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Paddock Postcard from Bahrain - celebrating F1 racing's 60th 14 Mar 2010

Mark Stewart in the 1973 Tyrrell 006 of his father Jackie Stewart (GBR).
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 13 March 2010 Mario Andretti (USA) in his 1978 Lotus 79.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 13 March 2010 Damon Hill (GBR) in his 1996 Williams FW17.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 13 March 2010 Nigel Mansell (GBR) in a Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 13 March 2010 Mario Andretti (USA).
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 13 March 2010

2010 marks the 60th birthday of Formula One racing, and the Bahrainis have been demonstrating all weekend just how well they can stage celebrations. It wasn’t enough to lay on a mouth-watering selection of world championship-winning cars and landmark designs - they flew in 18 world champions too for on-track cavalcades on Saturday and Sunday.

Three-time champion Sir Jackie Stewart drove the Matra MS80 in which he won his first crown in 1969, while Mark Stewart took round the 1973 Tyrrell 006 in which his father won his third. 1978 champion Mario Andretti was reunited with his glorious Lotus 79 in iconic John Player black and gold colours, complemented perfectly by 1972 title winner Emerson Fittipaldi in his similarly liveried Lotus 72. 1992 champ Nigel Mansell got to grips with the 1950 1.5-litre V12 supercharged Ferrari 125 ‘Thin Wall Special’ created by Vanwall owner Tony Vandervell. Jody Scheckter drove the Ferrari T4 with which he was victorious in 1979, and as Damon Hill waxed lyrical about his reunion with his Williams FW18, third generation racing son Josh took round the Gold Leaf Lotus 49B in which grandfather Graham had triumphed in 1968. Mika Hakkinen piloted Mercedes-Benz’s W196 with which Juan Manuel Fangio (whose nephew Juan Manuel Fangio II drove a Maserati 250F) had been champion in 1954.

“This 60th anniversary is a significant recognition for Bahrain on a global basis, but promoting the sport in this way is something that Bahrain has taken a lead on,” Stewart said. “The 60th anniversary celebration of the Formula One world championship is especially impressive in that, as a relative newcomer to the sport, Bahrain has taken the trouble to assemble these drivers who have contributed so much to the history of Grand Prix racing.”

“I am astonished by this car,” Mansell said of the Thin Wall Special. “It’s amazing. My respect for the guys who used to drive cars like this flat-out for three hours at circuits like the Nurburgring with 170 corners per lap has gone through the roof. It’s a seriously quick car even by modern standards but such a physical thing to drive.”

As Josh Hill reported how he’d got the Lotus 49 sideways in the hairpin, Damon was on fire after driving the FW18. “That was absolutely fantastic! You get in the car and put the visor down in the pit lane and this thing happens to you and you find yourself behaving just like you would have if you were still racing. It’s like going back down the years!”

The Englishman was chuffed to fit into his old car, as was Keke Rosberg who squeezed into his 1982 title-winning Williams FW08, albeit using former team mate Derek Daly’s seat.

“This is such an historic moment,” Fittipaldi said, still smiling ear to ear after one of his Lotus runs. “I don’t think there has ever been such an opportunity for people to enjoy the heritage of the sport like this.”

Andretti was so stoked driving his Lotus that he did three more laps than he should at one stage. “It was a lot of fun even though it’s pretty sandy out there and I don’t know the track,” he said on Saturday. “They were waving yellow flags at me, but I was having fun out there.”

Scheckter, meanwhile, admitted to taking it a little easy. “I’ve only driven the car twice in the past 10 years, once for a Nelson Mandela charity event and once for Ferrari’s 60th anniversary,” he said. “I was being really careful not to do anything silly, not to over-rev it, because it’s my own car!

“It’s really good to see so many of these guys here at one time. I came to the race here in Bahrain two years ago, it’s really impressive and the facilities are state-of-the-art. I’m glad to come back and enjoy the occasion.”

The champions moved between the Royal Tower and the ‘Diamonds in the Desert’ pavilion in which the cars were being displayed together with images of some of the most unforgettable moments in the 60 year story of the sport, and where His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander, and Bernie Ecclestone, CEO of Formula One Management, officially opened the display and cast their hand prints to make a Hollywood-style ‘Walk of Fame’ to be installed at the Bahrain International Circuit.

“It’s an amazing weekend, a lovely experience,” said 1980 world champion, Australia’s Alan Jones. “I flew here with Jack Brabham and we had plenty to catch up about, but it’s pretty extraordinary to get so many of us here at one time. You’ll probably never see so many of these people in one place again, it’s a real coup for Bahrain.”

Later on Saturday there was another coup when, in company with Ecclestone and Bruno Senna, luxury watch brand Hublot proudly announced its appointment as the Official Watchmaker of Formula One.

“I have always had great admiration for the exceptional and unique achievements of Bernie Ecclestone,” said Hublot SA CEO Jean-Claude Biver. “Without him there would be no Formula One. He created this global phenomenon. I have also had a great deal of admiration for the drivers who are able to control these ultra-sophisticated racing machines down to the slightest movement, all at incredible speed. Nor should we forget the cradle of high technology that F1 represents. It’s such a delight to be here with Hublot today, so close to Bernie, the racing, the drivers, the cars, the high technology and the F1 Grand Prix in general. This is the start of a very special relationship.”

Besides all the world champions, other famous faces in the paddock included A-list movie actor Clive Owen, and racing figures such as Jo Ramirez, Jean Alesi, Jackie Oliver, Wolfgang Porsche and Luciano Burti.