Fans get up close and personal in Germany 24 Jul 2005
Modern Formula One racing is definitely so much more than a spectator sport. This has been amply illustrated at Hockenheim this weekend, as thousands of fans have enjoyed the chance to get closer to their idols and their workplace. The hands-on event' has been a special performance in four acts:
Act 1: Get to know the track
Approximately 3,000 German race fans were treated to a lap around the Hockenheimring on Thursday. Four shuttle buses ferried the motorsport enthusiasts, with the added bonus of celebrity commentators giving them a drivers view on the track. The commentators included German racing legend Hans-Joachim Stuck, famous drivers Gianmaria Bruni and Ernesto Viso, and Formula One Safety Car driver Bernd Maylander. The buses were expertly steered by trained drivers from the Hockenheim safety school with passengers enjoying the excitement as the rather large machines were drifted through the tracks many curves.
Act 2: Get to know the pits
A unique experience for all fans who have ever dreamed of having a closer look into the world of Formula One racing. On Thursday at 1600 hours the pit lane was opened for visitors. A total of 3000 weekend ticket holders (the maximum allowed by safety regulations) got a chance to check out the teams preparing for the Hockenheim weekend.
Act 3: Get to know the drivers, past, present and future
On Friday hundreds of lucky motorsport fans at the Hori-stage got their hands on the autographs of Formula One Sauber drivers Jacques Villeneuve and Felipe Massa. Several GP2 drivers including Nico Rosberg, Mathias Lauda, Neel Jani and Heikki Kovalainen also took time out to meet their fans.
Act 4: Get to know the superstars
The fun continued on Saturday with fans at the Hockenheimring getting an even bigger treat as Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso took to the stage to do the honours. In total, drivers from eight of the ten teams attended a specially set-up stage in the merchandising area to personally sign autographs, pose for photographs and chat with their supporters.
Unsurprisingly in his homeland, Schumacher was the star attraction with hopeful well wishers queuing for up to four hours to meet their idol. The seven-time world champion was accompanied by his Brazilian Ferrari team mate Rubens Barrichello. Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella also joined Alonso for a jam-packed 30-minute stint. Other drivers to do their bit for the fans today included Mark Webber from Williams, Toyota's third driver Ricardo Zonta, Red Bull Racing's Vitantonio Liuzzi and Jordan's Tiago Monteiro.
Commenting on the event, Schumacher said: "I was overwhelmed by the response from the crowd; there were so many people there. The fans in Hockenheim are fantastic and I hope we have managed to make some of them happy. Thanks for all the support."