• IN WORDS: Lewis & Valtteri Talk Japan

Our drivers discuss tricky decisions, fantastic fans and Suzuka's sector one...

The decision to swap the order of our drivers at the last race in Russia left Lewis feeling conflicted, but he knows the only thing to do ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend is accept it and move on.

"I don't think you get your mind around it," he admitted. "You have to accept it and move forwards, and I am definitely split just like 50% of the people, or all the people have split opinions about it.

"Collectively, as a team we've stayed united through the whole experience. This is the most unusual sport in the sense that you have two Championships.

"Unlike people watching football or any other sport, where everyone works towards that one goal, there are two goals here.

"You are conflicted in trying to achieve those two goals because there is only one driver who can win, yet there are two drivers, and there is a team Championship that you want to win, so it is a difficult dynamic.

"The team works together to win the Championship but then they also want to win the Drivers' Championship but only one can win so they are conflicted.

"They don't want to favour either driver, and they would like both drivers to win but it is impossible, so you are always at a loss."

For Valtteri, it was a tough race in Russia, but it hasn't dented his confidence one bit, as he proved he had the pace to take victory.

"It is the situation I am in now, because of everything that happened earlier in the season," the Finn said. "I can't fight for the Championship anymore, so I am a team player and willing to help.

"But I like nothing more than winning races and fighting for the Championship. That's what I want to do and that will still be my ultimate goal for each weekend.

"I am hoping that can happen. That's what we do. We are a strong team and we do want to win both of the titles and we need to work as a team to do that.

"Last weekend was very good for my confidence. I feel like a winner from last weekend. I am not going to let this situation do anything negative for me.

"I always take the positives and for me the positives were that I had the pace to be on pole and the pace in the race to win. Those are what matter to me and the team knows that as well."

It's been a challenging season so far, but Lewis thinks he is driving at his very best - especially in the races that followed the triple-header.

"I feel like I have driven my hardest throughout the year I feel I have conducted myself in the right way," he said. "This has been the best performing year of my career so far.

"As the year progresses, you really have no idea what is going to happen. Of course, you have hope, and you hope you can figure your way out and improve.

"Most years, you get better and better through the year, but definitely the last six races or so... I definitely didn't know I was going to improve the way I have.

"But, it definitely was needed because Ferrari took a big step in Spa and we came with a big step. Naturally, as I continue to say, the communication with the team, my engineers, gets better and better through the year, with the strategist gets better and better through the year.

"But, mostly it is your understanding of the car, your comfort in exploiting it gets stronger, but I am really, really happy as I look back at a lot of these races.

"I could not have hoped for better performances. When I look back there have been some real dream experiences for me - races I dreamed of having and performing at those levels.

"That is what I live for. You don't always get to experience what your target is, I am just grateful for the races I have had and how a lot of them have panned out."

Some have claimed Valtteri won't be allowed to win a race until the Drivers' Championship is decided, but that is simply not the case.

"No, it's not like that," Valtteri explained. "I think definitely I am still allowed to win but it will depend on the situation.

"I think honestly last weekend if Lewis didn't have the blister and if he didn't have that much pressure from Sebastian maybe the team would not done it. So, it will really be done case by case.

"When it is time and I do win, I want to do it because of me. Of course, it is different, but for us as a team, that race result was the best outcome we could've ever hoped for.

"I know there was a lot of criticism but we were 1-2 in Qualifying and 1-2 in the race. In the race, that order was the best for both Championships.

"It doesn't mean I am not a racer. I know how I performed in the weekend and I feel like the winner of that race. That's what matters to me."

The Championship fight is far from over and despite some focus naturally switching to 2019, the team continues to bring new updates to the W09.

But, Lewis believes it is our understanding of the car that is making the most significant difference and is eager to see how it feels around the Suzuka Circuit - particularly the twisty sector one.

"We had an upgrade for Spa and then we had a small upgrade for Monza," he explained. "We also had a small upgrade in the last race.

"So, it's not big steps, it's small bits. But, our understanding of the car is continuing and our understanding of the car is where we are making the biggest steps.

"All round, the car is feeling great. Engine performance is improving, efficiency is improving, car stability is improving.

"It is a good point of the year, because the car is the best it has been all year long. So, I can't wait to drive around this track.

"It will be the fastest we've ever driven around here at Suzuka. The first sector is going to be insane."

Suzuka is popular circuit and one of Valtteri's favourites, but the support from the fans is also another reason why the drivers love racing in Japan.

"It's such a fun track for us drivers," Valtteri explained. "It's actually quite costly if you make mistakes. You know if you push to the limits, there is a bit of a risk.

"The layout is perfect. It is so much fun and there are so many high-speed corners. It is pure enjoyment.

"Every year the cars are going quicker and quicker, and every year it is more challenging, there are more g-forces and higher corner speeds.

"This year, I am sure we will be breaking records, which is pretty cool.

"The fans are really passionate about Formula One here, too. I always feel like I have a lot of support here."