Grapevine: Final News from the Paddock - German GP

Tall Story

Grapevine: Final News from the Paddock - German GP

Tall Story

Williams-BMW invited a special guest to the paddock this weekend - but he struggled to fit through the door in their motorhome. The VIP visitor was 7-foot tall basketball star Dirk Nowitzki, of the Dallas Mavericks, who is eighth on the NBA's scoring list. The 24-year-old playmaker towered over the team's drivers when he met them in the team's garage on race day morning. Meanwhile, down at Sauber, there was another sport on the visitors list, with Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder, a top official in German football, and Ralf Zloczower, the president of the Swiss football federation making an appearance with the Swiss team for the German race.

And another celebrity to join the fray at Hockenheim was 90's pop star Richard Fairbrass, the lead singer of 'Right Said Fred', guesting with McLaren. "I love machinery," Fairbrass said before the race. "I find it really exciting. It's good to watch the whole race on the television but you can't beat the atmosphere when you come to the race."

Civic Power

The new engine package from Honda, which Jordan first raced with at last weekend's French Grand Prix, may only be a stop-gap measure before a second major revision arrives in a few races time, but the team's Italian driver Giancarlo Fisichella, who has not yet experienced it because of his crash at Magny-Cours, has little to look forward to according to some critical insiders. The Japanese company's new engine development has been likened to "changing from a Civic to an Accord" - the company's hot-hatch road car to their mid-range machine - but even so, Fisichella will take anything that will push him closer to a points-scoring position.

BAR...Art

There was a bizarre sight in the paddock this weekend when British American Racing boss David Richards was interviewed with a pair of fish in the background. The two sharks displayed on the wall of the BAR motorhome were part of a unique art display which was first launched in London and was taken on tour in the paddock this weekend. The dangerous sea creatures were, in fact, created by chief mechanic Alistair Gibson using 'lifed' Formula One car parts, and his hobby is becoming quite an obsession. "I started making them when I was in F3000," Gibson said. "Now I'll sit on an aeroplane, get out a sketch pad and plan my next shark. You see a bit that is on the car and think that would be nice for a shark." Gearbox technician Chico Corradini also displayed his artistic talents with a collection of photography that combines both natural and technical worlds.

"I like an abstract approach to photography," he said. "That can take many hours to achieve." But it was not just the team's art on display. Julian Opie, who produced the album cover for the Best of Blur CD and created 70m freezes of BAR drivers Olivier Panis and Jacques Villeneuve, displayed smaller versions of his work in the touring gallery, while fashion photographer Hannes Schmid's portraits of the drivers as 'supermodels' and an award-winning film from of a BAR pitstop by Philip Albera were also on display in the team's trendy paddock home.

Speedy Panis

Olivier Panis was handed one of the heaviest fines of the season (ignoring Ferrari's special million dollar tick-off) when he exceeded the speed limit in the Hockenheim pitlane on Sunday morning. The British American Racing Honda driver clocked fourth fastest time on track in the half-hour session, but he won the rather less in demand pitlane speed record when he clocked 89.3 km/h and was given a $2,500 fine for the privilege.

Circuit Naming

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone officially opened the new Hockenheim circuit 40 minutes before Sunday's German Grand Prix with a ceremony on the start-finish line of the newly re-developed circuit. The track will now be known as the 'Hockenheimring Baden-Wurttemberg' and circuit organiser Gustav Schrank and finance minister of Baden-Wurttemberg Gerhard Stratthaus were on hand to help with the ceremony. But the changes have drawn some strongly derogatory comments, particularly from Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, who claimed that none of the drivers had any positive comments when the plans of the track first appeared and declared the new circuit one of the worst on the calendar.

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