Grapevine: Paddock Life - Sakhir edition

AUTOSPORT brings you its regular column of life inside the paddock. This week: Sakhir

Grapevine: Paddock Life - Sakhir edition

The build-up to the first race of the season is always filled with that fantastic mix of excitement, tension - and also relief that we all finally get some answers as to who has got it right this year, and who hasn't.

Bahrain was no exception. And although the Sakhir circuit, out in the desert in the middle of the Middle Eastern island, does not have the charms and attractions that usual season-opened Melbourne has, it certainly does all it can to put on a good show.

Though Bahrain would not be the most obvious place for a celebrity to jet in for a race - Bernie Ecclestone and his men did pretty well to attract actor Clive Owen, comedian Rory Bremner, tennis player Monica Seles and King Juan Carlos of Spain - who was seen driving a golf buggy (with bodyguards hanging off) through the paddock moments before the race started.

However, there may have been an element of disappointment about the fact that the grid was a little bit bereft of drivers - who found themselves forced into the pitlane and garages before the race. That was because Ecclestone has refused to give their physios/trainers grid access - so any driver wanting to get himself into the perfect preparation for the race had to leave the grid to be with their man!

The F1 drivers may have been willing to show Bernie Ecclestone that they are not afraid of him by walking off the grid before the start of the race - but as a collective force they had to give second best to some local ladies over the race weekend.

Every Friday night of a grand prix, there is the official F1 drivers' briefing - where race director Charlie Whiting runs over procedures and information for the weekend, plus items relating to safety and the circuit.

Although this is tremendously serious business, it doesn't stop there being a little bit of banter between the drivers, and this time was no different.

One of the very first men to arrive at the briefing was Rubens Barrichello, and he made sure to hijack the official drivers' register - scribbling something amusing in Portuguese alongside Mark Webber's name that had better not get repeated here!

After the drivers' briefing finishes, there is then the regular Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA) meeting - where the drivers themselves run through their own issues.

With this being the first race of the season there was inevitably plenty of stuff to get discussed as the drivers' body continues its worthy efforts. However, just as discussion got onto the possible appointment of a new chairman, with Pedro de la Rosa wishing to step down now that he is racing, the doors opened and in walked some cleaning ladies!

FIA president Jean Todt was holding a press conference and wanted to take over the room - which needed a bit of a tidy up beforehand. So the drivers had to abandon their discussions and delay a decision on a chairman until Australia!

The Bahrain GP cleaning ladies were not the only females under discussion in Bahrain - as Sebastian Vettel lifted the lid on the new lady in his life. Her name is Luscious Liz!

No, she's not the American DJ - but is instead the moniker that Vettel has attached to his car for this season.

The fun-loving German likes to give a name to all his cars - and this most famously came to light last year when he crashed his first RB5 chassis in the Australian Grand Prix. Needing a replacement for the following race in Malaysia, she earned the name 'Kate's Dirty Sister.'

This time, following his pattern of giving the cars successive alphabetic female forenames, the RB6 has been called Luscious Liz - although Vettel may not have thought she was quite so luscious on Sunday when she lost a bit of her spark.

Vettel is hoping that Luscious Liz can see him through the season - and that he doesn't have to seek a sibling of hers over the course of the year.

"I hope she doesn't need to have a dirty sister..." he joked.

It wasn't all fun and games over the weekend, as F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone did some serious business too as he continued to sign off new deals to help boost the sport's image.

As well as launching the official formula1.com app, Ecclestone was present on Saturday to unveil a new F1 watch with Swiss luxury timepiece maker Hublot.

These will not be the sort of watches aimed as being mass marketed in supermarkets. Instead, luxury watch boutiques will be set up in the Paddock Club - and the centrepiece of the brand will be the strictly limited edition 'F1 King'.

Ecclestone said: "I have long had a keen interest in watches and the art of watch making and I am very pleased to be announcing this deal today.

"There is an energy, creativity and dedication to perfection about Hublot which sits very well with us and I could not think of a better brand with which to begin a new chapter in Formula 1's enduring association with luxury watches."

For many in Bahrain, however, the highlight of the weekend was seeing a selection of former world champions all gathering together for what may well have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

With F1 celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, Bahrain organisers wanted to do something special - so they laid on a special parade of historic cars. Only these were not going to be driven by some normal veteran racers - these were the men who drove them first time around.

Bahrain officials flew in 18 world champions for the event - with the only title winners not present being Nelson Piquet and Kimi Raikkonen.

It was hard not to get lost in the history as you saw Jackie Stewart in a Matra MS80, Mario Andretti in a Lotus 79, Emerson Fittipaldi in a Lotus 72 and Nigel Mansell in a .....'Thinwall Special' as there was no 1992 Williams available!

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