Japanese GP diary: Sake bombs and FIFA, how drivers might spend a day off

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The Formula One paddock is a busy place that hosts a lot of serious business over a race weekend, so we try to bring you some of the news stories you might otherwise miss ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix.

Sake bombs and FIFA: How drivers might spend a day off in Japan

SUZUKA, Japan — With Typhoon Hagibis lurking dangerously close to the eastern coastline of Japan, Formula One could be set to abandon all track activity on Saturday when heavy rain and strong winds are expected to hit the Suzuka Circuit.

It means qualifying would likely be postponed until Sunday morning, while the final practice session would almost certainly be scrapped altogether.

With the potential for a rare Saturday off due to a Category 5 typhoon, Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz are already busy working on new plans … FIFA!

“More FIFA?” Sainz asked Verstappen in the Thursday drivers’ press conference.

“Yeah, I brought it here if you want to have a game on Saturday,” Verstappen replied. “If you’re ready to lose.”

An unimpressed Sainz quickly responded with, “hmmm… we will see.”

Verstappen and Sainz aren’t the only drivers making fresh Saturday plans. Daniel Ricciardo wishes he could spend the whole day in bed after, err, a night out on the town.

“Come Friday, they should make a decision and not wait until Saturday,” Ricciardo said in regards to the potential schedule change. “If [Saturday is called off], sake bombs on Friday night and a sleep in on Saturday. I don’t even like sake!”

Championship leader Lewis Hamilton spoke about how he recently spent some time doing karaoke, but denied he would be doing more this weekend, even if he’s not required at the track on Saturday.

“I can’t drink on the weekends when I’m racing and I usually have a few drinks before the style comes out,” Hamilton said of his karaoke skills. “But Journey is my song. I get the air guitar out.”

The FIA, Formula One, Suzuka Circuit and the Japanese Automobile Federation are all monitoring the progress of Typhoon Hagibis, but are yet to make an official decision in regards to an adjusted track schedule.

Yamamoto apologises to Gasly for stealing his FP1 session

Japanese Super Formula and Super GT champion Naoki Yamamoto apologised to Toro Rosso regular Pierre Gasly when he learned he would be replacing him in opening practice on Friday at Suzuka.

Yamamoto, who is Honda’s leading Japanese driver, was given the FP1 drive to allow him to have his first taste of a Formula One car on Friday. In doing so he will become the first Japanese driver to take part in a session at a grand prix weekend since Kamui Kobayashi in 2014.

After learning he would replace Gasly on Friday, Yamamoto made sure to apologise to his former Super Formula teammate Gasly, who will miss out on 90 minutes of track time as a result.

“I sent yesterday a message saying, ‘I’m sorry I am sharing your car’,” he said. “But he said, ‘Don’t worry, don’t worry, it’s not your fault’.

“I will hopefully give as much good information as possible to Pierre because he has a race to do.”

Gasly added: “We spoke all morning. He actually apologised to me for being in my car! But I told him there is no big deal about it. It was already planned since the beginning of the year.

“I said to him to enjoy and make sure you enjoy every single lap. He’s a really good guy, really fast, really talented. He knows Suzuka more than anyone else I think on the planet. It’s a dream to drive these kind of cars. I said to him enjoy every single lap you have out on-track.”

Gasly will return to his car for the rest of the weekend from second practice onwards.

Japan’s Rugby World Cup fever hits Renault

With the Rugby World Cup currently taking place in Japan, rugby fever has been sweeping through the country at a rapid rate.

The latest to get caught up in it? Renault’s Ricciardo and reserve driver Jack Aitken. The pair were seen attempting a few passes in the Suzuka paddock on Thursday afternoon, but they might be well advised to stick with motor racing!

They might be all smiles now, but with England and Australia almost certain to square off in a quarterfinal, one of them is sure to be left disappointment.

This blog will be updated throughout the weekend.

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