Paddock gossip from Suzuka - Part I
In the absence of a main sponsor for this year's Japanese GP, the starting line-up at Suzuka presented a rather strange sight - with no grid girls and no flags next to the cars, it looked more like a provincial race from one of the junior series. Former test driver Andre Lotterer offered to help out next time: "I could invite all my ex-girlfriends along. That way, we should be able to muster a squad of 24."
F1 drivers are pursued and besieged wherever they go, which at the moment means Japan. But it doesn't have to be like that. Fernando Alonso's arrival at Osaka airport barely registered with the other travellers. He was seen queuing up like anyone else, arm in arm with his wife and a Ferrari rucksack on his back, and no-one even asked him for his autograph.
On Thursday, Adrian Sutil tipped his friend Lewis Hamilton to win the 2010 F1 World Championship "because he's made two mistakes in the last two races and won't be making any more". When Hamilton virtually wrecked his car in Friday's free practice, Sutil had to backpedal. "I've never known him to make so many mistakes one after another like this. Now that he's up to three, that must surely be an end to it?"
As if being a racing driver wasn't enough... Sebastian Vettel has taken on a part-time job at Suzuka, filming for a new computer race simulation game that is due to be launched on 15th October. Sebastian has not only endorsed the product with his name but actually features in the game in the combined role of commentator and judge.
Two hours before Sunday's race, Bruno Senna put in a couple of laps in an old Lotus Renault that was driven by Ayrton Senna in 1986. This is at the invitation of the race organisers and forms part of the '50 Years of Ayrton Senna' themed event. Bruno did not regard the demo as a distraction: "Oh no, not a problem. It's just a couple more laps on the day..."