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Paddock Postcard from Barcelona

10 May 2015

With the F1 teams back in Europe for this weekend’s Formula 1 Gran Premio de Espana Pirelli 2015, there was plenty of extra-curricular activity going on in the build-up to Sunday’s race at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Lotus had a new version of their F1 car on show, the Lotus F1 Team Mad Max Hybrid, described as “a fusion of Formula One technology reimagined for a post-apocalyptic future” to coincide with the launch this month of the new action adventure film Mad Max: Fury Road

Fitted with special accessories and heavy modifications for a world gone mad, the car was unveiled on Friday at the Barcelona International Motor Show at the Montjuic Exhibition Centre - the location of the Spanish Grand Prix between 1969 and 1975 - along with two custom, drivable vehicles designed and created for the film.

Fernando Alonso had a cinematic experience of a different kind on Thursday evening when he came face to face with Ayrton Senna - or at least with a life-size hologram that painstakingly recreated the Brazilian legend in classic racing attire, dressed in overalls and with his helmet held beneath his arm.

Endorsed by the Senna family for the launch of a Senna collection with watchmakers TAG Heuer - who this year celebrate the 30th anniversary of their partnership with McLaren - the hologram used a sample of pre-existing audio to allow Senna to address the audience, saying: “I just love racing. I just love the challenge of beating somebody else.”

Meanwhile at Force India, Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg raised their team-mate rivalry to a different level as they took part in an old-school Mexican cook-off in front of the world’s press, guided by world class Mexican chef Ruben Boldo Villegas. The event was one of several planned this year to mark the return of Mexico to the F1 calendar in November.

“Food is so important to my culture and I really enjoyed the session with Chef Ruben, although it was a little nerve wracking prepping food in front of the media,” said Perez. “I left Mexico when I was 14 and I’ve never raced there, it’s hard to put into words quite how excited I am about the Mexican Grand Prix. The organisers have fought hard to have the race put back on the calendar and I know how passionate and spirited the fans are in my country - I can’t wait to experience it.”

Back in the paddock, former Ferrari and Benetton team mates Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi were among the prominent visitors, together with former team owner Giancarlo Minardi, former Mercedes manager Norbert Haug and company boss Dieter Zetsche, former racers Mark Webber, Pedro de la Rosa and Carlos Abella, and new team owner Gene Haas and his technical director Guenther Steiner.

On track, Stoffel Vandoorne scored his second GP2 feature race victory of the season despite huge pressure late in the race from New Zealander Mitch Evans and American Alex Rossi. The ART Grand Prix driver led the first five laps from pole position after resisting an early attack from DAMS’ Alex Lynn on the run to the first corner. That ultimately cost the Briton, as team mate Pierre Gasly went round the outside of him to take second place.

All three started on the softer Pirelli tyre, and Vandoorne was the first to switch to the hards on the sixth lap, together with Gasly who was just over a second adrift by then. Lynn followed suit on the seventh lap. That left Russian Time’s Evans and Racing Engineering’s Rossi, together with Campos Racing’s Rio Haryanto and Trident’s Raffaele Marciello, all of whom had started on the hard tyre, leading the race, and set up the final encounter.

Vandoorne, Gasly and Lynn then got bogged down in the heavy midfield traffic, and as the Belgian carved his way through, Gasly and Lynn had their own often spectacular battle but lost loads of time and took a lot of out their tyres in the process. It didn’t help anyone that a problem with DRS appeared to affect the whole field.

Rossi was the first of the hard-tyre racers to stop, on the 26th lap, followed by Evans a lap later. By the time they were up to speed again Vandoorne had finally pulled clear and was back in the lead, but Rossi was second as Evans set about Gasly and Lynn after a slow stop. On his fresher soft rubber Rossi immediately hauled in Vandoorne and seemed poised to attack as DRS began functioning again, but he faded after getting with 0.6s on the 33rd lap and was passed by Evans in Turn 2 on the 36th.

Vandoorne hung on to win from Evans by 1.9s, with Rossi another 2.6s down. In the end, the fight between Gasly and Lynn cost both dear as they lost touch. Challenged by Haryanto, the Frenchman ran wide in Turn 1 on the 33rd lap, and dropped back after aviating over one of the rumble strips. Thus the Indonesian took fourth from the Briton, with Marciello sixth from Gasly and Arden’s Norman Nato, who passed Campos’s Arthur Pic for eighth on the final lap.

In the season-opening GP3 race, Mercedes junior Esteban Ocon scored an easy victory for ART after beating Trident’s polesitter Luca Ghiotto off the line, leaving the Italian to fend off Emil Bernstoff’s Arden machine for second place.

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