Sochi To Suzuka

Morning everyone. Or afternoon, or evening. It’s difficult to know. Spy’s flying East...

There’s a mountain range down there, but which one it is, is anybody’s guess. Could be the Himalayas, could be the Urals, could be something Spy’s never heard of. This is what happens when your departure routine involves a very long day and quite a lot of heavy lifting. Basically, we’re heading for Japan, Spy has no idea when we’ll get there, but as soon as this is written, Spy’s going back to sleep. ‘Cos the chances of getting much more this week are pretty slim.

There are days when fifth and sixth is bad, and days when fifth and sixth is good. Happily, Sunday was one of the latter. Starting from the back of the grid, it’s the most we could realistically have hoped for – so, Mission: Accomplished.

Starting at the back was self-inflicted. There’s races left in 2018 we think we can win, and Sochi wasn’t one of them. Putting another set of engine bits in the pool maximises our chances in Japan, Austin and Mexico. That said, we looked a bit more rapid than expected in Russia. Not win-the-race rapid but potentially, squeak-a-podium rapid. Hindsight, of course, is a wonderful thing. As it was, Max drove a very Max-like race on his birthday. Daniel didn’t particularly have the opportunity to do his stuff: he lost a chunk of front wing on the first lap and spent the rest of a long first stint falling back. Such is the division in F1 at the moment, even a hobbled Daniel had enough pace to make the strategy work. Nice to have that capacity but obviously, it’s an item on the sport’s snag list.

But that’s yesterday’s news: Suzuka beckons; the Beast in the East. The Japanese Grand Prix gives everyone a boost. It’s just so damned joyful. Where else do you get people coming to the race dressed in frog costumes? Or brides wearing the full taffeta merengue doing hot laps while standing in the passenger seat of a convertible, waving to the crowd? Or Honda casually pulling an MP4/6 out of storage to remind everyone on the island of Honshu (and most of Kyushu) that an F1 3.5litre V12 engine is the loudest thing ever?

The enthusiasm for the race really is infectious. It’s pretty hard not to be enjoying yourself in the garage when everyone is so clearly enjoying themselves in the grandstands.  There’s a certain point of view that insists professionalism demands the ability to shut out the outside world. If that’s the case, Spy’s very, very unprofessional.* Why would you want to ignore that? What would be the point in going racing if you did?

Granted, it’s much nicer getting cheered in Suzuka than insulted at Interlagos – but the insults tend to be pretty funny too.** A lively crowd really makes a race. That and the chance of a good result. Two good reasons to be optimistic heading to Japan.

*Don’t you dare.

**Though some of that stuff’s anatomically impossible, you know that, right?