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Paddock Postcard from Italy

07 Sep 2014

There’s no place like the Monza paddock, and 2014 was no exception as the place was full of world champions and familiar faces from racing’s past.

Complete with his cowboy hat - and plenty more to give to others - Mario Andretti paid an all-too brief visit on Thursday in his role as ambassador for the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, while his fellow title holders included the usual suspects such as Niki Lauda, John Surtees, Alain Prost, Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve and Emerson Fittipaldi.

From rallying, Carlos Sainz was in town and the famed Markku Alen made a rare ‘Maximum Attack’ appearance. Other racers included Juan Pablo Montoya, Jan Magnussen, Jean Alesi, Stefan Johansson, Luca Badoer, Mark Webber and Perry McCarthy.

Edmund Irvine was there too, while Brian Hart’s former wife Sally made a welcome comeback with their sons Ben and Freddie, and Ferrari’s Luca di Montezemolo and Piero Lardi Ferrari made their annual pilgrimage. As their deal for Ferrari power units was announced, expected 2016 F1 entrants Gene Haas and Gunther Steiner visited again, together with Stewart-Haas Racing’s Joe Custer.

Saturday's GP2 race produced a third win for ART's Stoffel Vandoorne, but the McLaren junior driver was made to work hard for it by Campos Racing's Arther Pic who continued his recent strong form. At one stage Vandoorne had opened a lead of just under two seconds after getting away nicely from pole position, but by the end Pic had reduced that to 0.6s after a gallant pursuit.

Russian Time's Mitch Evans was a decent third, ahead of Stephane Richelmi of DAMS, Arden's Andre Negrao, Carlin's Felipe Nasr and MP Motorsport's Marco Sorensen.

The race looked like being a disaster for points leader Jolyon Palmer after his DAMS car was sent from third to the back of the grid when it emerged the team could not supply the requisite litre of fuel for post-session analysis. But he drove brilliantly to recover to eighth place, thus setting himself up to start from pole for Sunday's sprint race.

He took full advantage of that by easing to his third victory of the season, leading from lights to flag to take the chequered flag 1.5 seconds ahead of Racing Engineering's Stefano Coletti - who pulled off a series of sensational overtakes on his charge from ninth on the grid.

Richelmi was third ahead of Sorenson, who lost ground on the first lap after a botched attempt to overtake Palmer at Roggia. Negrao was a relatively distant fifth, with Hilmer Motorsport's Jon Lancaster beating Nasr to sixth.

As a result Nasr now trails Palmer by 43 points in the championship fight, with Vandoorne a further 24 points adrift. Just two rounds remain: Sochi in October, and the November season finale in Abu Dhabi.