Paddock Postcard from Barcelona 10 May 2009
The paddock at the Circuit de Catalunya has been alive with racing faces and personalities as the European leg of the Formula One season kicks off.
World Champions Sir Jackie Stewart and Nelson Piquet were joined by Keke Rosberg and rejoined by Niki Lauda, now recovering after a recent shunt involving a trip over his pet dog. Rallying champion Carlos Sainz was also in evidence, as was motorcycle legend Randy Mamola, while other familiar race faces included Riccardo Patrese, Malcolm and Elaine Wilson, Luis Sala, Daniele Audetto, Dave Spence and Emilio de Villota, together with Red Bulls debutant reserve driver, Brendon Hartley, who made his first official Formula One appearance.
With new faces mingling with old titleholders, it was fitting that 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton was honoured in Barcelona. The unveiling of a plaque with Hamiltons name on that will take its place amongst fellow celebrated drivers on the Circuit de Catalunyas Champions Avenue, came as a shock for the British driver.
This is actually quite a surprising and also emotional moment for me, he said. To be here in Catalunya, at one of my favourite tracks, and being recognised here is very special for me. I would like to thank the people in Catalunya for their support. I hope I will continue to do my work right and to make my country and my team proud.
There was celebration too at the Toyota garage with the Japanese team marking doctor Riccardo Ceccarellis 300th Grand Prix. Ceccarelli, who is responsible for the fitness and healthcare of the entire team, was joined by drivers Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock, Toyota team President John Howett and chairman Tadashi Yamashina.
In GP2, the European series kicked off with a fine victory for Romain Grosjean over Luca di Grassi and Vitaly Petrov on Saturday, and a fabulous win over Grosjean and Jerome DAmbrosio for rookie Edoardo Mortara on Sunday morning. Grosjean leads the series.
Formula BMW Europe also started its championship this weekend. Denmarks Michael Chistensen won Saturdays race from impressive 16 year-old rookie Luiz Felipe Nasr and Jazeman Jafaar. Nasr underlined his nascent potential with an excellent victory over Christensen and local hero Daniele Juncadella on Sunday.