Grapevine: Paddock Life - Montreal edition

Formula One people just love visiting Montreal. The vibrant city, the great track, the good weather, and that prospect of a few day's holiday after the race and before the trek to Indianapolis - all go down well with the F1 circus

Grapevine: Paddock Life - Montreal edition

So it was no real surprise to see that Michael Schumacher had decided to extend his tour of duty by attending and continuing to help out Ferrari, having just been on a motorbike tour holiday with some friends in America.

In fact, the good-time vibe appeared to instill a bit of good cheer into Kimi Raikkonen before the weekend, who was in a marvellous mood during a promotional event for Bridgestone in the build-up to the Canadian Grand Prix.

Now, Raikkonen is a man who only seems to get excited about racing fast cars, snowmobiles or ice hockey. So you would have thought the prospect of going to a school and helping show off a 1-mph car model would fill him with little joy.

But that could not have been further from the truth. Raikkonen revelled in the attention that the 400 children gave him; he smiled a lot and even took several interesting questions from them in good spirits.

Click 'play' on the right-hand-side to Listen to it now.

There are plenty of amusing nicknames in Formula One, but was slightly taken aback when we found out over the weekend that a soon-to-be new team boss is widely known by his staff as 'George'.

Tadashi Yamashina will take over as chairman of Toyota later this month, when Fuji-bound Tsutomu Tomita steps down from his role. The team had a farewell presentation for Tomita in the paddock on Sunday morning, to at least provide some smiles on a difficult weekend for the team.

It was only after a sit-down chat with Yamashina during the weekend that the first hint of his name came to light, so a bit of further digging was obviously required to find out if this was his real name or just a nickname.

After a 'Lost in Translation' moment (when the question, 'Were you born George?' got the answer, 'Yes, many years ago!'), Yamashina duly explained that the name had been earned on his arrival at Toyota's Technical Center USA in 2001.

He was the first Japanese president in that position and, with his staff unsure of how to pronounce and spell his first name, he decided that he needed to look for a suitable replacement.

So with George W Bush just having been elected as president of the United States, and George Washington having been the first US president, the decision was quickly made for him.

Soon, the nickname got mixed up with his real name and he would end up meeting senior management or staff from other parts of the company who actually thought he was really named that. And even now, he does not mind being referred to as George.

 You had to feel a bit sorry for Heikki Kovalainen as he arrived in Montreal at the centre of a bit of an unnecessary media storm.

With the Finn in need of a confidence boost on the track, he found himself having to deal with some unnecessary politics off it thanks to some shoddy misinterpretation of his fine sense of humour.

Kovalainen had been doing an interview in Monaco with ITV's Louise Goodman and he was asked whether he preferred Nigel Mansell or Nelson Piquet.

At that moment Renault test driver Piquet Jr walked past, so Kovalainen, quick as a flash, replied: "To be honest I don't really know them so well - it was too early for me when they were racing. (But) I don't really like Piquet Junior so much, so maybe Mansell."

Pretty harmless stuff, you would think. But amazingly Kovalainen's quotes were presented as though he had been speaking dead seriously.

Within days of his little joke, Kovalainen found himself reading more and more stories that he was at war with Piquet, that he did not like him - and that he was going to be set for a showdown fight in Montreal.

In the end Kovalainen had to go and speak to Piquet Jr about the situation, to make sure that the Brazilian did not think there really was an issue.

"We talked about obviously what there was in the press, and we laughed about it," said Kovalainen. "It was supposed to be a joke, and I was not having a go at him. There is no boxing match. I have nothing against him, he has done a good job."

The good vibes obviously worked, as Kovalainen scored the best result of his season with fourth place.

The rise and rise of the Lewis Hamilton phenomenon continued in Montreal, with his maiden pole position ensuring that even more attention was getting heaped on the youngster.

The huge media interest surrounding Hamilton, allied to the difficulties that McLaren have in juggling the demands on the young Briton's times, has led to constant fights between the team and the media over access to him.

So it is little wonder that the journalists seize upon any media time that Hamilton does have - and that was how Ian Gordon from News of the World got the sound-bite of the year in Canada.

Gordon's bosses had requested he ask Hamilton whether his maiden pole position was really the best feeling in the world - and, in fact, better than sex.

After much amusement and laughing at the question, Hamilton gave the response that Gordon had wanted: "I think it is completely different. You cannot compare it to sex. But you know? I would say it is better than sex. It is!"

The quote soon spread like wildfire as news agencies, Internet sites and newspaper editors seized on it.

Even McLaren boss Ron Dennis, who is very protective of his protege and very suspicious of the media and the way they ask questions, seemed slightly amused by it.

When asked shortly afterwards about whether anything Hamilton was doing was still surprising him, Dennis smiled: "I think the only thing that I would say has surprised me is that he has put sex after pole position.

"That is a bit of a surprise to me, but maybe that is because I am 60..."

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