Celebrity spotting in the Indianapolis paddock 18 Jun 2007
Formula One racing mixed with a historic location is a recipe guaranteed to pull in not just fans, but famous fans at that. We caught up with just a handful who were at Indianapolis to enjoy a thrilling US Grand Prix weekend.
A Formula One virgin at Indy was R&B superstar and multi-platinum, Grammy award-winning producer and songwriter Pharrell Williams, who cruised between the paddock and the Paddock Club to get an in-depth taste of what Grand Prix racing is all about. How did I first get to know about Formula One? I was dating some girl who used to date guys from F1. I got interested by the stories she told. Then this kid Lewis Hamilton comes along and turns this sport upside down by breaking a record every time he gets into his car, so I decided to get in contact with him - and thats why I am here. And boy, this is quite something!
"I thought that I would be given a beer in a brown paper bag and a hot dog and be seated somewhere in a grandstand - I had no idea that I was going to face high gastronomy! The beef I was served was the best I have ever eaten - better than Kobe beef. In fact this cow must have been massaged with body lotion. And then the grid! Talking to Lewis minutes before the race starts - watching him get ready for his battle. And the race - adrenalin from a distance, thinking you are in the car, hoping that you can make a difference by wishing that your favourite will win. Of course thats foolish, but the excitement really gets you into this. This weekend really got me hooked.
A Formula One returnee was Frankie Muniz, star of US sitcom Malcolm in the Middle, who has racing ambitions of his own. Whenever I have time and a race is within reach, Im there! This atmosphere is one of a kind. And if you like fast cars this is exactly your place - the vibrating air and the horrendous noise at the start, the fight for every position! Even if you have seen this several times, you want more - and I wanted more. I wanted to race - and that is what I am doing. I am a professional race driver now, hoping to find a GP2 seat for next year. Whats the difference between acting and racing? As an actor, it's all about what people think of you. You can do your best job possible, but if someone says it sucks, it sucks, whereas here, if I'm good, it will show!
Someone who already has made it in the racing world was recently-crowned Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti. There have always been speculation that he will switch to Formula One, but so far it hasnt materialized - something that leaves him with mixed feelings. People always expected me to be in F1 one day. When the chance came up I refused, because I had such a great time in the US. Now a part of me regrets it, but winning the Indy 500 rewarded me fully. My private life? (Dario is married to Hollywood actress Ashley Judd) It is fantastic, so nobody should feel sorry for me!
DaimlerChryslers chairman Dr Dieter Zetsche must be the the McLaren Mercedes teams lucky charm - it seems every race he attends leads to a one-two victory. This time he joined the podium celebrations to receive the teams trophy alongside drivers Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, and came away suitably soaked. This was my first podium champagne shower - not that I have not had champagne showers before - but never on the podium as I have never been up there before, he explained. It felt wonderful. Another one-two victory! One really could get addicted to such results and I definitely wouldnt mind if it becomes a habit.
Three-time Formula One world champion Nelson Piquet came to Indy to meet up with his son Nelson Jr, who is official reserve driver for the Renault team. I have great memories with the US Grand prix because it was here that I won my first race in 1980. It is fascinating to see how this sport has developed since then in every aspect, though surely the most important is the safety standard. I was watching the Montreal race on TV and seeing Kubica crash gave me the shivers. In my day you would not have walked away alive - and now he just stays one night in the hospital for a thorough check. What a huge leap forward!