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A who's who guide to the Shanghai Paddock 27 Sep 2004

L to R: Ralf Schumacher (GER) Williams, Dr Helmut Panke (GER) Chairman of the Board BMW Group and Willi Weber (GER) driver manager.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai, China, 26 September 2004 L to R: Louis Camilleri, Chairman of the Philip Morris shares a joke with Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Ferrari on the grid. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai, China, 26 September 2004 (L to R): Mick Doohan (AUS) TV Commentator with Jackie Stewart (GBR) and John Hogan (GBR) Jaguar Sporting and Commercial Director.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Shanghai, China, 24 September 2004 The Chinese GP Media Welcome Party.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Shanghai, China, 24 September 2004 (L to R): Luca di Montezemolo (ITA) Ferrari Team Manager celebrates pole position for Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Shanghai, China, 25 September 2004

Just a few of the famous faces in the Chinese pit lane

The eyes of the world were on Formula One racing and the super stylish Shanghai International Circuit this weekend. Not surprisingly then it was simply the place to be for celebrities and key motorsport and business figures.

For BMW’s CEO Dr. Helmut Panke the question of who will fill the second Williams cockpit in 2005 took a backseat in Shanghai. “This race truly is a statement of Formula One’s global presence. China for us is the fastest growing market. We see that the years of small car consumption are over, giving way to a market of middle and upper class demand. BMW expects Formula One to be the glamour platform to team up with our other strategies to create brand awareness. As for the circuit it is a fascinating statement in architecture and many a race track in Europe could learn from it.”

For former seven-time motorcycle world champion Mick Doohan, being in the Shanghai paddock this weekend was simply a must. “I jumped on a plane to be a witness of this first Chinese Grand Prix. It is fantastic to see how a race track in the 21st century can look like. And Formula One is the most fascinating sport in the world. This event was a bold statement of this fact.”

Spanish flamenco whiz Joaquin Cortez, the man with the hot body language, paid a visit to the Shanghai paddock to lend his support to countryman Fernando Alonso. A man the size of a race driver, he could easily jump into a cockpit himself. “Yes, I could imagine being a driver and not a dancer. Circumstances put me on stage and not behind a wheel. Especially here in Shanghai, I am almost sorry about that as it is the coolest place I’ve ever seen. Right out of space.” Whether Alonso could shake his pelvis well enough to make a living remains to be seen.

For Bridgestone CEO Shigeo Watanabe it was a relatively short trip to the Shanghai race. But, as always, he was keeping a truly global perspective on things. “China is a very important market. It is our target to increase our brand awareness in China through Formula One. So it was business and fun that I could perfectly combine this weekend as I am a great fan of Formula One. When I got here I was surprised with the size of the circuit and the stylish setting of the paddock. It will be one of the key events of the calendar.”

Louis Camilleri, CEO of Altria, the parent company of such household names as Philip Morris and Kraft Food, must be a true race fan, given the numerous times he’s been spotted in the paddock this year. “Yes, I am still a big fan after all these years. But this first Chinese Grand Prix at this impressive race track has long been on my schedule. That Formula One now enters the world’s biggest market will give it an immense boost as well as the companies involved. Our food brand Kraft at the moment is expending rapidly on the Chinese market and I am expecting positive synergies.”

As one of his boys is always winning, Fiat CEO and Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo could fully concentrate on the grandeur of the architecture and importance of the event. “Ferrari always pushed to stage a race in China to support the sport and to support brand awareness. Fiat and Ferrari both have interests in the Chinese markets and the Grand Prix will help to transport our message. Personally I am stunned by what has been achieved with this race track. It’s the most fascinating statement of Formula One in many years.”

Sinopec’s president Chen Tonghai must have been very pleased seeing his company as the title sponsor of China’s first Grand Prix. At least his body language suggested that. And in fact the scene was fantastic, the race mesmerizing, and the advertising perfectly placed. Sinopec has entered the world of global brand awareness with a big statement.

Shinji Tanimura might not be so well known in the western hemisphere, but in Asia he is one of the biggest stars of the music scene. So it was no surprise to see him rubbing elbows with the plethora of other celebrities in the pit lane. “I have always been a race fan and I am very happy to be a witness of this first race in China. I honestly hope that many more will follow.”