M ichael Schmidt and I spend the Monday after the GP Russia in the editorial office. Our plane left Sochi in the night from Sunday to Monday. I write two follow-up reports on the race and put the finishing touches to my stories in our “Motorsport aktuell” magazine. Together we are shooting a new episode “Formula Schmidt”. We are tired but struggle through the day. We'll be back on the road on Tuesday. We take off from Frankfurt at 1:45 p.m. and land in Osaka a day later at around 7:30 a.m.
As usual, I'm flying in economy class. At the counter, I wanted to upgrade myself to Premium Eco or Business with miles, but unfortunately this was not possible. My booking class did not allow an upgrade. My ticket was too cheap. From Osaka we take two trains to Shiroko, where our hotel is located - about 15 minutes by bus to the race track. The train ride costs 4,340 yen. That's the equivalent of about 34 euros.
Old racing car exhibition
I have to pull myself together. Fatigue creeps through my limbs. A couple of times my eyes close. But if I sleep on the train now, I'll pay for it with a sleepless night. If I hold out, the jet lag will be over. I could hardly sleep on the plane, although the space next to me remained free and I could at least spread out a little. At least it didn't get boring. Live football sweetened my flight of over 11 hours.
When you arrive at the racetrack, the tiredness will have vanished. The Japanese GP is my highlight of the season. The country, the culture, the humble people, the enthusiastic fans, the racetrack - and let's not forget the food: that's itcomplete package. I will travel to the land of the rising sun for the second time in 2018. In May I attended a Super GT race in Fuji. Five months later I'm in Suzuka. It's my 30th career race and at the same time the 30th race in history in Suzuka.
We are the first at the racetrack, reserve our seats with a view of the home straight, take photos. Suzuka is no slouch. The organizer is exhibiting old racing models and the 2018 Honda engine in the amusement park. The racing cars: the Lotus 99T from 1987, the McLaren MP4 /6 from 1991 and the Honda PA 106 from 2006. As the sun goes down while we admire the old racing cars, I feel very happy. Sometimes you have to pinch yourself to realize that you are not dreaming, but actually traveling around the world with the Formula 1 entourage.
Vettel too stormy
Communicate after dinner We plan to take the 8:25 am shuttle from Shiroko to Suzuka the next morning. Meeting point in the lobby: 8:10 a.m. I'll be downstairs at 8:07 a.m. Nothing to see from colleague Schmidt. I wait, wait and wait. At 8:15 am I pull the rip cord. Maybe he overslept. His alarm clock isn't exactly the most reliable. And Michael doesn't own a cell phone. At the reception I was told in crumbling English that my colleague had already deposited his key. He left without me. When I arrive at the bus station, the bus is driving right in front of my nose. I followed suit. I'm lucky: I catch the bus at the second red light. Colleague Schmidt asks: “Where have you been? Meeting point 8:00 am. “I tell him that we agreed on 8:10 am. Anyway ...
It's a quiet press day with no big stories. I'm on the media laps of the two Red Bull drivers, Lewis Hamilton, Sergio Perez, Nico Hülkenberg, Charles Leclerc and Guenther Steiner, and I'm following the press conference. I also meet engineers from various teams in the paddock.
A training Friday, which is boring for Suzuka standards, is followed by an exciting qualifying Saturday. It goes on like in Monza and Singapore. Mercedes and LewisHamilton manages practically anything. Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel practically nothing. In the third part of the qualification, Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen are the only drivers to start out with the intermediate tire. Too bad it's not raining. So back to the pits, pick up slicks. Räikkönen managed his only shot on the supersofts without any major mistakes. Vettel, on the other hand, slips too far out in the spoon curve. Ninth on the grid, a disaster.
On race Sunday, the World Championship runner-up was caught in the same corner. Vettel bravely starts, but then takes on Verstappen and turns off the track. The 21-year-old let him run up and threw him the door at the last moment in the Spoon curve. Vettel falls all the way back. His second race to catch up ends in sixth place. Hamilton increased the championship lead with another victory. He's unstoppable.
Indeed: delayed trains
We've probably told you about our sushi bar every year. So I will be brief in this diary. Feast for the palate would be an understatement. We have often written that the Japanese trains are reliable in contrast to ours. This time there are deductions in the B grade. Once our train, which is supposed to take us from Shiroko to Yokaichi to the sushi restaurant, comes five minutes late. A colleague got it worse on race Sunday. His train is delayed for over an hour. Yes, Japan is fallible too. But be forgiven this sympathetic country.