When I went to Texas a couple of years ago, there were two things I knew I had to do before I left - go to a baseball game, and visit the Johnson Space Center in Houston. It looks like Mercedes and Red Bull have gone to the US this weekend with the same thoughts in mind, as their drivers were spotted hanging out at NASA, and generally having a good time. There are no words to describe the video of Max Verstappen in simulated low-gravity, and it just keeps on getting better from there.
There are just four races left of the 2017 season, and whilst the championship is likely to be decided before we get to the end, there's still plenty to keep an eye on. This weekend, Formula One is being hosted by the Circuit of the Americas, a still relatively new but impressive facility. It's a popular track, which is even more impressive considering the results and reviews of other newer circuits, and should provide a great weekend of racing.
At this point in the rankings season, I'd usually be saying the competition is wide open and it's all to play for. Granted, there are still a good few weeks left but, just like the actual Formula One championship, things are very much headed in the direction of one particular driver. Every single day, Daniel Ricciardo is doing new and brilliant things to engage with fans and generally just bring the fun. Amazing.
Lewis Hamilton won the Japanese Grand Prix but it wasn't an easy victory for the Mercedes driver, as he was chased to the line by Max Verstappen, with Daniel Ricciardo making it a double podium finish for Red Bull. Verstappen crossed the line just one second behind the race winner after a close battle to the finish, but Hamilton would have been happy it was a Red Bull following him and not a Ferrari.
The recent reshuffles at Toro Rosso aren't over this season, with news at Renault having an impact on the team after this weekend's race in Japan. Jolyon Palmer announced after qualifying that Japan would be his last race with Renault, and that being the case, the team have snapped up Carlos Sainz for the rest of the season. And, for Daniil Kvyat, that means a chance to step back into a race seat, after being cast aside in favour of Pierre Gasly last weekend.
All of the sessions in Suzuka so far this weekend have featured a crash, and qualifying was no different. Romain Grosjean was the unlucky culprit, crashing his Haas into the barriers hard, and ending Q1 a minute early. The session wasn't restarted and there was plenty of damage to the Frenchman's car.
The anticipated rain hit both free practice sessions in Suzuka, but FP1 got underway on time. About halfway through the session, however, Carlos Sainz crashed heavily in his Toro Rosso, ending with the car sprawling across the track and bringing out the red flags. The action got going again with twenty minutes to go, but halfway through that the rain started to fall and the times saw no improvement – Vettel was the fastest.
Back to back racing always means there isn't a lot of time to digest what has happened in a race, and after the Malaysian Grand Prix last weekend, there's a lot to think about. The topic on everyone's minds at this point in the season is the championship - we're getting to crunch time and the mathematically possibilities are dwindling fast.
The return from the summer break has taken a little while to get going, but as we head into the last five races of the season, things are really starting to brighten up. We've got a championship battle that is admittedly one-sided, but still open to change, and there are some fantastic racing circuits coming up - including this weekend's. The Suzuka track is a popular but tricky one, which can often produce great racing, but can also be hampered by the weather. How will it all pan out this weekend?
It's getting to that point in the Formula One season when things start to get serious. There are two championships up for grabs, and it's eyes down, concentrate to see who is going to win it. Here at Sidepodcast though, it's a different story, as we search for the lighter side of the sport. This week, there are points for drivers going head to head with their boss, taking on the team in a different game, and hitting the streets in a kart and a costume.
Lewis Hamilton's pole position saw him lead the race in Malaysia initially, but he couldn't stop the charge of Max Verstappen, who overtook the leading Mercedes and never looked back, taking his second victory in Formula One. Joined on the podium by teammate Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull had a really good day.
Sebastian Vettel may have been hoping for a slightly calmer weekend in Sepang than he had in Singapore, but that was not to be. The Ferrari driver found himself down on power in the first qualifying session, returning to the garage at a slow crawl. The team tried to patch up his power unit but found themselves unable to send him out again, meaning the German failed to qualify. He's been given permission to race by the FIA, but will be at the rear of the field.
There was drama in both free practice sessions in Malaysia, but for two different reasons. In FP1, the start of the session was delayed by thirty minutes because of the rain, and things got going only to find drivers slipping and sliding their way around the track. Pierre Gasly made his debut, whilst Sergey Sirotkin, Sean Gelael, Charles LeClerc and Antonio Giovinazzi were all also in action.
Amongst the raft of renewals and contracts that are being signed and extended in Formula One at the moment, we've had news that the Chinese Grand Prix will continue until the 2020 season with a three year extension.
The Malaysian Grand Prix is dropping off the calendar after this season, so the 2017 round held at the Sepang circuit will be the last for the forseeable future. That means it's your job, if not your duty, to make the most of it as we probably won't see its like for a while. Hot, humid, rainy and a real challenge, Sepang sorts the drivers into those that can and those that wish they could. Who will conquer the beast for the final time?
With the news that Carlos Sainz is moving to Renault for the 2018 season, Toro Rosso have been searching for a replacement. They've decided to test a new face out already, with Pierre Gasly set to step into the seat of Daniil Kvyat for the Malaysian Grand Prix and perhaps a few more.
There's been speculation about Aston Martin entering Formula One in one way or another for a while now, but they've confirmed at last how they are dipping their toes into the water for the 2018 season. Aston Martin will be the title sponsor of the Red Bull team, which will thus be called Aston Martin Red Bull Racing.
If it's news you're looking for, then motorsport is a good place to be hanging out. We've had the fallout of power unit shuffling - Honda, Renault, Toro Rosso, McLaren - as well as driver movements, calendar changes, and some exciting news coming out of Formula E. In this round-up, we've got all that and more, so let's just get started.
Certain power unit news has been dominating the headlines, and certain first lap chaos has been dominating our thoughts, but there was more to the Singapore weekend than all that. Drivers were up to all sorts of mischief, and I caught as much of it as I could and handed out points where possible. Carlos Sainz picked up a good haul this weekend, but leader Daniel Ricciardo knows what he's doing!
Mercedes looked to be on the back foot going into the race in Singapore, but after the first lap it became clear they were going to get a good result and by the end of the race, they'd secured a win for Lewis Hamilton and a third place for Valtteri Bottas.