The trees haven't yet shed their coat of richly auburn autumn leaves; only the chill, when you step out of the low sun's glare, reminds you that winter holds this hemisphere in its grip. Motegi may not be the most remote race circuit in the world - that honour probably rests elsewhere in Japan, atop the extinct volcano wherein nests Autopolis - but it's admirably bucolic, being a 100-mile schlep from the heart of Tokyo and buried within dense woodland. Next to this, even majestic Spa-Francorchamps seems positively suburban.
For gaijin such as we, reaching Motegi is an adventure in itself: the bullet train from Tokyo kicks off at the nearest city, Utsunomiya, a 90-minute bus ride away (when they're running, and if you can get on the right one). Car it is, then, and F1 Racing's wheels for the weekend - a cuboid Mazda 'Flair Wagon' hustled along by an enthusiastic 660cc triple - couldn't be more Japanese. Arriving well after dark, we're only aware of the terrain's gradual incline over the last 20 miles thanks to the screech-signalling of that industrious engine and its rubber-band CVT gearbox. The vista next morning of this unusual two-circuits-in-one is truly extraordinary.
Lewis Hamilton has just become the first driver to record 100 world championship Formula 1 pole positions. Time to revisit a debate we discussed when he reached 150 front row starts in 2020.
The Barcelona practice times that prove Red Bull's title credentials, and heap pressure on Verstappen
Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes led the way in Friday practice for the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix, but there was one big encouraging sign for Red Bull. The trouble is, it looks like making good on that gain will require its superstar driver to avoid repeating a mistake made today that left him well down the FP2 order
Three points finishes from as many starts represents a decent opening innings on paper, but Daniel Ricciardo has endured a tough start to his McLaren career - only magnified his team-mate's excellent form. Yet both he and the team have good reason to expect a turnaround soon
OPINION: Going up against the dominant force of Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton was always going to demand the best from Red Bull and Max Verstappen. But after making a couple more errors during the Portuguese Grand Prix, the Dutch driver showed there's a small gap he still needs to close in the 2021 Formula 1 title fight
Red Bull's Portuguese Grand Prix fortunes were decidedly second best to Mercedes', but the result skews the potential that the team had at Portimao. With a new set of updates, the team looks good going forward into the rest of 2021's spicy F1 competition
Just as he did in 2020, Lewis Hamilton had to come from behind to win the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix. Only this time there were two rivals he had to pass, among the several challenges he had to overcome, on his way to securing a 97th grand prix victory
Fernando Alonso considered quitting F1 for triple crown in 2017
How Mercedes exposes the scale of Renault’s challenge