Konichi-wa race fans, Spy here, getting ready to head home to the cultural jewel in the crown of Motorsport Valley that is Milton Keynes.
Just time to write this while wolfing down a final bowl of porky ramen noodles in a Suzuka restaurant. At least Spy thinks it's a restaurant. It looks like somebody's living room. That's slightly worrying: possibly the people who live here are just too polite to ask us to leave and keep bringing us food in the hope we'll go away soon.
According to the team Doc, this race is the low point of the season, the racing equivalent of the third Monday in January. It's the back-end of a long-haul back-to-back, the third flyaway race in a row, and we're very deep into the season but not quite so deep that the finishing line is in sight. It's the traditional point of the year where the medical staff up and down the paddock are dispensing the vitamin shots and flu remedies at maximum pace, while strapping up the minor sprains and crushed fingers that are the natural result of tired people dropping things or tripping over their own feet.
Happily though, we're in Japan, the land that makes F1 teams smile and the antidote to... well, pretty much everything. If you could bottle enthusiasm, this would be the source, whether it's the fans standing at the gate to cheer everyone in at seven in the morning, or the crowd in the grandstand that stay to watch us pack down after the race and applaud every flight container that's loaded, locked down and dispatched on the forklift. Spy envies the boys and girls working at this race for the first time because, if you haven't seen it before, it's certainly an eye-opener.
Also happily, we've had a competitive car for the last few races and that definitely helps. This back-to-back has been very good: two races, four trophies is a good return. Would have been lovely to make it back-to-back wins but that wasn't really on the cards yesterday, however close it looked on TV: Suzuka's a wonderful, wonderful circuit but it's a tough place to pass if the car in front has good grip and decent engine power.
Not winning almost doesn't matter (I mean, it does, but stick with me). We're just enjoying being back in the hunt. There's a tremendous amount of energy that comes from turning up at the race track knowing you're chasing a win or a pole rather than just making up the numbers. Professionalism would dictate that the job gets done to the same standard whatever the circumstances – and it does – but racing at the front definitely puts a little bit of snap into things. The garage iPod is a little more tuneful, the jokes are a little funnier and everyone stands a little taller.
There are four races to go and we're not fighting for championships, but there's another win in the RB13 before the season's done. That puts a spring in everyone's stride.