J apan is one of my favorite races. First, because of the racetrack. Suzuka is simply incomparable. This is how all racetracks should be. A roller coaster at the highest level. Second, the country. Japan is a different planet, but it's kind of cool. Because everything is so far from what we know. The language, the food, the customs. The taxi drivers are wearing gloves, the trains are on time, the prices are steep, there are hot drinks at vending machines, and change is presented to you on a tray with a bow and not just pressed into your hand.
Small talk with Nick Heidfeld
The journey to Suzuka is a bit difficult. A relay of airplane, train and taxi. Takes just as long as to Australia. I'm a little poor on my feet this time because I tore the ligaments in my right ankle the previous weekend. After an eleven hour flight, I meet Nick Heidfeld on arrival in Tokyo. The queue in front of customs is stately, which is due to the fact that the Japanese are now taking fingerprints and taking photos in response to the immigration harassment in the USA. So it is right. But you should limit it to Americans.
The waiting gives the opportunity to chat about the Pirelli tires. When I asked whether Michael Schumacher had hoped for nothing that the Pirelli tires would be better than the Bridgestone rollers, Nick replied: 'I can reassure him about what Michael is asking of the tire. It will better. '
Race to the track
Heidfeld chooses a different variant than me to get from Tokyo's Narita Airport to Suzuka. He flies to Nagoya and is picked up there by a driver from Sauber. I trust the economy variant: Narita Express, a kind of suburban train, to Tokyo, from there on the Nozomi super high-speed train in 1.40 hours to Nagoya, then with the slow train to Shiroko, and finally by taxi to the hotel and to the Route. We are in the paddock almost at the same time. Heidfeld beats me for a quarter of an hour. VIP service.
When I flew to the Land of the Rising Sun for the first time in 1988, trips to Japan were still adventure trips. You had to know exactly which bus, train or taxi to get on and where to get off in order not to get lost. It took a while to decipher the train tickets. The trick was to correctly match the numbers to the train number, wagon and seat.They were the only thing that could be read. Unfortunately, the date caused confusion. It was not immediately recognizable as a date, because the Japanese do not write a year according to our model, but the number of years that the current emperor is already in office. So it could have been the train number. Today none of this is a problem. Everything has subtitles in our font, and more and more people speak English.
Stuttgart 21 is busy in Japan too
When I get on the Shinkansen at Tokyo Central Station, the argument falls over me Stuttgart 21 a. Maybe the head of the railway, Grube, should travel to Japan before he campaigns for the through station in Stuttgart. Japan plays in the Champions League with its trains. In contrast, Deutsche Bahn is a regional league at best. Japan's trains are fast, clean and always punctual to the second. Really to the second. So if the most efficient railway system in the world with its Tokyo hub can afford a terminus, then one wonders why a village like Stuttgart needs a through station for so many billions.
Tiny hotel rooms
Many colleagues hate Japan. The TV reporters prefer to take the train for two hours every day just so that they can continue to enjoy western comfort in the boring Marriott Hotel in Nagoya. The hotel rooms in the country are so small that people with large luggage have to ask themselves: Does the suitcase live in the room or I? Even though we've stayed in the same hotel for so many years, checking in is always a bigger act. Here in the country, English is still a real foreign language. It takes a while for the receptionist to find our names on the computer. It doesn't help that they already know our noses.
Marcus Schurig arrived an hour before me. My colleague Grüner is skipping again. On Wednesday afternoon there are still dead pants in the paddock. Only Alonso cycles around the course. I ask Charlie Whiting how things are going with Korea, the Ghost Grand Prix that is supposed to take place in two weeks. He tells me that it is paved right now. Very reassuring. In the evening, sushi and sashimi are all the rage. As every year, we invite Ecclestone caterer Karlheinz Zimmermann and his team to our little bar in Yokkaichi. The landlord makes good business.
Qualification on Sunday
Friday is business as usual. But nothing happens on Saturday. As announced, the big rain is coming, but nobody thought that it would be so bad. So no qualification on Saturday, but on Sunday morning. That sounds familiar to us. We had it before in 2004 because of the typhoon, which never came. Colleague Schurig was also there at the time. In 2004, members of the circus were banned from driving to the track on Saturday. So on Friday we celebrated until four in the morning in an apocalyptic mood. And on Saturday for the typhoonwaited. However, he decided at short notice to devastate Tokyo and rush past Suzuka.
This time only a lot of water comes from the sky. On Sunday the sun shines as if nothing had ever happened. Like last year it will be a Vettel Day. Mark Webber is in a terrible hurry after the race. He really wants to go to Australia that same night, but has to catch a helicopter to Tokyo for the 8.30am machine. 'Sorry, I booked this in March,' grins the Aussie. Because of him, the minutes of the press conference are changed. All questions to the runner-up first. Then Mark can leave. When Red Bull took its winning photo with the team, a mechanic dragged Webber into the pit garage as a cardboard comrade.
Mount Fuji brings good luck
As always, it will be a long night in the press center. We are at the hotel at half past one in the morning. The next day, auto motor und sport photographer Dani Reinhard and I take the train back to Tokyo. Mount Fuji stretches its summit above the cloud cover. The Japanese claim that it is lucky when you see it. Dani takes a few photos for the album out of the moving train at 350 km /h. Unfortunately the characteristic snow dome is missing. It must have been a hot summer in Japan. The Japan excursion ends in Tokyo with a sushi meal. Must be, even if Tokyo is abnormally expensive. We have to wait another year before we can go to Japan again.