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OBSERVATIONS - PUBLISHED ON JULY 23RD 2012
Paddock Life

Behind the scenes at Hockenheim
Hamilton's 100th race, press conference ear-bashing, British media lost in the middle of the night and more, as Glenn Freeman reports from behind the scenes in Germany

  By Glenn Freeman
 
 

Britain and Germany may be divided by their football teams, but in qualifying at least Hockenheim much resembled the waterlogged Silverstone of the previous week.

The Germans and the British love a bit of banter. The Germans like to boast about their football prowess and Brits shout about, well, other things, but a far less controversial topic of debate between the two nationalities – apart from each other's sense of humour – is the weather.

After a rain-soaked weekend at Silverstone, Hockenheim delivered more of the same, even if it did hold off on race day. However, as used to irk Paul di Resta during his DTM days, the rain prompted several Germans to declare that it was "British weather".

So credit to Lewis Hamilton, who laughed at that suggestion. "It's German weather, don't blame it on the English!" he said.

Sebastian Vettel scored a point back for the Germans on Saturday. As the heavens opened in qualifying, he switched from his German GP crash helmet design to his Silverstone special. Touchι!

Hamilton was the centre of attention in the build-up to the German GP, as he prepared to make his 100th start in Formula 1. There was little fanfare over the weekend about that fact, either from him or McLaren, though.

Maybe that was because, as Lewis put it, "You shouldn't celebrate getting older." Or perhaps it was because, in these modern times of 19- or 20-race seasons, getting to the magic 100 doesn't take quite as long as it used to.

Shortly before the race, however, McLaren did celebrate the milestone, which included revealing a special logo it had produced for the occasion.

McLaren also put together a piece on its website, where Hamilton chose 10 races that have stood out for him in his F1 career.

Because he was picking just one from each block of 10 starts, it couldn't be considered a 'Top 10' such as the one compiled by AUTOSPORT F1 editor Edd Straw, but it was still fascinating.

You can read what Hamilton had to say about each of his own choices here:

Canada 2007
Fuji 2007
Britain 2008
Brazil 2008
Singapore 2009
Brazil 2009
Belgium 2010
China 2011
Abu Dhabi 2011
Canada 2012

While a few drivers spared some kind words for Hamilton's feat this weekend, there was – understandably – more admiration flowing in the direction of another sport, as the 2012 Tour de France cycle race reached its conclusion this weekend.

"You can learn a lot from those guys," said Jenson Button of the Tour's top riders. "It's just as much a mind game as it is a physical one.

"It's impressive. I did a cycle race last weekend – 130km in the hills, with 2,700 metres of climbing. I did it once, they do it every day – for three weeks!"

Fernando Alonso is another driver fascinated by the sport, although the absence of former Tour winner Alberto Contador, his countryman and close friend, meant he wasn't as happy as the British contingent about this year's event.

But as a cycling aficionado he was full of praise for winner Bradley Wiggins.

"It's been a sad Tour de France for us Spaniards," said Alonso. "We miss Alberto. Britain can win this one, because next year we will be back. [Wiggins] has shown he deserves it this year, he is very impressive, so I am happy for him."

Sebastian Vettel didn't look like a man under pressure to break his home GP duck in the run-up to last weekend. In fact, shortly after telling the story of watching trackside at Hockenheim as a five-year old while Michael Schumacher's Benetton charged through the trees, he appeared to have rediscovered a childhood mischievous streak. And all while sat alongside Schumacher, 18 years his senior.

Rosberg and Vettel shared a laugh during the press conference
Rosberg and Vettel shared a laugh during the press conference © XPB

The fun began when Nico Rosberg answered a question in the pre-race press conference, but was sitting far too close to his microphone. Not only did that make him hard to understand, everyone in the room got an ear-bashing, too.

Vettel was in fits of laughter, and when he regained his composure he grabbed Rosberg's microphone and held it up to his mouth to make the situation even worse.

Team-mate Mark Webber then got in on the act, bellowing into his mic: "Did you get that?! Did you check the radio volume?!"

Rosberg thought little of it, but then had Vettel in stitches as he made exactly the same error the next time he spoke. That prompted Schumacher to get in on the fun, too, giving a quick "One, two, three" sound check before answering his next question. His Mercedes team-mate didn't flinch.

