There was a definite sense of déjà vu in the paddock today. Two weeks ago at Silverstone everyone was sheltering in motorhomes and pit garages from torrential rain, and today in Hockenheim everyone did the same as the heavens opened once more. The ‘English weather’ was particularly frustrating for F1 tyre supplier Pirelli, who have been itching to test their new hard compound tyres in practice for the last couple of races. Now they say that the new tyres probably won’t make an appearance again until the Japanese Grand Prix in October – what are the chances of it raining at Suzuka too?
Germany is a country with a proud racing history and passionate race fans, but it’s not just F1 that they get excited about. DTM touring car races bring 100,000 fans to Hockenheim twice a year and today Williams F1’s development driver Susie Wolff showed Pastor Maldonado what all the fuss is about. Wolff, who is married Toto Wolff, a non-executive director of Williams F1, races in the DTM and was keen to give Maldonado a spin in her Mercedes at the local Mercedes Experience Centre test track. It was the first time the Venezuelan has ever been a passenger in a racecar and although he found it a little scary at first, he later confessed to finding the experience “good fun” and said he was “impressed” by Susie.
The paddock has been graced with numerous world champions this season and another familiar face was in Hockenheim today. Mika Hakkinen, world champion in 1998 and ’99, is an ambassador for Mercedes and as it is the Three-Pointed star’s local race, he had plenty of appearances to make. The ‘Flying Finn’ retired from F1 at the end of the 2001 season but he doesn’t look to have aged a day. There must be something in the water in Scandinavia…
Ferrari opened their motorhome on Friday evening for a special dinner with the media. The event has become a regular fixture on the F1 calendar and has in the past been the scene of much merriment and story-telling. The most legendary story from years past involved a journalist – who shall remain nameless – being caught red-handed when he tried to steal one of the Scuderia’s stylish metal ashtrays. Unfortunately for him, as he went to leave the motorhome the ashtray dropped out of his coat pocket and smashed onto the floor in front of everyone, including the team’s PR Luca Colajanni.
Suffice to say the journalist has never lived the story down and in typical F1-style, the whole affair was dubbed ‘ashtray-gate.’ Let’s hope the guests were on their best behaviour this year while enjoying their five courses!