Button: Japan “almost a home race”

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We mentioned earlier this morning that this year’s Japanese Grand Prix will be run without a native driver – or engine manufacturer – for the first time in the race’s history since it came back on the Formula One calendar in 1987.

Perhaps the locals will shift their support and attention to Jenson Button? The McLaren driver has a love and affinity for Suzuka more than any circuit on the calendar, except his actual home Grand Prix in Silverstone. He explained as much leading up to this weekend’s on-track festivities.

“Japan is almost my second home Grand Prix, besides Silverstone, as this country here is in my heart,” said Button, who won in 2011 even though it was overshadowed by Sebastian Vettel’s clinching of his second straight World Championship.

“2011 was such a tough race, leading towards the end, running low on fuel with Fernando chasing me and Sebastian. It was amazing to win especially that year when Japan had had such a rough year as a country itself. So this was a very special victory, and my girlfriend was crying her eyes out,” he said. Button’s girlfriend, Jessica Michibata, is Japanese.

He rated two McLaren victories at Suzuka as his most memorable moments there, not either of the 1989 or 1990 comings-together between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

“Probably Mika Hakkinen’s win (in 1998), and for sure also Kimi’s (Raikkonen) win (in 2005),” said Button. “I was racing then. I remember having a qualifying in mixed conditions, and I qualified in the dry and managed to be on the front row, but Kimi caught the wet. He had to work his way through the field during the race, and he won it in the last or second-to-last lap only. That was a mega drive.”

Hamilton: Abu Dhabi ‘the last race with good-looking cars’ in F1

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Lewis Hamilton believes that this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be remembered as the last race with good-looking Formula 1 cars ahead of the introduction of the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection for next year.

Officials from the FIA and F1 Strategy Group confirmed earlier this year that the Halo would be fitted to all cars from the 2018 season in a bid to improve safety standards, with the deaths of Justin Wilson and Jules Bianchi putting head protection high on the agenda for the series’ chiefs.

Hamilton has long made his opposition to the Halo clear, believing it will ruin the look of F1 cars, and echoed his thoughts ahead of the final Halo-less race in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

“It’s the last year of looking good I think in the cars. It’s the last race where the cars will look good,” Hamilton said.

“I think next year, it’s all downhill from there in terms of how they look.

“But safety will go up at least, and maybe it could be successful in some way.”

Hamilton’s F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel was less bothered about the change, believing the field will adjust and move on.

“The cars will look different next year. Everything I’ve seen so far looks different, but on the other hand it is something we all get used to,” Vettel said.

“But no doubt the cars look better now, but we’ll get used to it, and we’ll work on the aesthetics so it can be better. It is less of a big deal.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo shared Vettel’s view, saying: “I don’t think it’s gonna be as dramatic as most people make it out to be.”