Right Japan then it’s time for the rather wonderful Suzuka circuit, a fast flowing track around the hills of Mie prefecture. This place has seen its fair share of drama over the years; Senna endlessly getting up close and personal with Prost, Hill taking his world championship here .
This weekend sees the circus return after Lewis confirmed he is going to be driving for Mercedes as of next year and Perez was snapped up by McLaren. So there are a few interesting points of interest to ponder over the weekend.
Firstly, if you were Martin Whitmarsh would you want to see your once most favoured son leave the fold after winning the world championship? Would you feel happy watching your rival tooling around next year with number 1 on its nose? No I suspect not, so will McLaren be doing everything in its power to help Lewis win the championship this year? ... I don’t think so.
The word is there is now no love lost between driver and team. He’s thrown his toys out of the pram once too often, and they've failed to deliver the win too often. Hamilton isn't going to be part of any “future car development” meeting and any new bits will probably be on Jensen’s car first.
I still think Lewis is the better bet for pole given Jenson has a 5 place penalty for a gearbox change, but the win could be Jensen’s.
Another thing to ponder is Perez, Hamilton only signed for Mercedes on Thursday, yet McLaren rather than say, “what a shame, we’re really going to miss the blighter and we will announce who’s going to replace him at the end of the season” instead they said “ yeah whatever, we've signed Perez already and he’s much better.”
This strikes me as odd! They had him ready to stand in front of the press even before the ink was dry on Hamilton’s contract, no long goodbyes and “what a great guy he was” they stole the thunder from Mercedes and their new signing with a dawn raid on Sauber and a bit of a surprise signing ready and waiting. Perez must have bitten off their hand when they came knocking at the door.
Now I'm not Perez’s biggest fan, I think he’s a bit dull and not terrible good at qualifying. But he’s shown he can drive the car and not hit the other drivers. He’s delivered points for Sauber and done what he’s been asked to do and I think he’ll be a perfect team mate for Jenson with a similar driving style. It’ll be interesting to see how he goes in a top line car next year.
The word is that Jaime Alguersuari has got the nod for the Sauber seat; he’s certainly suggested it a few times on twitter. I think the loss of Perez’s Telmex millions means they’re going to have to get a big name in.
As for Schumacher, well he’s been fired hasn't he? Driving into the back of yet another car this year was the last straw, he’s not really looked committed to the cause with a third in Valencia as everyone else burned their tyres out, his only high point. He’s bounced around the lower half of the top ten or the tracks side grass. There were a couple of half hearted rumors of a one year deal to return to Ferrari. But that was stamped on from a very great height by Ferrari. They’re happy with Alonso who is very happy with Massa. So he could swallow whatever pride he has left and go to Sauber, but I think he’s off to a seat on a board of directors and an import/export business in Germany. Maybe even a Mercedes dealerships network in Bavaria. His time is up and he’s been given his marching orders.
Back to the racing then, and on paper this should suit the McLaren’s a treat, nice and fast it’s a ballsy circuit that rewards drivers who take a risk. The Redbulls will be close behind and Alonso will be there to pick up a podium if the others fail.
It could also be another good race for Lotus. It’s the sort of place Kimi loves, if the car is on song. They've been having a better second half of the season, Kimi’s podium were a result of others misfortunes and just sort of being there but that’s enough for him to be third in the championship. They’re probably not fast enough on pure pace, but they’re been rock solid best of the rest all year.
Ferrari ... well they really could do with a win, but i don’t think the car is as fast as the McLarens or as planted as the Redbulls. Alonso is worth a couple of seconds a lap, but that’s not going to be enough I think. Top five if the others are reliable.
Okay Qualifying starts at 6am on Saturday morning; the race is live on Sunday at 7am.
If you’re bored on Saturday night you could do worse than spend a few hours trying to find a live stream of the Bathurst 1000, Australia premier tin top series. Think touring cars with big grunty V8 engines tooling up and down a mountain for 6 hours, whilst the punters on the banking get absolutely wasted. It’s like Le Mans, the British GP and the Indy 500 all rolled into one. It’s not on any TV networks outside Australia this year, but there’ll be a live stream here
Right get your predictions in before Friday. Don’t forget Jenson and Schumacher have grid penalties, so they’ll not be on pole.