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Paddock Postcard from Barcelona

11 May 2014

The paddock’s return to Europe for the Formula 1 Gran Premio de Espana Pirelli 2014 inevitably saw many familiar racing faces visiting the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya over the weekend. Ferrari chief Luca di Montezemolo made his second appearance in three Grands Prix on Friday, while Sir Jackie Stewart was joined by Carlos Sainz, Allan McNish, Luis Sala, Giancarlo Minardi, Adrian Campos, Joan Villadelprat, Dave Spence, the father of racers Jamie and Daniel, driver steward Danny Sullivan and Randy Mamola. Among those celebrating birthdays were Force India tester Daniel Juncadella and Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn.

Lotus took on a suitably local flavour, with a special livery paying homage to Spanish painter El Greco. On the initiative of team owner Gerard Lopez, their E22 cars feature branding of a major El Greco exhibition currently taking place in Toledo which marks 400 years since the death of the leading figure of the Spanish Renaissance. Special commemorative helmets are also being presented to both the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, and to His Majesty King Juan Carlos I of Spain.

In other Lotus news, Thursday evening saw the premiere of ‘Human Ignition’, a new film from team sponsors Burn which envisions the future of Formula One racing in the year 2030. Believe the movie directed by American Bryan Gregg and that future could include ‘breathable’ cars made of moveable alloys, smart tyres that have different compounds depending on track conditions, and front spoilers made of a memory flex composite to change the physical shape of the car.

On track, Venezuelan Johnny Cecotto scored a finely judged victory in Saturday’s GP2 feature race over Jolyon Palmer and Felipe Nasr after making a set of the harder-compound Pirellis work long enough to be able to dive into the pits late on for the softs and then overtake erstwhile leader Palmer. As the Trident driver raced away, a frustrated Palmer kept his DAMS car ahead of Carlin duo Nasr and Julian Leal.

The first start had to be aborted when McLaren protege Stoffel Vandoorne’s ART car stalled, and on the next attempt DAMS’ poleman Stephane Richelmi suffered the same fate.

Palmer was lucky to escape damage when the race finally started when he was swamped in Turn 1 by fast-starting Mitch Evans and Stefano Coletti before the Racing Engineering and Russian Time drivers collided right in front of him. It was a bad opening lap for the Spanish team, whose second driver, Ferrari coming man Raffaelle Marciello, was involved in an incident with Hilmer team mates Daniel Abt and Facu Regalia.

Palmer pitted within two laps of the safety car pulling off, and that strategy would eventually enable Cecotto to take advantage after his long opening stint. The Venezuelan stayed out until seven laps from the end and rejoined ahead of Nasr, before using his fresher rubber to catch and pass the helpless Palmer. The latter nevertheless increased his championship lead.

Caterham’s Ryo Haryanto took fifth just ahead of Campos’s Arthur Pic, Arden’s Rene Binder and MP’s Tio Ellinas and Tom Dillmann as Rapax’s Adrian Quaife-Hobbs took the final point in 10th.

On Sunday morning, it was Nasr's turn to ascend to the top step of the podium as he claimed his maiden GP2 victory in his 50th start in the category. The Brazilian made a scintillating getaway from sixth on the grid, and within two laps had picked off pole man Dillmann and moved into a lead he would ultimately not relinquish.

He did not have it all his own way, however, as points leader Palmer hounded him over the first half of the race and again at the finish. Palmer's challenge ended when he locked up at Turn 1 in the closing stages however, and he eventually finished seven seconds adrift - extending his championship lead to 22 points in the process.

Dillmann hung on to third ahead of Pic and Leal, who remains Palmer's closest championship challenger.

For more pictures from Spain, check out our Paddock Postcard gallery.