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Paddock postcard from Valencia 24 Jun 2012

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari with fans.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Preparations, Valencia, Spain, Thursday, 21 June 2012 Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) HRT Formula One Team plays tennis.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Preparations, Valencia, Spain, Thursday, 21 June 2012 Roberto Carlos (BRA) Footballer. Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia, Spain, Saturday 23 June 2012. Boats.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Preparations, Valencia, Spain, Thursday, 21 June 2012 Feature race winner Esteban Gutierrez (MEX) Lotus GP. GP2 Series, Rd6, Valencia, Spain, 22-24 June 2012. Sprint race podium and results: 1st Luiz Razia (BRA) Arden International, centre. 2nd James Calado (GBR) Lotus GP, left. 3rd Fabio Leimer (SUI) Racing Engineering, right. GP2 Series, Rd6, Valencia, Spain, 22-24 June 2012.

After the Monaco seaside perch and the lakeside fun in Montreal, the Formula One fraternity regrouped at their third successive waterside location for this weekend’s 2012 Formula 1 Grand Prix of Europe in the port of the Spanish city of Valencia.

As the sport’s only Spanish team, it was only right that HRT kicked off proceedings in the build-up to the race. Drivers Pedro de la Rosa, Narain Karthikeyan, Dani Clos and Ma Qing Hua all tried their hands at paddle tennis against seasoned professional players Seba Nerone (four-time world team paddle tennis champion), Pablo Lima (championship runner-up), Carolina Navarro (2012 female world champion) and David Gutierrez (placed 32nd in the world rankings).

There was also big breaking news down at the Toro Rosso camp with Jean-Eric Vergne’s decision to shave! “€t’s the first time in two years that €’ve gone for anything other than a trim,” he explained. “€ just decided it was time for a change of image, so € went for the full clean shave. €t might come in useful, too, because here in Valencia this weekend €’m doing a photo shoot for Vogue magazine with a top model. That should be pretty cool.”

At Ferrari, president Luca di Montezemolo made a special visit to the paddock to cheer on his team and drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, joining up with former Ferrari team boss Jean Todt, now F€A President, of course.

Other famous racing faces included former €ndyCar star Adrian Fernandez, former F1 racers Derek Daly, Bertrand Gachot, Mark Blundell, Adrian Sutil, Allan McNish, Nick Heidfeld, Adrian Campos, Mika Salo as the F€A’s driver steward, and Le Mans racers Andre Lotterer and Alex Wurz. Team people included Jo Ramirez and Joan Villadelprat.

From other sports came former Real Madrid defender Robert Carlos, while Eric Clapton was also seen hanging out with Bernie Ecclestone.

On track, Briton James Calado would have been justified for feeling aggrieved in Saturday’s chaotic GP2 feature race, which saw three safety-car interventions. He was leading easily when the safety car was first deployed just after he’d passed the pit lane entry. Fabio Leimer was able to duck in and make his pit stop, but after the Racing Engineering driver was beaten away at the restart by Esteban Gutierrez, Lotus GP ended up winning anyway as the Mexican sped home ahead of iSport’s Marcus Ericsson, Arden’s Luiz Razia, Leimer, Carlin’s Ryo Haryanto, Racing Engineering’s Nathaniel Berthon, Carlin’s Max Chilton and Calado once penalties had been applied to drop Bawra Addax drivers Josef Kral and Johnny Cecotto out of the top 10. That at least gave Calado pole for Sunday morning’s sprint race.

And Calado led for much of that race, too, but dropped down the order after Haryanto’s attempt to pass went wrong on lap 20. He stayed in the hunt, though, setting up a last-lap showdown with Leimer and Razia, with Razia - who started eighth - ultimately taking the win after Calado and Leimer clashed with just a few corners remaining before crossing the line in that order.

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