Commentary

A wild season in F1 had it's smaller, sometimes more curous moments

Espionage, intrigue, and a mobile hospitality center arms race. Dan Knutson looks at the first half of the 2007 F1 season through some of its more intimate -- and curious -- moments.

Updated: October 29, 2007, 5:22 PM ET
By Dan Knutson | Special to ESPN.com

What a wild and wacky Formula One season it has been.

An espionage scandal.

A $100 million fine for McLaren.

An up and down relationship between teammates Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.

A frigid relationship between Alonso and McLaren team boss Ron Dennis.

A three-way battle for the championship that went down to the last race at which time Kimi Raikkonen staged a magnificent comeback to snatch the crown.

McLaren protesting the results of the final race in a move that could see Raikkonen ceding the championship to Hamilton.

These were some of the major headlines of 2007. But plenty of other wild, weird, humorous and memorable things happened during the 17-race season. Here's look at the first half of the 2007 F1 season.

Australian Grand Prix

• While most drivers headed to Australia early to acclimatize to the time change, Kimi Raikkonen won a snowmobile race in his native Finland the weekend before the season-opening Grand Prix on March 17. He registered under the pseudonym of 1976 World Champion James Hunt.

Like the late Hunt, Raikkonen enjoys the occasional good party away from the track while being quick on it.

• A Polish tabloid ran a story about BMW drivers Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica trading punches during a preseason test. The team firmly denied it.

•  American F1 driver Scott Speed gave rock stars Tommy Lee (Motley Crue) and Lukas Rossi (winner of the TV show Rock Star: Supernova) rides around the track in a Ferrari sports car.

"It was cool," Lee said. "A couple of times we were sideways."

Malaysian Grand Prix

• Actress Michelle Yeoh, fiancée of Ferrari boss Jean Todt, attended the race.

[+] EnlargeMichelle Yeo and Jean Todt
Vladimir Rys/Bongarts/Getty ImagesMichelle Yeo and Jean Todt made the rounds in Malaysia.

"We are happy together," Todt told a local newspaper. "She is a very loyal, dedicated and down to earth person."

•  Former F1 driver Jacques Villeneuve, wife Johanna and son Jules moved from Switzerland to Montreal so that JV could be closer to the NASCAR scene. He said he was confident that he would land a NASCAR ride.

•  Retired seven-time champion Michael Schumacher and his family went whale watching in the Canary Islands.

•  How miserable was the high humidity and intense heat? "It's like racing in a sauna," Felipe Massa said.

•  Bernie Ecclestone, Flavio Briatore, Nick Fry, Scott Speed and other F1 stars mingled with the common folk when they took the train and then the subway from the circuit hotel into the city center of Kuala Lumpur for the Grand Prix Ball.

Bahrain Grand Prix
[+] EnlargeElisabetta Gregoraci and Flavio Briatore
Eric Ryan/Getty ImagesElisabetta Gregoraci decided what boyfriend (and Renault team principal) Flavio Briatore needed a love letter for his birthday, and needed to see it published in a magazine.
• Bahrain police jail track designer Hermann Tilke for allegedly going some 30 mph over the speed limit on a local highway. He got out after an hour with the help of a sheikh.

•  Having spent five weeks away from home, much of it in the sultry heat of Malaysia, Kimi Raikkonen went back to Switzerland during the brief break between Malaysia and Bahrain so that he could go cycling in the sweet mountain air.

• Despite the pleas of circuit manager Martin Whitaker, the hotels in Bahrain continued to keep potential F1 visitors away by charging outlandish prices during the Grand Prix weekend.

•  Strong winds, blowing sand, hazy, sandy air and even rain are constant weather companions during the four days. A local newspaper said that Bahrain was having its worst weather in 75 years.

• Felipe Massa dedicated his win to girlfriend Raffaela, "who has had to be very patient with me this weekend!" Jarno Trulli dedicated his seventh-place finish to son Enzo who turned 2 on race day.

•  Flavio Briatore turned 57 on April 12. His fiancée, model Elisabetta Gregoraci, sent him a love letter, which she had published in an Italian magazine.

•  Italian journalists, who need to write a lot about Ferrari and are getting frustrated by Kimi Raikkonen's brief answers, nicknamed him "The Wall."

•  Lewis Hamilton became the first rookie driver in F1 history to finish on the podium in his first three Grand Prix starts.

Spanish Grand Prix

• Fernando Alonso declined to confirm if he is married or not.

"I've got nothing to say," he told the El Pais newspaper. "I'm a F1 driver, not some actor who likes to get involved in this kind of game."

•  Laverstroke Park, an organic farm run by 1979 World Champion Jody Scheckter, became an official supplier to the Honda team.

• Technical director Adrian Newey went to Valencia to watch some of the Louis Vuitton America's Cup qualifying races before heading for the track. He's long been fascinated with the technology of the America's Cup yachts.

"We don't want him too excited about boats at the moment!" Red Bull boss Christian Horner said.

• Michael Schumacher attended the race in his new advisor role at Ferrari. He still looked very fit but said he had been staying out of the gym.

"As you know, I have a passion for soccer," he said. "You need to be a little bit fit for that, but that is basically what I do."

•  David Coulthard started his 215th Grand Prix. He made his F1 debut at the same Barcelona track in 1994.

•  Ferrari debuted its new hospitality center that was trucked to all races in Europe. It's three stories high, 36 feet wide and 46 feet deep. It was designed to be put up in just two days by just seven people and one large crane. The whole thing comes in four large modules, each weighing 17,600 pounds. Twelve tons of steel, 35 tons of aluminum, 80 miles of electrical wiring are used in the structure.

Monaco Grand Prix

• Steinmetz presented Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton with diamond rings valued at $10,000, and both drivers wore diamond-studded helmets in the race.

