Japanese GP diary: Drivers hold FIFA tournament on day off in Japan

SUZUKA, Japan -- The Formula One paddock is a busy place that hosts a lot of serious business over a race weekend, so we try to bring you some of the news stories you might otherwise miss ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix.

FIFA and arts and crafts

Typhoon Hagibis has wreaked havoc on the southern Japanese coastline and altered the schedule for this weekend's race, with all of Saturday's track action cancelled at Suzuka. That put drivers in an unusual position, with an entire day to kill before a bumper Sunday, which is set to feature qualifying in the morning and the race in the afternoon as originally scheduled.

Carlos Sainz was pretty clear with one of his activities for a day stranded inside a hotel.

"More FIFA?" the McLaren driver asked Max Verstappen in the Thursday drivers' press conference.

"Yeah, I brought it here if you want to have a game on Saturday," Verstappen replied. "If you're ready to lose."

A bunch of the drivers came good on their promise. Sainz and Verstappen joined Lando Norris, Sergio Perez, George Russell and Antonio Giovinazzi for a game on Saturday. A tweet later revealed that Verstappen had won the tournament between them.

Not all the drivers relied on games to get them through the off-day. Haas driver Romain Grosjean revealed he was planning some arts and crafts to keep him occupied, having found a plastic replica of Tyrrell's famous six-wheeled car from the 1976 and 1977 seasons.

"I brought the Tyrrell six-wheeler as a small model," Grosjean said on Friday. "I bought the glue, I went to the shop in Shiroko -- they've got amazing remote controlled-cars, but I don't have the tools to build them, so I went for the smaller plastic one."

The Frenchman was true to his word, and posted an update picture half way through the build...

Before showing off the final version on Saturday evening...

Best fans

The fans at Suzuka are famous for the commitment they have to Formula One -- it's not uncommon to see a range of weird and wonderful costumes on display throughout the weekend from those who have made the trip to the circuit.

One set of fans who have gained fame in recent years is those who have designed hats designed as a Formula One front wing, equipped with a flap to open in the same fashion as the Drag Reduction System.

Honda gleefully tweeted about their return.

It was just one example from the paddock on Thursday. Mercedes showed one particularly committed member of the tifosi, dressed in a Vettel replica helmet and a Ferrari race suit, patiently lining up to get Valtteri Bottas' autograph.

Yamamoto apologises to Gasly for stealing his FP1 session

Japanese Super Formula and Super GT champion Naoki Yamamoto apologised to Toro Rosso regular Pierre Gasly when he learned he would be replacing him in opening practice on Friday at Suzuka.

Yamamoto, who is Honda's leading Japanese driver, was given the FP1 drive to allow him to have his first taste of a Formula One car on Friday. In doing so he will become the first Japanese driver to take part in a session at a grand prix weekend since Kamui Kobayashi in 2014.

After learning he would replace Gasly on Friday, Yamamoto made sure to apologise to his former Super Formula teammate Gasly, who will miss out on 90 minutes of track time as a result.

"I sent yesterday a message saying, 'I'm sorry I am sharing your car'," he said. "But he said, 'Don't worry, don't worry, it's not your fault'.

"I will hopefully give as much good information as possible to Pierre because he has a race to do."

Gasly added: "We spoke all morning. He actually apologised to me for being in my car! But I told him there is no big deal about it. It was already planned since the beginning of the year.

"I said to him to enjoy and make sure you enjoy every single lap. He's a really good guy, really fast, really talented. He knows Suzuka more than anyone else I think on the planet. It's a dream to drive these kind of cars. I said to him enjoy every single lap you have out on-track."

Gasly will return to his car for the rest of the weekend from second practice onwards.

World Cup fever

With the Rugby World Cup currently taking place in Japan, rugby fever has been sweeping through the country at a rapid rate.

The latest to get caught up in it? Renault's Ricciardo and reserve driver Jack Aitken. The pair were seen attempting a few passes in the Suzuka paddock on Thursday afternoon, but they might be well advised to stick with motor racing!

They might be all smiles now, but with England and Australia almost certain to square off in a quarterfinal, one of them is sure to be left disappointment.

This blog will be updated throughout the weekend.