Saturday in Monaco: From the paddock to the parties

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Saturday in Monaco: From the paddock to the parties

Partying in Monaco, Mr. Innocent is back in the paddock, More surprises on Sunday? Partying in Monaco Ex-Formula One Ferrari driver and now Citroen rally driver Kimi Raikkonen is present in Monaco, where he spends time with his friends on...


Partying in Monaco, Mr. Innocent is back in the paddock, More surprises on Sunday?

Partying in Monaco

Ex-Formula One Ferrari driver and now Citroen rally driver Kimi Raikkonen is present in Monaco, where he spends time with his friends on his 33 meter yacht "The Iceman". Vijay Mallya tops the charts with his 95 meter super yacht "The Empress of India", without a doubt the biggest yacht in the Mediterranean Sea harbour of the resort area known as Monte Carlo.

Monaco harbor atmosphere.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Many Formula One drivers live in the Principality of Monaco: Jenson Button, Alexander Wurz, David Coulthard, Felipe Massa, Giancarlo Fisichella. Nico Rosberg spent a major part of his youth in the mini state and even went to school in Monaco. Rookies Lucas di Grassi and Bruno Senna recently have made Monaco their home as well.

During the Amber Lounge Fashion show on Friday, past and present F1 drivers took to the poolside charity catwalk to entertain a VIP audience, among them were tennis legend Boris Becker and actress Elizabeth Hurley. Prices (all in Euro) for a 8-person table arrangement: Jeroboam table 15.000,00, VIP table 8,950 and a classic table arrangement for only 5,200. It's a charity event, and the money goes to the Elton John AIDS Foundation. When you look at all the Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Roll Royces that cruise the streets of the principality, you would think there is no such thing as an economic crisis in Monaco.

With the 63rd Annual Cannes Film Festival just around the corner, many celebrities will take the opportunity to visit the Monaco GP. Jennifer Lopez and husband Marc Anthony were spotted shopping, and Nigel Mansell, Piero Lardi Ferrari, Willi Weber and Sebastien Loeb were seen in the pit lane. Monaco is also the principality of parties of the rich and famous, and after the race, there will, without a doubt, be many more parties going on until early Monday morning, and the biggest party will be at the winner's hospitality unit.

Mr. Innocent is back in the paddock

And speaking of celebrities, unbelievable but true, disgraced ex-Renault team principal and alleged crash-gate initiator Flavio Briatore was spotted in the Formula One paddock on Friday. Many people had already spotted Briatore's yacht, the Force Blue, in the harbor, and were wondering what Briatore was doing in Monaco. He attended a party at the yacht of Force India owner Vijay Mallya on Thursday evening, and had lunch with longtime friend and business partner Bernie Ecclestone on Friday.

Briatore is back in the paddock.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Briatore and his co-conspirator Renault engineer Pat Symonds were banned for life from the sport after the crash-gate scandal during the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, where he and Symonds allegedly asked Renault driver Nelson A. Piquet to deliberately crash his car. As a result of the crash Fernando Alonso, who was driving for Renault at the time, won the race. The FIA also decided the pair was also not allowed to enter any areas at FIA-sanctioned events, including the paddock. Briatore successfully appealed the FIA's decision and earlier this year a French court overturned the ban, and Briatore even was rewarded 15,000 Euro in compensation.

The FIA announced, at the time, that they would appeal the decision of the French court, but in April the FIA stated they had reached an agreement and the life-time ban was reduced to a 2-year ban, both Briatore and Symonds are allowed to return to Formula One in 2013. FIA president Jean Todt, who promised he would not personally be involved in Formula One during the FIA election campaign last year, has now decided that Briatore is welcome again in the paddock, because 'he doesn't have an active role' in Formula One.

Indeed Mr. Todt, Briatore has no 'active role' in the sport anymore, because everyone in the Formula One world, including the World Motor Sport Council, thought he shouldn't have one anymore, and unless the writer of this column is very mistaken, that was in fact his punishment. And now that he no longer is to have an active role, why is he welcome again? To do what? To 'not be involved' in Formula One? Next, and last question, is of course: what is Briatore up to, this whole charade was clearly planned, he is not in Monaco to enjoy the sun and he has no intention to say goodbye to Formula One so he must be on a mission, he's paving the way for something...

More surprises on Sunday?

Mark Webber's surprise pole position of this afternoon has again reshuffled the cards, after his crash earlier today Fernando Alonso is no longer a candidate to win the race, it will even be difficult for him to score some points. Robert Kubica again confirmed he is in tip-top shape, although he was three tenths of a second slower than Webber, he is still a serious candidate for the victory. Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button were disappointing, and Mercedes seems to have found more speed since they left Spain, a podium position for Michael Schumacher or Nico Rosberg is certainly possible.

Surprising pole for Red Bull's Mark Webber.
Photo by xpb.cc.

There were no real problems with slower cars during Q1, only Kubica got into problems when Massa in front of him slowed down, he made a sort of gesture, but that was all. Heikki Kovalainen spun his Lotus two times, but didn't suffer any damage and was able to continue.

During Q2 there was one incident when Renault driver Vitaly Petrov hit the barriers at Saint Devote, damaged his car and had to give up. Petrov: "I tried to change the brake balance to the rear, but it was too much for my first flying lap and the rear locked, I spun and touched the wall."

During Q3, when there were only ten cars on the track, Jenson Button suggested that Felipe Massa had intentionally blocked him. Button: "I don't really know what Felipe [Massa] was thinking in Q3, there were only 10 cars out there, so it should have been relatively easy for him to keep out of the way of other cars." But Massa claims he was just slowing down because of a slower car in front of him, and didn't slow down on purpose, and also stressed he was certainly not blocking Button. It's yet not clear if the FIA is investigating this incident, neither is it clear whether or not McLaren has lodged an official protest at the Stewards of the race.

To add to the drama of this year's constant "drivers bitch-fest" at each event, Schumacher commented on his teammate, Rosberg, blocking him during qualifying, "It's a shame but there you go. It happened in Q3 when there were only ten cars on the track."

The circuit in Monaco is very unforgiving, concentration is of paramount importance, just a few inches off the line can send a car into the barriers. And when that happens, it's up to the marshals to get the car of the track as quickly as possible, and as we have seen with the crashes of Alonso and Petrov, they are very good at it, the cars were removed from the track within 60 seconds. It will also be difficult for the slower drivers to move out of the way when blue flags are waved, fair enough, they should not interfere with the battle of the race leaders, but let's not forget, Monaco is a narrow street circuit, and sometimes it is just not possible to get out of the way quickly.

During qualifying a few drivers took the escape road to make sure they didn't spoil the fast lap of another driver, but if they will do that tomorrow as well remains to be seen, they are also part of the race, and they are not just part of the scenery like a few teams suggested earlier this week. It's impossible to predict the outcome of the 57th Grand Prix of Monaco, everything could go pear-shaped in the very first corner, anything can happen on the narrow streets of Monaco, and tomorrow could bring yet another surprise.


See also: Friday in Monaco: The journey

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Series GENERAL , F1