Rain fell overnight at Suzuka, but the only remnants of wet weather were damp patches in the paddock as the formula one circus on Thursday re-congregated for the penultimate race of 2006.
Local reports, however, indicate that Friday will definitely be wet, ahead of a clearer outlook for qualifying and the grand prix on Sunday.
The Mercedes-Benz safety car was doing laps of the Japanese circuit for system checks, as a sign at the end of pit lane indicated. But, perhaps lost in translation, the sign also advised: ‘Don’t get muddy on the track!!!’.
After the expanse of Shanghai’s surrounds just a few days ago, Suzuka’s paddock seems a little cramped. The tight confines, however, make for more of a community feeling. Technical directors Ross Brawn (Ferrari) and Pascal Vasselon, for example, were spotted in rare conversation.
Pit lane on Thursday was also cramped as hundreds of Japanese fans shuffled to catch a close up glimpse of their heroes. Many F1 drivers, meanwhile, attended an official autograph session.
Championship challengers Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso, though, were the centre of the media’s attention. Alonso, who repeated his critical comments about his Renault team and Giancarlo Fisichella in the press conference, took the flight from China to Japan this week accompanied by his girlfriend, Spanish pop star Raquel del Rosario (in photo).
Schumacher was also in a fighting mood, with his casual t-shirt bearing the words ‘Kick Boxing’.