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Paddock Postcard from Monaco

30 May 2016

As ever Monte Carlo was a hotbed of social interaction ahead of this weekend’s Formula 1 Grand Prix de Monaco 2016.

Before the serious work began, Nico Rosberg chauffeured Prince Albert round the streets of the Principality in a Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing, as they talked of life and, in particular, how fatherhood has changed them.

Meanwhile, Jenson Button and manager Richard Goddard participated in a private cavalcade of classic cars in homage to Jenson’s late and hugely missed father John, who died in nearby Eze in January two years ago.

On Friday evening, friends gathered at the Casino to help Olivier Panis celebrate his tremendous triumph here for Ligier in the 1996 Grand Prix.

And the Amber Lounge celebrated its 10th annual charity fashion show, with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, Renault’s Jolyon Palmer, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr, and Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto among the drivers swapping race track for catwalk to help raise funds for disadvantaged children.

Famous racing faces in the paddock, besides usual suspects such as Sir Jackie Stewart, Damon Hill, Johnny Herbert and Jacques Villeneuve, included Jean Alesi, Gerhard Berger (en famille), Howden Ganley, Teddy Pilette, Clive Santo, Hans Stuck, Keke Rosberg, Pastor Maldonado, Martine and Sean Walkinshaw, Eddie Irvine, Aguri Suzuki, Jean-Louis Schlesser, Graeme Lowdon, Giancarlo Fisichella, Jean-Eric Vergne, Mika Hakkinen, Bertrand Gachot, Nelson Piquet, Jean Ragnotti and Bernard Dudot.

Visitors from other walks of life included singer Justin Bieber, actresses Rosamund Pike and Riley Keogh, actor Liam Cunningham, singer Ronan Keating, speedway star Nicki Pedersen and Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri.

On track, Racing Engineering’s Norman Nato looked set for victory in the GP2 feature race on Friday, as polesitter Sergey Sirotkin crashed his ART car while in hot pursuit, but a virtual safety car intervention handed the advantage to late pit-stopper Artem Markelov who took his maiden win with Russian Time ahead of the frustrated Frenchman and Briton Oliver Rowland’s MP Motorsport car. Fellow countryman Alex Lynn was fourth for DAMS ahead of Pertamina Campos Racing’s Mitch Evans. Racing Engineering’s Jordan King ran third early on before a pit stop delay, then later broke the suspension after a brush with a barrier.

In Saturday’s sprint race eighth-place man in the feature race, ART’s Nobuharu Matsushita, won easily to become the first-ever Japanese victor in Monte Carlo. He finished well ahead of Carlin’s GP3 graduate Marvin Kirchhofer and Russian Time’s Raffaele Marciello. Evans was fourth from Lynn, Nato, Rowland and Markelov.