Paddock postcard from Hockenheim 24 Jul 2005
Who's who in the German Grand Prix pit lane
Red Bull tried extremely hard this weekend, to the extent of converting a Mannheim industrial estate into a karting centre and packing it with celebrities. Hip-hop musicians The Roots were the prime performers, accompanied by MTVs Patrice and actress Bettina Zimmerman, while owner Dietrich Mateschitz made one of his infrequent appearances.
Nico Rosberg likewise made a strong bid for headlines, with another dominant victory in Saturdays GP2 race ahead of ART team mate Alexander Premat, Nelson Piquet Jnr, Scott Speed and series leader Heikki Kovalainen.
And paddock speculation remained rife that Rubens Barrichello will leave Ferrari for BAR and that Williams will sign up with Cosworth for an interim year prior to forging a long-term alliance with Toyota from 2007.
But none of this could compete with the news that Hockenheim was veteran British newspaper journalist Stan Piechas last race. Stan the Man from daily tabloid The Sun was feted by BAR in their motorhome on Saturday evening, where he was festooned with abuse from his media colleagues, and gifts from Ferrari, Renault and Bernie Ecclestone, who handed over a pass for life before uttering the warning: Remember, we can cancel it any time we like!
Later that evening Mario Andrettis twin brother Aldo (or so it seemed) took the place of Ray Matts, reporter from another British newspaper, the Daily Mail (and also due to retire at the end of this season) to host a goodbye party for Piecha. A former British angling champion, Piechas Grand Prix writing career took off when he was caught reading a copy of Motor Sport magazine by his papers sports editor and promptly found himself promoted to the role of Formula One correspondent. It was 1988 and I was told to go to Imola, Piecha recalled in one of the evenings few printable anecdotes. I didnt have the faintest clue where that was!
Aldo Matts helped things to go with a swing and mercifully refrained from playing his guitar as Stan headed for the tall timber. Despite the inevitable tabloid slant of his writing his friends here will long remember him as a very sharp performer (he was, after all, a serious journalist who had been a former industrial editor on the Leicester Mercury) who was never second in the queue for stories, an entertainer with an endless fund of jokes told with the panache of a seasoned pro, and the man who dressed as a doctor in 1989 to sneak into Gerhard Bergers hospital room after the Austrians fiery crash at Imola. Looking down at the bandaged Ferrari driver, Piechas first words were, Ive got a splitting headache. Ive had one hell of a journey getting here. To which Berger politely replied, So how are you now? They did eventually get round to discussing the reason for Stans visit, and the story appeared under the memorable Sun headline You lucky Berger! Nobody else even thought of getting the story straight from the horses mouth.
Only the subsequent story of Pedro Dinizs 1996 escape from fire in Argentina came close, at least as far as the headline was concerned: Diniz in the oven!