Paddock Postcard from Silverstone 21 Jun 2009
Plans to make what is scheduled to be the last British Grand Prix at Silverstone a remarkable and memorable event centred as much on off-track action as on, and as ever there was a huge amount going on.
Grammy award-winner Duffy took time out of her European tour will play a private gig at The Formula One Party in aid of the Great Ormond Street Hospital Childrens Charity. The party was held at Londons Victoria & Albert Museum prior to the race to raise funds for the hospitals new Heart and Lung Centre. Tamara Ecclestone was creative director and the evening was hosted by satirist and Formula One fan Rory Bremner.
Bernie Ecclestone, CEO of Formula One Group said: We have brought together the Formula One community to forge a unique partnership with Great Ormond Street Hospital, which has developed over many years now. I am delighted to be able to lend my support to such a great cause.
An exclusive auction on the night included a once-in-a-lifetime chance to enjoy a week of personalised work experience with Brawn GP, and a high-speed lap of Silverstone prior to the race in the Santander two-seater driven by BBC Top Gears mystery racing driver, 'The Stig'.
The Grand Prix Party, which is held on the circuit infield, has become synonymous with the race as the ultimate post-race party for drivers and fans alike. Among the on-stage line-up, a host of past and present Formula One legends from world championship leader Jenson Button, to former title holders Sir Jackie Stewart and Damon Hill. The party has been hosted by Silverstone over the years as a way of thanking the fans and providing them with a rare opportunity to get close to the stars and live bands. Topping the bill this year are the Counterfeit Stones.
250 fans were also able to take advantage of the new Formula One driver autograph signing session on Saturday afternoon. There was a celebratory photographic exhibition, with images from three of the UKs leading photographic agencies - LAT Photographic, Getty Images and Sutton Images which captured the events rich heritage, and a fairground close to the Force India factory.
Besides the historic car races, spectators were also able to indulge in nostalgia as Sir Jackie Stewart did three demonstration laps on Sunday morning in a Matra MS80 owned by Francois Faber to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his fabulous race with Jochen Rindt here in 1969. Stewart won the race as part of the success that led to his first world championship title that year.
Other famous racing faces this weekend included: Nigel Mansell, Sid Watkins, Derek Warwick, Johnny Herbert, John Watson, Jacques Villeneuve, Nelson Piquet Snr, Jackie Oliver, Howden Ganley, 125cc Grand Prix winner Bradley Smith, Tom Walkinshaw, Robin Herd, Tyler Alexander, Jo Ramirez and Davy Ryan.
In the celebrity stakes, there were appearances from the likes of England football manager Fabio Capello, rock band Kasabian, TV presenters Christine Bleakley, Vernon Kay and Jonathan Ross, Sir Richard Branson and British Olympic and world champion track cyclist Victoria Pendleton. 'King of Bling' darts champion Bobby George hosted a throw-off at Force India on Saturday afternoon, and various dignitaries and politicians were in evidence.
On the racing side, Alberto Valerio won the Saturday GP2 race for Piquet Sports from Lucas di Grassi and Nico Hulkenberg, as points leaders Romain Grosjean and Vitaly Petrov were out of luck. Grosjeans first place extended his title lead to four points over Petrov, who was taken off on the opening lap, while Sergio Perez was a star as he drove from 25th place to fourth.
In Formula BMW Dutch rookie Robin Frijns was victorious from Britons Kazeem Manzur and Rupert Svendsen-Cook. The most notable drive came from Brazilian rookie Luiz Felipe Nasr, who qualified on pole but was dropped to the back of the grid for a reverse gear infringement. He climbed to 16th on the opening lap and finished a fighting eighth with fastest lap.