-mate’s lack of form means he might struggle to get anywhere near enough to perform his rear gunner role.
It is of course a home race for Honda but short of asking near neighbour, Kim Jong-un for one of his nice rockets to stick in the back of the McLaren, we can expect the usual direness.
Honda need a boost for Suzuka
As usual, I (@GrandPrixDiary) will be tweeting live over the weekend, so throw in your witty observations and you may make the DriveTribe Twitter race review.
And don't forget to join us for qualifying and the race in the F1-Live chat channel.
Set those alarm clocks!