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Paddock Postcard from San Marino 24 Apr 2005

Alex Zanardi (ITA) in a Williams BMW FW27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, San Marino Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Imola, Italy, 23 April 2005

Who's who in the Imola pit lane this weekend

Ex-Formula One driver Alex Zanardi was mobbed everywhere he went on Saturday afternoon. He has exciting plans, and if a suitable hand control for the brakes can be sorted out, he will demonstrate a Williams at Indianapolis later this year.

His old IndyCar sparring partner Gil de Ferran was in fine form, newly installed as sporting director at BAR, while new US racer Ryan Briscoe dropped in on old friends at Toyota.

Nelson Piquet and Keke Rosberg were overseeing their sons’ GP2 debuts, while other Formula One faces from the past included former Minardi racers Paolo Barilla and Pierluigi Martini. The latter is now making ice cream but is also very keen to learn more about GP Masters after hearing of it for the first time this weekend.

Cosworth owner Kevin Kalkhoven flew in from America despite personal injuries suffered while skiing recently, and fellow Champcar owner and Rocketsports proprietor Paul Gentilozzi also took his first look at Formula One racing in Europe.

Former Brabham and Fondmetal designer Sergio Rinland was on hand acting as a consultant to Coloni Motorsport. Famed designer Peter Stevens was McLaren’s guest, while Sauber entertained Michel Kratochvil, Switzerland’s third-rated tennis seed.

On-track, the GP2 series got off to an interesting start amid some new-car problems, with Heiki Kovalainen winning the inaugural race for Arden International ahead of Jose-Maria Lopez, Scott Speed, Formula One refugee Gianmaria Bruni and Britain’s Adam Carroll, who was in with an excellent chance of victory until he had to make a third pit stop for a pit lane speeding infringement.

One of the other biggest talking points in the Imola paddock has been Red Bull’s impressive new ‘energy station’ hospitality facility, already dubbed by some the ‘pachinko palace’ because of its resemblance to one of the Japanese games parlours.

Stretching to three levels, this impressive structure looked down even on McLaren’s opulent grey edifice. The plan is to float it in the harbour at Monaco.