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Paddock Postcard from Suzuka 10 Oct 2010

(L to R): Sakon Yamamoto (JPN) Hispania Racing F1 Team (HRT) with Takuma Sato (JPN).
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Preparations, Suzuka, Japan, Thursday, 7 October 2010 (L to R): Ralf Schumacher (GER) with brother Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes GP.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Suzuka, Japan, Saturday, 9 October 2010 Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Ferrari. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 8 October 2010 Takuma Sato (JPN) with the Bridgestone kart.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Preparations, Suzuka, Japan, Thursday, 7 October 2010 Takuma Sato (JPN) with a Box Kart competitor.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Japanese Grand Prix, Preparations, Suzuka, Japan, Thursday, 7 October 2010

Though Saturday’s rain did its best to dampen the Suzuka paddock, there were several familiar faces in evidence.

Takuma Sato and his manager Matthew Winter made an appearance from IndyCars, and the former Super Aguri star remains hugely popular with the Japanese race goers. So does Giancarlo Fisichella, who was on Ferrari duty and doubtless appreciated signs opposite the pits telling him how much his fans want him to return to Formula One racing.

Fellow former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher hung out with his big brother, Michael, while deputising on Austrian TV for Niki Lauda, and Karl Wendlinger was a welcome visitor at BMW Sauber. Toyota may be gone from F1, but manager Tadashi ‘George’ Yamashima made a cheerful comeback.

The recent deaths of Team Lotus stalwarts Trevor Taylor and Peter Warr evoked happy memories of both in conversations through the paddock, particularly as the latter won the 1963 Japanese Grand Prix driving a Lotus 23 sportscar.

It has been a special weekend for Japanese tyre manufacturer Bridgestone, who will handover their role as Formula One racing’s official supplier after 14 years to Pirelli at the end of the season.

Straight after flying into Japan on Wednesday, Mercedes GP’s Michael Schumacher paid a visit to the company's Tokyo headquarters. Five of Schumacher's seven world titles were won with Bridgestone's tyres and so his arrival was met with huge excitement by the company's employees, and he even took part in a ‘talkshow’ answering questions put forward by those in attendance.

Bridgestone also have a special stage at the Suzuka circuit this weekend, where a host of special guests, including Formula One drivers and Bridgestone motorsport staff, have been taking to the stage. A special display of Bridgestone's heritage in Formula One racing and its tyres is also present for race fans to enjoy.

As well as spending time reminiscing, Bridgestone also found time to celebrate too, after they scored an impressive victory in the 2010 Suzuka Box Kart Race. The light-hearted competition saw a number of Formula One teams push-start their self-built karts down the Suzuka main straight against the clock, with a slalom section to test handling agility.

Bridgestone's winning machine was built by a team of their finest tyre engineers in their spare time. The kart featured Formula One tyres at the back and wind-tunnel tyres at the front, and the team performed a full pit departure complete with tyre blankets.

The competition consisted of many bicycle and go-kart based vehicles, whilst Bridgestone's chassis featured a bolted metal section and front and rear wings. There was high-calibre opposition from HRT's Sakon Yamamoto, who fielded a commercial kart chassis with its engine removed and modified to use scooter wheels and tyres.

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