Columns Motorsport Trentham Sleaves

2014 Japanese GP preview

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trenthamsleaves1There is something very magical about the paddock here in Japan, an atmosphere that’s impossible to explain unless you’re actually here, which of course I am. Perhaps it’s the great sense of history and the memories of my dear friend Ayrton Senna and my old pal Alain Prost, both of whom were and are marvelous characters respectively. It’s hard to explain why, but you’d know if you’d met them, which I have.

There’s something very magical about downtown Suzuka and in particular Gino’s, a wonderful Italian restaurant you will know about if you’ve been there, which I have, many times. This is one of F1’s best kept secrets and as I dined alone there last night I was able to reflect on what a wonderful atmosphere this tiny hole-in-the-wall establishment boasts, something I’m sure a certain two-time world champion from Finland would agree with, though discretion prevents me from naming him, although of course he is wonderful company if you’ve ever been in the same room as him, which I have, and commented on how hard it was raining outside to which he has replied, ‘I’m sorry, who are you?’

There’s something very magical about getting caught in a typhoon. It’s hard to explain the intensity of the rain unless you’ve been caught in it, which of course I have. I’ve always said that my old mate Michael Schumacher was peerless in the wet but even he might have struggled in the immense downpour that greeted me as I walked through Suzuka! Keep fighting Michael, and reply to my letters whenever you’re ready. Just as I thought I would never find shelter I saw a certain 1996 world champion and dear friend getting into a cab and I leapt into the back seat with great relief.

There’s something magical about being told to ‘please get out of my cab you weirdo’ by Damon Hill. It’s the politeness and intensity that you really can’t explain unless you are actually there, which of course I was. Good old Damo is famed for his wonderful sense of humour and in this instance he wouldn’t stop telling me to get out until I really did exit the taxi and allowed it to drive off! What a jester!

As for who will take the infamous chequered flag at this weekend’s race, as ever I refuse to speculate but suffice to say I think a Mercedes will probably win although one would be foolish to discount Red Bull or Williams and Ferrari always have the power to surprise, along with McLaren. Whatever happens, rest assured I will have a trackside seat for all the action.

Because remember, I’m here and you’re not.