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Monza Paddock - the VIP and celebrity faces 12 Sep 2004

(L to R): Camelia Potec (ROM) Gold medalist swimmer with Mark Webber (AUS) Jaguar.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monza, Italy, 11 September 2004 Eddie Irvine (GBR) chats to a friend in the paddock.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monza, Italy, 11 September 2004 Italian singer Eros Ramazzotti (ITA) and former F1 driver Jean Alesi (FRA) in the paddock.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monza, Italy, 11 September 2004 Luca di Montezemolo (ITA) Ferrari President celebrates pole for Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monza, Italy, 11 September 2004 Denise Lewis (GBR) Olympic Heptathlete.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Italian Grand Prix, Race Day, Monza, Italy, 12 September 2004

Just a few of the famous names in the Italian pit lane

Still wet from winning the gold metal in the 200-metre freestyle in Athens, 20-year-old Romanian swimmer Camelia Potec visited the Monza paddock this weekend and was fascinated.

“I always watched Formula One on TV but I have never guessed, that the reality is so mesmerizing," enthused Potec. "And the coolest thing is the star system in Formula One. I wish that swimming would produce such icons, and that I could be one of them.”

Italian soft rocker Eros Ramazotti is no stranger to the pit lane. A close friend of former Ferrari driver Jean Alesi, he was once a regular in the Monza paddock. But with his buddy out of Formula One racing he shifted his sympathies for a while. Now, though, he’s back. “Whatever other people might say about a serial winner Michael Schumacher I think it is great to see somebody not getting tired of wanting to win. So I cross my fingers for his (season win) number 13.”

When Eddie Irvine retired from racing, the last of the great playboy-drivers moved out of the paddock. Not wanting to be seen as a has-been or a hanger-on, Irvine shunned visits to his former workplace. But Monza is a magic place. “I have so many great memories with this race track that I simply had to come – to feel the heat of competition and to inhale that special air that hangs over the paddock.”

Strolling through the paddock, being CEO of Fiat and President of Ferrari seems to give Luca di Montezemolo a somewhat paramount view on Formula One racing. “I still love Formula One with all my heart,” he said. “But I am very critical with Bernie.”

Philip Morris is something of an old timer among the sponsor community in the Formula One racing paddock. So it is only natural that Altria (the parent company of Philip Morris) CEO Louis Camilleri should visit the pit lane once in a while, just to see how well the team in red is doing. “I have always loved Formula One and my position gives me the ideal opportunity to be very close to the action and everybody involved in this perfect platform for sponsorship.”

Among the other stars enjoying the racing has been Britain’s golden girl from the Sydney Olympics, heptathlete Denise Lewis. And speaking of the Olympics, former Jordan public relations officer Giselle Davies, now of course much better known from her recent television appearances in her role as media director of the International Olympic Committee, made a welcome return to her roots this weekend.