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Paddock Postcard from Monza 08 Sep 2013

The McLaren 50th anniversary montage on the front of their Communications Centre.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Italian Grand Prix, Preparations, Monza, Italy, Thursday, 5 September 2013 James Hunt's McLaren M23 at the Rush movie premiere, Leicester Square, London (L to R): Sergio Perez (MEX) McLaren and Martin Whitmarsh (GBR) McLaren Chief Executive Officer, at the McLaren 50th anniversary reception.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Monza, Italy, Saturday, 7 September 2013 Red Bull Racing have helped Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing celebrate his last European Grand Prix with a photographic look at his career history.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Italian Grand Prix, Preparations, Monza, Italy, Thursday, 5 September 2013 Niki Lauda arrives at the Rush movie premiere, Leicester Square, London David Hasselhoff (USA) Actor.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Monza, Italy, Saturday, 7 September 2013 Tom Dillmann (FRA) Russian Time, finished third in race 1. GP2 Series, Rd9, Monza, Italy, 7-8 September 2013.

If you love Formula One racing, you love Monza. Even the most casual of F1 fans can’t help be swept up in the air of history and mystique which envelopes the ‘pista magica’, or ‘magic track’, as it is affectionately known. No surprise then that the paddock is always happy to arrive in Italy, the final round of the season’s European leg.

McLaren are celebrating their 50th anniversary this week and to mark the occasion their motorhome was emblazoned with a huge mural depicting founder Bruce McLaren and the drivers to have won world championships with the team - Emerson Fittipaldi, James Hunt, Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen and Lewis Hamilton.

On Monday team staff at their UK base in Woking were treated to a display of historic McLaren machinery, driven by - among others - Jenson Button and Sergio Perez. And in the evening the team was very much in evidence for the London premiere of Ron Howard’s new F1 blockbuster film, Rush, which recounts the epic battle between Ferrari’s Niki Lauda and McLaren’s James Hunt for the 1976 world championship. While Button stole the show by arriving in a period McLaren, other F1 names appearing on the red carpet included Lauda himself, combining a suit with his trademark red cap, Sir Jackie Stewart, Bernie Ecclestone, Red Bull’s Christian Horner and Ferrari’s Stefano Domenicali.

Having confirmed Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo as his 2014 replacement earlier this week, Thursday evening at Monza saw Red Bull pay tribute to Mark Webber’s time with the team by holding a photographic celebration of the much-loved Australian’s career, as he prepares to compete in his final Grand Prix in Europe. Numerous drivers and team bosses turned up at the Energy Station to congratulate Webber, including Nico Hulkenberg, Jenson Button, Ross Brawn and Sir Frank Williams.

As usual, Monza’s paddock was full of familiar faces from the racing world. Ferrari chief Luca di Montezemolo and McLaren’s Ron Dennis made appearances, as did FIA President Jean Todt. 1964 Monza winner John Surtees came to support Racing Steps Foundation protege James Calado as he made his impressive official debut as Force India’s reserve driver, and former Ferrari teamsters Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger were present together with their former bosses Piero Lardi Ferrari and Flavio Briatore, Giancarlo Minardi, Fabrizio Barbazza and Enrique Scalabroni. Rubens Barrichello was another Ferrari veteran in attendance, and just in case you weren’t sure, his tee-shirt read ‘Yes, it’s really me’.

From the world of entertainment came comedian and actor Rowan Atkinson, Faithless’ Maxi Jazz and ‘The Hoff’ - Baywatch’s David Hasselhoff. And from the world of football, Carlos Tevez, Fernando Llarente, Ronaldo and sporting legend Franz Beckenbauer.

On Sunday morning, there was further acclaim for ‘man of the moment’ (thanks to the aforementioned Rush) Niki Lauda, as Bernie Ecclestone and Brembo chairman Alberto Bombassei made the Bernie Ecclestone award to three-time world champion, currently non-executive chairman of the Mercedes team.

On track, Saturday saw Swiss driver Fabio Leimer take his third GP2 feature race victory of the year with a great drive for Racing Engineering, to win from Briton Sam Bird who started from pole for Russian Time, and his French team mate Tom Dillmann. Leimer made the better start, leaving Bird to chase him all the way to the flag as DAMS’ Marcus Ericsson and Carlin’s Jolyon Palmer fought for fourth place ahead of fast-starting Jake Rosenzweig (Barwa Addax), series leader Stefano Coletti (Rapax) and Dillmann.

Coletti and Dillmann soon passed the American, who sustained race-ending damage as the Frenchman overtook, and a drive-through penalty for pit-lane speeding delayed Coletti before his car broke. Ericsson sustained a puncture, while Palmer lost another strong finish following the departure of a loose left rear wheel after his pit stop.

A string of fastest laps put Bird right on Leimer’s tail after their stops, but the Swiss held on to win. Behind Dillman, DAMS’s Stephane Richelmi was fourth from Racing Engineering’s Julian Leal, who held off a troubled James Calado whose ART car again disappointed. Hilmer’s Adrian Quaife-Hobbs, Caterham drivers Alexander Rossi and Sergio Canamasas and Venezuela GP Lazarus’ Vittorio Ghirelli employed smart strategies to round out the points finishers.

Sunday saw Quaife-Hobbs take his first GP2 Series victory in the sprint race. He led from the start after Rossi, on pole, had a poor start, and Calado, who started in third, failed to get off the line.

Rossi ultimately came home in second, with Leal the third man on the podium. The Russian Time duo of Bird and Dillmann came fourth and fifth respectively, followed by Leimer, Rio Haryanto, Johnny Cecotto Jr, Dani Clos and Palmer.

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