Paddock Postcard from Silverstone 08 Jul 2012
A blustery former airfield in the heart of the British countryside may not seem the most glamorous of spots, but when Formula One racing rolls into town, Silverstone comes alive. And with a large proportion of the team factories based nearby, the drivers schedules are always packed with parties and PR events.
And for the eighth year in a row, this busy build-up to the Grand Prix weekend was kick started on Wednesday night by the official F1 Party, which raised £540,000 for the Great Ormond Street Hospital Childrens Charity. Held at Londons most dynamic event space, Battersea Evolution, the event was generously supported by new headline sponsors, BGC Partners. Pirelli were also on board for a second year as supporting sponsors.
Natalie Pinkham, pit-lane reporter for Formula One broadcasters Sky Sports, hosted the evening alongside Creative Director Tamara Ecclestone, whilst entertainment was provided by magician Dynamo and a DJ set from Henry Holland. Red Bulls Mark Webber, Caterhams Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov and Toro Rossos Daniel Ricciardo were amongst the drivers who turned out for the night. Other famous names in attendance included Harry Potter actors Rupert Grint and Oliver Phelps and TV stars Louie Spence and Mark Wright.
Since 2005, Great Ormond Streets relationship with the F1 community has raised over £2.6 million towards the hospitals new Heart and Lung Centre in the Morgan Stanley Clinical Building, the first part of the Mittal Children's Medical Centre, which officially opened in June 2012. Some of the worlds most renowned paediatric surgeons will operate on patients as young as a few hours through to 18-years old in the new Surgery Centre when it is completed.
Hollywood came to the paddock too courtesy of a collaboration between Lotus and Warner Bros, with the team joining forces with The Dark Knight Rises, the epic conclusion to Christopher Nolans Dark Knight film trilogy. As well as the teams garage, driver helmets and overalls featuring the films iconic logo throughout the weekend, the legendary Tumbler vehicle also performed an on-track display with the Lotus F1 car and drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean.
This season we have been the dark horses in the championship fight, so this partnership with The Dark Knight Rises is a fantastic match, explained Lotus team principal Eric Boullier. Our car, the E20, looks superb with the Batman branding and we are looking forward to seeing the reaction of our numerous fans when it takes to the Silverstone circuit this weekend. We are certainly hoping for an epic conclusion for The Dark Knight Rises E20 in the Grand Prix.
Caterhams Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov, meanwhile, made the most of a lull in the rain to push a couple of Caterham Seven road cars to the limit on a temporary track, laid out at the Daytona karting circuit in Milton Keynes. Both drivers showed how easy Formula One stars can make the art of drifting a car and performing donuts look, and gave invited guests the chance to experience their skills behind the wheel with passenger rides.
When asked how he was able to control the Seven so well, despite it being only his second time in the car, Kovalainen said: We are paid for driving cars and this car is relatively easy do drive compared to a Formula One car. But then it is a car that has got a lot of power. So everybody will enjoy handling it. Its a fun car for ambitious amateurs!
It drifts so nicely and easily. Maybe Vitaly still needs a bit of practice in this, as he sometimes seemed to be out of control! His donuts look pretty cool, but drifting big rounds doesnt seem to be his thing. As for me, I always have enjoyed jumping into different cars. I won the Race of Champions in 2004 and 2006, where you test your skills in many different cars over a weekend. I guess I am very good at that.
At Red Bull the RB8s sported a new look, with the bodywork of both cars plastered with the faces of over 25,000 fans. The innovative livery, fielded for one race only, is to raise funds for spinal cord injury charity, Wings for Life, which was set up in 2004 by Austrian former motocross rider Heinz Kinigadner, whose 23 year-old son Hannes was crippled in a motocross accident in 2003, and Red Bull CEO Dietrich Mateschitz. The charity provides grants to research projects and clinical trials focused on accelerating progress towards a cure for spinal cord injury.
There were also a few specially-designed helmets with a distinctly British flavour in evidence. The lids of Williams Pastor Maldonado and Sebastian Vettel were both inspired by Great Britain. Most drivers also featured star stickers on their designs as a symbol of unity with injured Marussia test driver Maria De Villota.
Many celebrities from the pre-race events, plus actor Jude Law, visited the paddock during the race weekend, together with drivers Allan McNish, David Brabham, steward Nigel Mansell, 1995 British Grand Prix winner Johnny Herbert, Damon Hill, Jackie Oliver and Tim Parnell, Nic Hamilton and his girlfriend Mel, Professor and Susan Watkins, David Ward from the FIA, former Goodyear personnel Barry Griffin and Tony Shakespeare, Ian Phillips, Vicky Chandhok and British Member of Parliament Peter Hain.
There was an Olympic flavour in the air at Silverstone too. Caterham team principal Tony Fernandes was showing off his Olympic Torch in the paddock, after he had participated in the official relay, whilst IOC President Jacques Rogge was in attendance on race day.
On track, home hope James Calado was out of luck when his Lotus GP GP2 car suffered reliability problems in Saturdays wet feature race, which was won by his team mate Esteban Gutierrez.
The Mexican inherited his second feature victory race in a row after Racing Engineerings Fabio Leimer, who was leading comfortably, failed to pit during a safety-car period. Gutierrez led home Johnny Cecotto of Barwa Addax and Monaco winner Jolyon Palmer of iSport.
Briton Palmer just held off Ocean Racing Technologies Nigel Melker, with Ardens Luiz Razia working through for fifth ahead of DAMS pair Felipe Nasr and David Valsecchi. Dutchman Giedo van der Garde recovered from a grid penalty to take eighth, and pole for Sundays sprint race, for Caterham, ahead of Carlin duo Max Chilton and Rio Haryanto.
That predominantly dry sprint race saw Razia come from fourth on the grid to take victory from main title rival Valsecchi, whom he now leads by six points, 165 to 159, in the standings. Nasr held on for third from Gutierrez, whose last-lap clash with Cecotto saw the Addax driver go off into the wall in an incident likely to be investigated by the stewards.
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