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Paddock Postcard from Japan 13 Oct 2013

Fans of Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Preparations, Suzuka, Japan, Thursday, 10 October 2013 Max Chilton (GBR) Marussia F1 Team, Rodolfo Gonzalez (VEN) Marussia F1 Team and Jules Bianchi (FRA) Marussia F1 Team at a sushi event.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Preparations, Suzuka, Japan, Thursday, 10 October 2013 The helmet of Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 11 October 2013 (L to R): Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari; Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) Ferrari and Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari, are interviewed.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Preparations, Suzuka, Japan, Thursday, 10 October 2013 Aguri Suzuki (JPN), far left, with Satoru Nakajima (JPN) centre, Kazuki Nakajima (JPN), and Daisuki Nakajima (JPN) with the The Tyrrell Honda 020, left, and Lotus 101, right.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Suzuka, Japan, Saturday, 12 October 2013 Banner in memory of Maria De Villota (ESP).
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 13 October 2013

The Formula One fraternity always loves coming to Japan. Not only is the iconic Suzuka circuit one of the best on the calendar, but one can’t help be overwhelmed by the sheer knowledge and enthusiasm of the Japanese fans.

This was very much in evidence, even on Thursday, as the teams and drivers were welcomed by endless banners, hats, puppets, flags and costumes created by spectators in honour of their F1 heroes. The Japanese fans must surely win the 'most inventive, supportive and fun award'. There were even some sporting mock onboard cameras on their heads!

Of course, the drivers also made an effort to ‘go Japanese’. Thursday at Marussia saw Jules Bianchi, Max Chilton and tester Rodolfo Gonzalez participating in the obligatory sushi-making event, while McLaren’s Jenson Button - a particular favourite here thanks in part to girlfriend Jessica Michibata - has a special helmet for the weekend featuring sumo wrestlers and ‘JB’ in Japanese script.

There were a number of familiar faces in the paddock. Emanuele Pirro was once again the driver steward having performed the duties also in Korea, while reserve/test drivers James Calado, Sam Bird and Alex Rossi were learning more about Japanese lifestyle and the Suzuka track for their respective Force India, Mercedes and Caterham teams.

Toyota sportscar racer Alex Wurz was in Japan ready for next week’s World Endurance Championship counter in Fuji, while former F1 star Kamui Kobayashi - on the podium here for Sauber last year - was in the Ferrari garage the whole weekend, linked by his own sportscar racing with the Scuderia.

FIA President Jean Todt also made a visit, as did Bridgestone’s former head of motorsport Hiroshi Yasukawa who was on business with Dorna, the organisation which runs MotoGP. Former Lotus and Tyrrell F1 racer Satoru Nakajima proved as popular as ever with the highly enthusiastic fans, who were treated to some demonstrations of historic F1 machinery which included one of his Lotus 101-Judds and a Tyrrell 019.

The paddock was saddened with the news on Friday that former Marussia test driver Maria de Villota had died that morning in her native Spain, where on Monday she had been due to launch her biography, ‘Life is a gift’.

De Villota sustained life-threatening head injuries and lost her right eye in a straight-line testing accident last July, but went on to make a strong recovery and continued to be involved in racing, becoming an FIA Ambassador for Women in Motorsport. There will be a minute’s silence in her memory ahead of the race and drivers will be sporting her star logo on their cars and helmets.

For more pictures from Suzuka, check out our Paddock Postcard gallery.

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