Booze, books and Arnie help the global scramble for deals on wheels

Pitlane Diary
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The Independent Online

Friday 11 July

Promotion of the British Grand Prix starts early, with a helping hand from the Government. Soon after announcing their intention to invest £16m to secure Silverstone's future in the face of the continuing threat of more and more grand prix races outside Europe, they send Minister of Sport The Rt Hon Richard Caborn MP to sample a Minardi two-seater. His ride takes place not at Silverstone but along North Carriage Drive, which runs parallel to London's Bays-water Road. Upcoming racer Justin Wilson is his chauffeur. Caborn, a guest at the French Grand Prix earlier in the week, says it was a privilege. "I was very lucky," he says breathlessly. "Justin is a superb driver and it was an unbelievable experience, made all the better by being in the middle of London's Hyde Park."

Minardi don't get the scoop for taking F1 to the metropolis, however. That goes to Bernie Ecclestone's Formula 1 Magazine, which does a photoshoot with a BMW-Williams in the early hours a few weeks before. There is still a hapless drunk wandering round being disbelieved when he tells his friends that he really did meet Juan Pablo Montoya by the London Eye, and yes, he really was driving his race car.

Wednesday

Still in London, BMW-Williams announce a multi-million-dollar deal - thought to be worth $50m over five years - with Budweiser, the American-based self-styled "King of Beers". The timing couldn't be better for the brewers' owners, Anheuser-Busch, with Juan Pablo Montoya winning the Monaco Grand Prix and then backing team-mate Ralf Schumacher in one-two finishes in the past two races. "Our sponsorship of the BMW-WilliamsF1 Team enables Budweiser to reach a global audience of racing fans," says Tony Ponturo, Anheuser- Busch Inc's vice-presidentof global media and sports marketing. "For more than 25 years, WilliamsF1 have been synonymous with the best in Formula One racing, and we look forward to continuing the team's winning tradition at this weekend's British Grand Prix."

Thursday

It's a good week for Formula One deals. After the launch ofFormula One 2003 for PlayStation 2 the previous week, details emerge that Sony Computer Entertainment's exclusive deal with Formula One Administration Ltd is worth £71m over four years. SCEE's president, Chris Deering, says that 400,000 man-hours went into perfecting the game, agreeing the Fia licence and then marketing and advertising the product.

Meanwhile, the underfunded Jordan team, having announc-ed much-needed backing from Tiger Telematics, throw open the gates to a party village which will welcome all-comers throughout the weekend. It is situated opposite their factory, which itself is located across the road from Silverstone's main entrance. Unusually for F1, entry is free.

Friday

Many older eyes in the paddock are misty following the launch of Adam Cooper's new biography of the Sixties racing driver Piers Courage, the heir to the Courage brewery fortunes who was killed in the 1970 Dutch Grand Prix. Piers Courage: Last of the Gentleman Racers, published by Haynes at £30, is an well-researched tale of a life lost needlessly in the days before safety was a byword. It chronicles the moment Frank Williams' team first showed the form to come, when Courage took their Brabham Ford to second place at Monaco in 1970. The man who beat him that day was his friend Jochen Rindt, who would himself die that September. A wonderful, emotive read.

Saturday

Royalty visits Silverstone. Sir Jackie Stewart, president of the British Racing Drivers' Club, who have been fending off attacks all week from Ecclestone and Fia president Max Mosley, squires HRH the Duke of Kent and family members.

Sunday

Now Hollywood comes to Formula One, as Jaguar invite Arnold Schwarzenegger to visit the race as part of the promotion of his latest blockbuster, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. The Jags of Mark Webber and Antonio Pizzonia, and the team garage, carry a unique livery to mark the occasion, and Arnie and co-star Kristanna Loken walk the grid prior to the start. There will soon be a separate congestion charge for F1 cars: Webber will drive a Jaguar R4 through Leicester Square the day after the race, to mark the movie's premiere.

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