Grapevine: News from the Paddock - European GP

Virtual Challenge

Grapevine: News from the Paddock - European GP

Virtual Challenge

Jenson Button lost a PlayStation challenge on Thursday afternoon when he went head-to-head with Renault rival Fernando Alonso around a 'virtual' Nurburgring ahead of this weekend's European Grand Prix. Button, who was replaced by Alonso at Renault at the end of last year, fought hard to get the better of the young Spanish sensation but spun off into the barriers in the three-lap race.

Button claimed Alonso was "cheating" after the Renault racer cut across the kerbs to beat him in their one-lap qualifying run. The Spaniard, driving a Renault R23, finished three tenths of a second faster than Button in the BAR-Honda 005, but still only started from 19th on the grid as the two drivers struggled to get to grips with the new racing game. "I still play the PlayStation but I really used it a lot when I was in Formula 3000," said Alonso. "I didn't know any of the tracks and it was really helpful to understand the layouts."

Button admitted he was "hoping not to embarrass himself" in the race and he started well when he made it up to fifth by the third corner despite slamming into the pack in the first corner as Alonso lost control and went off the track early. But his Spanish rival soon regained his composure and moved past to gain such a lead that the Button gave up and ended the race in the barriers as he tried to steer by looking over his shoulder at the big screen, although rumours suggested Button's screen had become unplugged.

Alonso finished 18th - one place ahead of the computer-driven Minardi of Briton Justin Wilson - as Button ended a disappointing 20th. The event was run to launch the new Formula One 2003 game for the PlayStation 2, which will be available in two weeks time, and the presentation revealed that Sony have bought gaming rights to Formula One for four years - which will allow them exclusive rights to use all the driver and team names - at a cost of around $100 million (USD). Still, with one in four western homes owning a games system and 70 percent of that figure owning one from Sony, it is probably a wise investment.

Noch Ein Beer

McLaren-Mercedes sponsors Warsteiner offered paddock regulars the chance to sample a few new brews at this weekend's European Grand Prix as they served up the latest bizarre concoctions to hit the streets. It appears that all consumables companies are looking for that new twist - and fresh on the heels of Vanilla Coca Cola and Ice Cream flavoured crisps comes Germany's answer to the beer equivalent: 'Premium Lemon' and 'Premium Cola'. The two beers consist of 60 percent Warsteiner with the remaining forty percent either lemon or cola. Some things you just should not mix...

Mercedes Playtime

Mercedes put on their usual pre-European Grand Prix event at the Nurburgring on Thursday when they took invited journalists on a trip around the Nordschleife, the old Nurburgring, a lap of which lasts more than 20km. A driving test event and a meal on Wednesday preceded the thrill rides, which took place in the morning. The high-speed experience of one of Formula One's most notorious tracks was what everyone had been waiting for. They were, of course, not disappointed as Mercedes' DTM drivers pushed their cars to the limits.

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