Several drivers arrived in the country early to see some sights and soak up some traditional Japanese culture.
Among them was Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who first took part in Gokito, Japanese Shinto Prayer, at the Asakusa Shrine in Tokyo, where a priest prayed for a victory with a special Japanese blessing. He then travelled to the Yanaka district to the Zenshoan Temple to take part in Zazen, Zen meditation, which is at the heart of Zen Buddhist practice (its translation is ‘seated meditation’).
As ever, the famously enthusiastic Japanese fans were out in force at Suzuka, many of them with homemade outfits and banners paying tribute to their favourite F1 heroes. One young Lewis Hamilton admirer even arrived accompanied by his very own, soft-toy version of Hamilton’s celebrated dog Roscoe.
There were a number of other familiar faces in the Suzuka paddock. Former Lotus, Tyrrell and Ferrari F1 racer Mika Salo was the driver steward, while Nigel Mansell was present in his role as a representative for the circuit, with his duties expected to include some Sunday demo laps in his old Honda-powered Williams FW 11B. Le Mans winner and one-time Caterham starter Andre Lotterer was also a visitor.
Max and father Jos Verstappen were much in evidence, as the just-turned-17 Dutchman made an impressive debut as reserve driver for Toro Rosso in FP1 on Friday. He became, at 17 years and three days, the youngest driver ever to participate in an official Grand Prix meeting.
Briton Will Stevens was also present in his new role as an official reserve driver for Marussia, but was unable to drive in FP1 because of delays over his contractual paperwork with the Contract Recognition Board. However, he is expected to drive for the team in Russia and Abu Dhabi, with main reserve Alex Rossi handling the duties in Texas and Brazil.
The main talking point in the paddock initially was the imminence of Typhoon Phanfone, but on Saturday morning that was supplanted by the bombshell news of Sebastian Vettel’s confirmed departure from Red Bull, his predicted move to Ferrari, and where that left Fernando Alonso.