Paddock Postcard from Suzuka 04 Oct 2009
While Fuji Speedway proved a popular venue with teams, drivers and media there is no mistaking the feeling here that Suzuka, with a track layout that McLarens Lewis Hamilton described as the best I have ever driven is the spiritual home of the Japanese Grand Prix.
The huge modifications to the old cramped paddock have been very well received, and the atmosphere of wellbeing was tangible.
Many faces from Japans rich Formula One history paid visits, notably Ukyo Katayama and Satoru Nakajima, the latter on one of his rare appearances to watch son Kazuki race. Takuma Sato was also much in evidence. The former Super Aguri racer is still hugely popular in his homeland and looked in peak condition ready to jump back into a car at a moments notice as he seeks a drive for 2010.
Ralf Schumacher was also on hand, deputising on Austrian TV for Niki Lauda, who recently became a father again.
Younger Japanese fans thrilled to an appearance by Kinki Kids band star Koichi Demoto.
Sunday morning was enlivened in the garden area of the Paddock Club by the traditional Kagamibiraki welcome ceremony when Akihiko Noro, the Governor of Mie Prefecture, Mitsuo Kawagishi, the Mayor of Suzuka City and Hiroshi Oshima, the President of circuit owner Mobilityland Corporation performed the opening of a barrel of sake to the accompaniment of Japanese Eisa dance and drums.
Earlier in the week, Brawn GP team principal Ross Brawn and the teams championship leader Jenson Button took time out of their busy schedules to make a pit stop at Bridgestone's Technical Centre in Tokyo to meet, greet and motivate factory staff and tyre engineers.