Lewis Hamilton
Mark Thompson/Getty ImagesDiamonds on the soles of his shoes? No, but they were on Lewis Hamilton's helmet at Monaco. "I got bling on my helmet, how cool is that?" he said.

"I'm blinged out," Hamilton said. "I got bling on my helmet, how cool is that?"

•  Kimi Raikkonen had two large yachts in the harbor. One was called One More Toy, but he made some money off his toys as people paid to stay on the boats and watch the race from the decks. The deal included a meet and greet time with Kimi.

•  Celebrities seen in the paddock included Jude Law, Jonny Lee Miller, George Lucas, Boris Becker and MotoGP ace Casey Stoner.

•  Water from a burst pipe in the Toyota garage shut down the team's telemetry screens for an hour during practice on Thursday morning.

• Two-time F1 champ Mika Hakkinen drove a London taxicab through the Monaco streets to promote Johnny Walker's drink responsibly campaign. Hakkinen, who has a home in Monaco, said he didn't miss the hectic F1 lifestyle.

•  Rubens Barrichello celebrated his 35th birthday on May 23. Ron Dennis turned 60 on June 1.

Canadian Grand Prix

•  Despite the absence of local hero Jacques Villeneuve and seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher, race day was a sellout.

[+] EnlargeRobert Kubica
Paul Gilham/Getty ImagesRobert Kubica's crash at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve was terrifying, but he returned.

• The FIA issued a polite reprimand to Alex Wurz and Ralf Schumacher, telling them it was "discourteous" to arrive late for FIA press conferences, which they did on Thursday. When Team Williams is discourteous again on Friday and technical director Sam Michael arrives late for that day's press conference, the FIA fined him 5,000 euro ($6,686).

•  Lewis Hamilton won the first pole of his F1 career.

•  Jarno Trulli wore a helmet with a pink top and a photo of his good friend and training partner Danilo di Luca, the cyclist who won this year's Giro d'Italia.

•  Gerhard Berger told Autosprint magazine that Toro Rosso is happy with its driver lineup of Antonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed and had no plans to drop either of them during the season. The team got rid of Speed just over a month later.

•  Robert Kubica had only minor injuries after a terrifying accident in his BMW Sauber.

United States Grand Prix

•  Bernie Ecclestone made one of his usual remarks guaranteed to cause controversy when the told London's Daily Express newspaper "it is not vital to F1 to be in the United States."

•  Sebastian Vettel, the 19-year-old rookie who was making his F1 debut substituting for Robert Kubica in the BMW Sauber, finished eighth and became the youngest ever driver to score an F1 point.

•  Having won the Indianapolis 500 three weeks earlier, Dario Franchitti returned to the Brickyard to visit his friends in F1 including Lewis Hamilton, whom Franchitti has known since Hamilton was 8.

•  The FIA conducted a night racing lighting test on Thursday at the track. The F1 safety car and the medical car drove back and forth for about 30 minutes and were filmed by TV cameras.

•  David Letterman turned down McLaren's offer to have Lewis Hamilton on his show. Because Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti had just been on, the Letterman staff apparently didn't want another race driver to be on the show so soon.

•  Few people recognized Lewis Hamilton when he visited New York, but some British tourists did, as did a couple from Spain.

"They said 'we're Spanish but we support you,'" Hamilton said.

•  Ralf Schumacher, Nick Heidfeld, Aguri Suzuki and Honda's Otmar Szafnauer play golf at the Brickyard's course with five fans who bid more than $11,000 to local charities to take part.

•  The Toyota team built a model car to participate in the annual Pinewood Derby Race held at a local children's' home in conjunction with the Care for Kids charity. A car built by Evan Chamberlain, age 7, beat the Toyota high-tech model fielded by test driver Franck Montagny.

•  Celebrity visitors included Frankie Muniz, star of the TV show "Malcolm in the Middle" and Grammy Award-winning hip-hop star Pharrell Williams.

•  Former F1 drivers Martin Brundle, Ivan Capelli, Jacques Laffite, Tommy Byrne and David Kennedy tried their hands at Midget racing on the fifth-mile Speedrome paved oval in Indianapolis.

•  Jarno Trulli rode a Harley-Davidson to and from the track each day.

French Grand Prix

•  Robert Kubica, cleared to race after missing the Indy event because of his massive crash in Montreal, said he had no fear or hesitation getting back in the cockpit of his BMW Sauber in France.

• Williams co-owner Patrick Head rode his motorcycle from England to Magny-Cours. He and some friends make the trip every year via a scenic route.

• Asked to evaluate Fernando Alonso's time at McLaren so far, his former boss Flavio Briatore took a good-natured jibe at Alonso's new boss, Ron Dennis.

"You need to ask Ron Dennis," Briatore said. "I am sure Ron knows everything. Ron is the kind of a guy who knows everything about everything.

"So you ask Ron."

British Grand Prix

•  David and Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham created a paparazzi frenzy when they attend the race.

• McLaren unveils its massive mobile hospitality center. It's three stories tall, 59 feet by 52.5 feet, and has a mirrored glass front façade. It has a hospitality dining area on the ground floor, offices and other rooms on the second floor and a posh dining area on the top floor. It travels on 12 trucks and takes 20 people 40 to 50 hours to build up or take down.

• As the espionage saga broke for the first time, McLaren, ironically, served a wine called "Spy Valley" at the opening of its new hospitality center.

•  Bomb sniffing dogs searched the pressroom in Silverstone. This is routine every year.

• Bookies estimated that British gamblers bet over $20 million on Lewis Hamilton.

Coming Wednesday, the second half of the 2007 season.

Dan Knutson covers Formula One for National Speed Sport News and ESPN.com.

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