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Paddock Postcard from Imola 23 Apr 2006

Markku Alen (FIN) at a Martini event.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, San Marino Grand Prix, Practice Day, Imola, Italy, 21 April 2006 Gordon Murray (RSA) and Bernie Ecclestone (GBR) F1 Supremo at a Martini event.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, San Marino Grand Prix, Practice Day, Imola, Italy, 21 April 2006 Dress of Martini girl.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, San Marino Grand Prix, Practice Day, Imola, Italy, 21 April 2006 Johnny Herbert (GBR) MF1 Sporting Relations Manager and Dr Colin Kolles (GER) MF1 Racing Managing Director.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, San Marino Grand Prix, Practice Day, Imola, Italy, 21 April 2006 Dress of Martini girl.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, San Marino Grand Prix, Practice Day, Imola, Italy, 21 April 2006

The San Marino pit lane has been full of famous names this weekend. Many of them were present to celebrate the return of sponsors Martini to Formula One racing with Ferrari, after an absence of 27 years. Among the well known faces were double World Rally Champion Miki Biasion and his former Lancia team mate Markku Alen, plus former Brabham Alfa driver Hans Stuck.

Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa were at Friday’s party to help Martini promote its message of responsible drinking. “These days the young generation don’t always think before they drive. Alcohol is an issue, and I think it’s very responsible for a partner like Martini to act in this direction,” Schumacher said.

Former Brabham team boss Bernie Ecclestone was clearly pleased to see his old sponsor back. “It’s super, it really, really is,” he said. “They shouldn’t have stayed out this long! I had fun in those days. Things have changed quite a lot. In those days the teams were all together, and if we were in trouble, someone else would help us, and vice versa. It was a whole different ballgame.”

On Saturday, the Midland team’s Johnny Herbert celebrated his first pole position since his fated Formula 3000 campaign in 1988 by taking premiere starting slot for the Mini Challenge clash on Sunday morning. Herbert went on the lead the race for nine of its ten laps, under pressure from Thomas Jaeger and Christian Danner, but then slowed on the pit straight going into the final tour and retired with mechanical problems. Jaeger headed Danner home.

Meanwhile, McLaren protege Lewis Hamilton, had a mixed run in the first of the weekend’s GP2 races. Despite incurring a drive-through penalty for a jump start, Hamilton was leading by a country mile when he inadvertently overtook the safety car. Gianmaria Bruni won the race from Michael Ammermueller and Nicolas Lapierre. Sunday's second race brought a maiden win for Ernesto Viso.

There is an air of change in the Imola paddock, as this is the last year of the current format. Next year there will be a totally new pits and paddock complex and media room, located where the GP2 paddock currently is, as part of the circuit’s ongoing development.