Grapevine: News from the Paddock - Italian GP

Slow Schu Scooter Shuffle

Grapevine: News from the Paddock - Italian GP

Slow Schu Scooter Shuffle

World Champion Michael Schumacher courted controversy again on Thursday when he staged the finish of a race in Monza. The German driver, whose teammate Rubens Barrichello slowed to hand him victory in the Austrian Grand Prix last year and who accidentally handed the Brazilian victory in the United States later in the season, was at it again although this time it came in the build-up to the Grand Prix and it was all for a joke. The pair were competing in the inaugural Italian Scooter Challenge, presented by Ferrari sponsors Vodafone, in which teams of journalists joined them to race small motorised stand-on scooters around a tight and twisty kart-style track.

Schumacher's team gained a healthy lead after two laps when Barrichello forgot to stop to hand his scooter over to the next member of his team and despite some desperate 'non-regulation' tactics from the Brazilian's squad they looked out of contention as the race came to a close. But Schumacher, who had fixed an earlier problem with his scooter while on the track, was desperate for a close finish once again and slowed as he entered the final corner.

Barrichello quickly closed but, as had happened in the United States Grand Prix last year, Schumacher failed to time his attempt at a dead heat finish to perfection and handed his teammate the win. "It is good to have these kind of events," Schumacher said. "They provide a bit of fun...but we were the moral winners." The pair will be hoping for a similarly dominant performance on the full-size track this weekend.

E-Mail Orders

It was a tough decision for English Formula One journalists to fly out to Italy on the Wednesday evening that their country expected to grab a hat-full of goals in a 2004 European Championships qualifier match against Liechtenstein, but for some it had to be done. The saving grace looked to have come in an Australian bar in Milan, where the match was being shown live. But was then turned off in favour of the Italy v Serbia Montenegro match and although that was fair enough, considering the location, what was more hard to swallow was the decision to show Scotland v Germany on the pub's big screen - because the Scottish fans had e-mailed ahead to bag the television. It was little consolation that England were reported to have played badly and only scored twice on their way to victory.

Watchful Eye

Bridgestone appeared very keen to keep a close eye on Michelin this weekend after the tyre controversy that engulfed their competitors over the last week. Assured that the French company had made a new 'legal' tyre, the sport's governing body, the FIA, were confident there would be no more 'mischievous' goings on at Monza. Bridgestone, it seemed, were not so sure, however, and posted one man with a clipboard outside each of the top Michelin runners' garages to keep the pressure on their rivals. Reports that they were holding tape measures, however, remained unfounded and closer observers said that they have actually been inspecting things that closely all season.

Slow Moving Copy Cats

The new Media Centre constructed for this year's race makes the paddock at Monza look impressive - or at least it will do once it is finished. The grey metal-clad building, which looks like a copy of McLaren's Communications Centre with the addition of some odd trumpets on the roof, stands proud above the neatly laid-out motorhomes but as is typical in Italy, it appeared the organisers had forgotten that the race was actually taking place this weekend. The Paddock Club remained incomplete on Thursday and journalists were forced to walk around the exit gate as they left the circuit in the evening because the organisers had blocked it with a truck as they were still putting up the paddock signs.

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