Paddock Postcard from Barcelona 13 May 2012
Sir Frank Williams was pleasantly surprised in the paddock by a 70th birthday celebration for him on Saturday evening, just as it emerged that Pastor Maldonado had taken the teams latest pole position. Many friends stopped by, including Bernie Ecclestone who made a speech, Adrian Newey and Lewis Hamilton despite the Britons impending penalty from the race stewards.
On Thursday Ron Gourlay, chief executive of British football club Chelsea, brought the teams recently-won FA Cup to Sauber as they initiated their new relationship, one that proves Formula One racing is not as insular as some might like to think.
At the recent Chinese and Bahrain rounds Saubers cars featured the mysterious inscriptions Out of the Blue and True Blue on their engine covers, but in Spain Chelseas official logo - in the teams distinctive blue - has pride of place on the C31s. And drivers Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez were even given their very own Chelsea shirts.
Tyres have be dominating on-track proceedings this weekend, but theyve also been garnering attention off track, with Pirelli test driver Jaime Alguersuari trying his hand at tyre fitting at the Circuit de Catalunya. Alguersuari, who has just completed a three-day test at Jerez with the Italian manufacturer, went through the whole process.
Its certainly more complex than it looks! said the Spaniard. The tyre doesnt just click on: you really have to know what you are doing and place it exactly: sometimes using a lot of strength. And then you have to get the balancing precisely right, while not forgetting the other important things like putting a special glue on the bead of the tyre to stop it rolling around on the rim. There is really a lot going on, and this just makes me appreciate the work that the fitters do all the more. As well as a specialised skill, they also have a very big responsibility.
Elsewhere the paddock has been teeming with familiar faces from the racing world. Among them were former team owner Giancarlo Minardi, ex-Force India driver Adrian Sutil, and former racers Derek Daly, David Kennedy, Carlos Abella, Randy Mamola, Emilio de Villota and Adrian Campos. Sportscar star Tom Kristensen was the driver steward. Team owner Joan Villadelprat visited on Saturday, as did Renault number two Carlos Tavares, Dorna MotoGP boss Carmelo Espolito and former Lotus chief mechanic Glenn Waters.
One of the best of many supporters banners which appeared opposite the pits read: Six world champions true, but were waiting for you, Robert demonstrating that Robert Kubica is far from forgotten.
There was also a presentation for Kimi Raikkonen, who helped Formula One group CEO Bernie Ecclestone and race organisers unveil the plaque that will add the Lotus driver to the Circuit de Catalunyas Champions Avenue.
On the track, British rising star James Calado took pole position for Saturdays GP2 feature race and finished a fighting second, 0.8s behind Caterhams victorious Giedo van der Garde. Calado took his Lotus GP car into the lead off the line and defended his position strongly against Racing Engineerings Fabio Leimer going into the first corner. Together with van der Garde they pulled away in the lead with Stefano Coletti chasing for Scuderia Coloni.
Calado and van der Garde both made their mandatory pit stops on the 13th lap, but Leimer was adjudged to have been released unsafely into Calados path after theyd exited the pitlane side by side. As Calado quickly pulled clear, cleverly putting two backmarkers between them, the Swiss was given a drive through penalty.
Van der Garde, meanwhile, had stayed out an extra lap, and crucially only changed the rear tyres, whereas Calado had switched all four. That was the turning point for the Dutchman, who led Calado and Coletti home as they fought each other over the final 10 laps.
Behind them DAMS series leader Davide Valsecchi was a lonely fourth place ahead of Racing Engineerings Nathaniel Berthon, while Colonis Fabio Onidi, and the Carlin cars of Max Chilton and Luiz Razia finished line astern, with iSports Jolyon Palmer and Lotus fastest lapper Esteban Gutierrez claiming the final points.
Razia started Sundays sprint race from pole, and led from to start to finish, eventually shaking off a tenacious Berthon to finish five seconds clear at the flag. Valsecchi fended off Calado in the closing stages to claim the final podium spot and retain his championship lead.
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