The days when 100,000-plus German fans turned Hockenheim's stadium section into a living shrine to Michael Schumacher have long passed. With the track having to work ever harder to draw anything approaching a capacity crowd (despite a healthy attendance on Sunday), Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg offered his support to the ticket push pre-event.

Hulkenberg helped with ticket sales
Hulkenberg helped with ticket sales © XPB

There was a time when Hulkenberg was referred to as the new Schumacher, before his crown was usurped by the emerging Vettel. However, he took a very literal approach to helping out with the ticket sales – by manning the sales telephones.

It can't have been good for his ego, though, for in response to "Hello, this is Nico Hulkenberg", most callers simply proceeded directly to purchasing their tickets rather than reacting in amazement to finding one of Germany's quintet of drivers being at the other end of the phone.

Then again, that probably says more about the way we all interact with those who are faced with answering such telephone calls every day than with any anonymity on Hulkenberg's part!

Friday night at Hockenheim offered Ferrari the chance to host its rescheduled British media dinner, which had been postponed from Valencia when the Scuderia realised that it clashed with an evening put on by customer team Sauber.

The postponement had been handled with good humour by Ferrari, as it came in the wake of the Swiss team beating the might of Maranello in Canada.

The British media trying to find its way back © autosport.com

Towards the end of an entertaining evening, where the food was as good as you would expect from an Italian team, Stefano Domenicali made an appearance. It was brief, but long enough for him to reveal that he will be going to London to watch his favourite sport at the Olympics – basketball.

"In Italy, the TV coverage of the NBA is excellent, so I watch it a lot," Domenicali revealed. And his favourite team? The Boston Celtics.

The late finish to the event meant that there were no shuttles to take the British press pack to the media car park. It was quite a long walk, which eventually went pretty badly wrong, and ended up with a large group of Brits wandering the quiet streets of Hockenheim. Eventually, after stopping a bemused local driver in the middle of the road, and firing up some smart phones, everyone made it to their cars a fair bit later than expected.

Let's hope they all do a better job of getting themselves to the Hungaroring this weekend.

2012 German Grand Prix
Alonso closes in on Mansell's tally
By Michele Merlino
Behind the scenes at Hockenheim
By Glenn Freeman
Alonso: How he became F1 2012's man to beat
By Adam Cooper
We rate the drivers after the German GP
By Edd Straw
The complete German Grand Prix review
By Matt Beer and Tom Mallett
Five themes to watch for in Germany
By Glenn Freeman
David Coulthard on Mark Webber's new deal
By David Coulthard
McLaren shows promise, but rain makes it a guessing game
By Mark Hughes
Centurian Lewis Hamilton's top 10 F1 races
By Edd Straw
Setting the scene for the German Grand Prix
By Edd Straw
Zoom in: German Grand Prix
By LAT Photographic
Nurburgring: How the world's most famous track went bust
By Dieter Rencken
Hockenheim Preview: Into the unknown
By Edd Straw and Sam Tremayne
  OTHER FEATURES FROM JUL 19, 2012 - JUL 25, 2012
In the magazine: Is Mark Webber ready to deliver?
Citroen's motorsport marketing dilemma
By David Evans
Lotus's DRS device explained
By Craig Scarborough
Bottas: Following in Hakkinen's footsteps
By Tony Dodgins
Bamber's Week
By Jim Bamber
Taki Inoue on his 'nightmare' F1 career
By Jonathan Noble
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  ABOUT GLENN FREEMAN
Glenn Freeman is AUTOSPORT's news editor. After 10 years of karting, he decided that writing about motorsport would put less strain on his dad's bank balance than competing, and after obtaining his NCTJ qualifications in newspaper journalism, he joined Motorsport News in 2005.

As deputy racing editor, he covered British Formula 3 and selected international events. He also got the chance to take on boyhood hero Nigel Mansell in a kart race and beat the 1992 world champion.

Glenn left MN to become AUTOSPORT.com's international editor in September 2006 and joined the magazine's news desk in January 2008. During that time he covered four seasons of DTM and a year of GP2/GP3.
Contact Glenn Freeman
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