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Paddock postcard from Hockenheim 03 Aug 2003

Mick Doohan (AUS).
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, German Grand Prix, Preparations, Hockenheim, Germany, 31 July 2003

The main talking points in the paddock this weekend have not been the celebrities passing through, but the searing temperature and the machinations of the 'silly' season, which traditionally kicks off around this time of year.

Notables making a visit to Hockenheim for the 2003 German Grand Prix include former world motorcycle champion Mick Doohan, former Grand Prix and sportscar star Jochen Mass, and Back to the Future actor Christopher Lloyd who was an F3000 guest of American racer Townsend Bell.

Swiss Minister of Defence and Sports Samuel Schmid visited Sauber on Saturday, the day after the team had celebrated National Swiss Confederation Day, and multiple champion middleweight German boxer Sven Ottke attracted great interest when he spent time with the team on Sunday morning.

The ambient temperature has barely been below 25 degrees Celsius since Thursday, and will reach 33 degree this afternoon just in time for the start of the race. Air-conditioned Paddock Club refuges have been at a premium.

The talk on the driver market has centred round a rumoured move to McLaren for Juan Pablo Montoya, which would potentially mean David Coulthard seeking a new berth, and endless speculation about who might take Montoya's at Williams. The people concerned, needless to say, have been avoiding making any sort of comment.

Then there has been the discussion of the 2004 calendar, with the focus on whether the US Grand Prix at Indianapolis will go to a June date, and whether the Belgian Grand Prix will be back at Spa. And among the Hockenheim visitors has been Normand Legault, the man behind the Canadian Grand Prix.

Among the on-track action so far, second place in yesterday's F3000 race to Brazilian Ricardo Sperafico was sufficient to clinch the title for Sweden's Bjorn Wirdheim, chased by rising stars Patrick Friesacher and Vitantonio Liuzzi. Sperafico, Giorgio Pantano (who was a delayed seventh yesterday) and Liuzzi are separated by only three points in the fight for runner-up position.