Lewis Hamilton had his first taste of Suzuka today, a track which he admits he has always dreamed of racing on.
Even though it was a bit of a washout today, especially the second session, a dry line did appear towards the end of the morning session and Hamilton has got the buzz,
“I love the track. For me it’s the best track I’ve ever driven, ” he said. “It’s different from Monaco and the street circuits. We weren’t supposed to go out in the second session but I couldn’t help it, I had to go out and have some fun.
“The track is very special, I’ve always wanted to drive here since the very early stages, when I was watching Formula 1, I remember what happened here in 1989. Yesterday I was walking the track and I was thinking, “This is where it happened with Ayrton and Prost and then there’s turn one and all there is so much history here. I got on the track this morning and the first couple of laps are quick. I’m just looking forward to getting out there in the dry and seeing how much you can push on this track.
Given what’s happened recently in Formula 1, it’s quite ironic that people still look back nostalgically on those incidents, where Senna and Prost settled their differences – and the championship – by deliberately crashing into each other. The second one was really fierce, Senna driving Prost off the road at over 120mph going into turn one. Everyone knew he was going to do it, even Prost knew he was going to do it, yet somehow everyone forgave him and no action was ever taken.
No-one else from his team was involved in it, but if you compare what happened then with Piquet’s premeditated crash at Singapore, it shows how times and attitudes have changed.
Hamilton says that the fact that all the running has been wet will make tomorrow’s one hour dry practice session a really big challenge,
“Tomorrow we will have to predict how the wind’s going to be, affecting our gear ratios, predicting the downforce levels, tyre temperatures. There’s quite a lot to guess. For those of us drivers who haven’t been here before even though we’ve driven it in the wet, it’s completely different in the dry. Tomorrow it’s going to be a serious challenge of who’s going to be the quickest at getting on the ball.”
The management here has done a great job in upgrading the facilities, without losing the character of the place. The paddock is similar to before, but the rabbit warren of team offices, has been replaced by semi permanent tents, like in Fuji.
The track has been resurfaced since we were last here in 2006, but Bridgestone are on top of it. It’s a very high grip surface apparently.
I love it here, always have. It’s not so popular among many of the team and media personnel because the hotel rooms are tiny, there is only Japanese food to eat (which is fine by me) and all the signs are in Japanese.
But Hamilton is right; here you feel the history, it’s not Monza-type history with the pre-war heroes and the banking. This is recent history, epic nonetheless, forged by men like Senna, Prost and Mansell.