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SPY: ESSES EXPRESS

Oh Suzuka! To paraphrase the chant from the terraces, can we play here every week? At the end of a back-to-back, Spy’s normally the most eager of eager beavers to pack up and go home, but I could stay in Suzuka all month. All year really. F1 calendar consisting of 21 races at Suzuka? Yeah, sign me up.

Spy’s unusual level of late-season cheerfulness is, of course, buttressed by an excellent podium for young Max and a possibly-slightly-more-excellent fourth for Daniel. Fifth and sixth in Sochi; third and fourth in Japan. Looking good for Austin, isn’t it? 

It was nice to get a decent result because Saturday had been a bit of a let-down. Max’s third position was good but everyone felt bad for Daniel. At the moment, Saturday’s are not his friend. He’s keeping a lid on it (for obvious reasons) but the body language didn’t need much translation: if anger could be converted into downforce, he’d be flat through Spoon.

Happily, Daniel may be the best overtaker in F1* and did his usual thing of sprinting through the field like a greased cheetah. Just ahead of him, there was a moment where it looked like Max might have a sniff of taking the battle to the Mercedes. We weren’t exactly on the edge of our seats but there was definitely a certain leaning forward in the chairs. There are bits of Suzuka where the RB14 is in its natural element. Sadly, there are others where it isn’t and the best he could do was put the frighteners on Valtteri – and give the fans seated above the Esses the chance to see two F1 cars flying while still touching the ground. TV doing its best to convey the power and the glory of these cars flicking left and right at seemingly impossible speeds – but there’s really no substitute for being there in person.

Of course, if you watch the race replayed in years to come, you may be forgiven for thinking it’s happening at a different circuit entirely. One of the bizararities at Suzuka this weekend were the many billboards proclaiming ‘Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps’. Nobody in the grandstands was going to fall for it but plenty of people in the paddock will have had a moment of doubt. You build your garage to be the same every week** and those flashes of dislocation aren’t uncommon when the races are coming thick and fast – so it’s a bit unkind for the circuits to go out of their way to confuse and disorientate.

Turns out this isn’t some cruel and unusual trick but a cross-marketing campaign between Spa and Suzuka. Spy, frankly, thinks it all a bit smug. Yes, they’re the best circuits in motorsport, but do they really have to rub it in by forming a gang? The cool kids have decided to sit together in class and everyone else just has to suffer in their shadow.

But if they’re going to do it, couldn’t they have given the advertising a little more clarity? Maybe ‘visit the Circuit Spa-Francorchamps’? Or, Spa-Francorchamps: it’s in Belgium and Really Good for Motor Racing Too.’ That would have been useful.

*quite possibly because he gets a lot of practice,

**F1 is difficult enough without having to play ‘hunt the spanner.’