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Paddock Postcard from Austin

02 Nov 2014

It’s been a busy week in the build up to the 2014 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen got his off to a flying start when he was invited to sample a Boeing 757 flight simulator by team sponsors UPS at their air freight centre in Louisville, Kentucky.

“It was really interesting,” said the Finn. “Even if I’m used to very different types of simulator, I have to admit that an aircraft cockpit is particularly interesting, with maybe even more controls than we have in our cockpit.”

Raikkonen - and team mate Fernando Alonso - also got to try a very different kind of craft when they got behind the wheel of ultra energy efficient cars designed and built by students from nearby Louisiana Tech as part of Shell’s Eco-marathon initiative.

“I had fun,” said Alonso after driving the concept vehicles, including one capable of 488 miles per gallon, and chatting with its creators. “When you have students with fresh ideas, very clever ideas, and then you add the passion of motorsport, they create this beautiful concept that shows us what we can achieve in the future.”

Red Bull and title sponsors Infiniti kicked off their US weekend with a downtown demonstration in the centre of Austin. The Texan capital reverberated to the sound of the team’s double championship-winning RB7, while drivers Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo also took some lucky guests out on hot laps in a prototype Infiniti Q50 road car.

"I think it's good to get the city involved early in the week,” Ricciardo told the Red Bull Racing website. “It's our third year here now and you can see how Austin has really started to embrace F1. People are understanding our sport more, we're seeing lots more fans in team kit and that's really nice.”

While Austin buzzed with parties and Halloween celebrations, as always the Circuit of the Americas’ paddock attracted a big crowd. Mario Andretti joined fellow world champion regulars Sir Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve, as Derek Warwick took on the duties of driver steward with the FIA.

Other former F1 drivers Juan Pablo Montoya, Bruno Senna, David Hobbs (on duty with NBC) and Christian Danner mingled with steward Timmy Mayer, former IndyCar owner and now president of the series’ operations and competition Derrick Walker, Mark Stewart, Josh Hill (now firmly into his new music career after he quit racing), former Benetton mechanic Steve Matchett and former F3000 and CART racer John Jones from Thunder Bay.

Show business was also well represented, with visits from actors Keanu Reeves, Matt LeBlanc and Anthony Edwards, while from the world of basketball came Tony Parker, who gave some shooting tips to Vettel, Ricciardo and the rest of the Red Bull team.