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Formula One goes fundraising for Japan 07 Oct 2011

Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren and Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes GP sign prints for charity. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 7 October 2011 The helmet of Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) HRT Formula 1 Team. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Japanese Grand Prix, Preparations, Suzuka, Japan, Thursday, 6 October 2011 A Bernie Ecclestone (GBR) CEO Formula One Group (FOM) hand puppet.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 7 October 2011

The Suzuka paddock is full of charity initiatives this weekend, as the F1 fraternity raises funds for and pays tribute to those affected by the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck north-eastern Japan earlier this year.

Formula One group CEO Bernie Ecclestone has commissioned paintings of the current grid’s five world champions and their most recent title-winning cars.

Having been signed by the subjects - Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel - the pictures will be auctioned on Suzuka’s website following Sunday’s race.

Numerous drivers are carrying messages of sympathy on their helmets. Button will be auctioning his off after the Grand Prix, while McLaren team mate Hamilton is expected to do likewise with his race boots. HRT’s Vitantonio Liuzzi is another who will be donating his specially-designed Suzuka helmet to charity.

“The earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan earlier this year was terribly shocking but this country proved once again how strong they are,” said Liuzzi.

“While the country is yet rebuilding itself and the consequences of the disaster are still visible, we shouldn’t forget about them. Motorsports and Japan have a really close relationship and it is good to be back here and show our support.”

Proceeds from a special range of approved Formula One merchandise will also be raising money for the earthquake victims, with a Bernie Ecclestone glove puppet proving particularly popular in the paddock on Friday.

March's massive quake and tsunami in northeast Japan left around 20,000 people dead or missing and caused billions of dollars' worth of damage.