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Paddock Postcard from Monza 14 Sep 2008

Ronnie Peterson (SWE) Lotus celebrates his win on the podium. Austrian Grand Prix, Rd 12, Osterreichring, Austria, 13 August 1978. World ©  Phipps/Sutton (L to R): Alex Zanardi (ITA) WTCC Driver with Niki Lauda (AUT).
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monza, Italy, Saturday, 13 September 2008 Jean Alesi (FRA).
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monza, Italy, Friday, 12 September 2008

A simple but dignified ceremony on the grid on Sunday morning honoured the late and much-loved Ronnie Peterson, who won the Italian Grand Prix three times in the Seventies but was killed following an accident at the start of the 1978 race. His brother Tommy called for a minute’s silence, before a commemorative plaque was presented to the Autodromo di Monza.

Alex Zanardi paid a brief visit on Saturday, as did Jean Alesi, while the youngest driver in the paddock may have been nine-year old Japanese 125cc champion Sena Sakaguchi, who was working with Fuji TV interviewing Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, and his hero’s nephew, Bruno Senna.

On the racing front, Giorgio Pantano clinched the GP2 title as Lucas di Grassi resisted intense pressure to win Saturday’s wet-then-dry race from Pastor Maldonado. Pantano led easily until he incurred a drive-through penalty for crossing the white exit line after his pit stop. Tenth place was nevertheless sufficient to take the crown as principal rival Bruno Senna needed to win with Pantano unplaced. The Brazilian finished fifth behind di Grassi, Maldonado, Sebastien Buemi and Romain Grosjean. Di Grassi and Maldonado finished the race just 0.7 seconds apart, and as di Grassi sprayed victory champagne, Pantano was carried down the pit lane by his team.

The Formula BMW title was also settled in favour of Mexican driver Esteban Gutierrez, who finished Saturday’s fourth behind winner Tiago Geronimi, Carlos Huertas and Marco Wittman after a gripping slipstream battle. Gutierrez has won seven races thus far this season (the last is on Sunday morning), to amass an unbeatable 333 points, ahead of Wittmann (303) and Adrien Tambay (260).