‘Ciao Kimi’, says Ron Dennis

Mon, 23 October 2006, 09:57

On Sunday at Interlagos, Kimi Raikkonen received a tongue-in-cheek blessing from Ron Dennis ahead of the Finn’s switch to Ferrari.

The McLaren boss, marking 27-year-old Raikkonen’s last race in silver overalls, presented Kimi with a cardboard depiction of himself enthusiastically waving an Italian flag and the words ‘Ciao Kimi’, as well as a picnic hamper of traditional Italian foods.

Ricardo Zonta was also farewelled in Sao Paulo, as the Brazilian attended his last race for Toyota as their test and ‘reserve’ driver.

Ahead of his switch to Renault for 2007, he was presented at the warm and sunny circuit with an encased Toyota steering wheel and a flag signed by all team members, including Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli.

“It is difficult to leave a team that I have worked with a long time and who have treated me so well,” Zonta said.

Also in pit lane, a group of Michelin personnel staged a low-key gathering as they marked their final grand prix as a tyre supplier.

Away from the privileged inner sanctum of the F1 paddock, meanwhile, two middle aged English ladies stood pensively as passers-by read their huge sign in quiet recognition of its meaning — ‘Auf Weidersehn Michael’.

The man himself, 37-year-old Schumacher, arrived at the circuit carpark to an unprecedented scrum of media and photographers, no doubt aware that his next appearance at a formula one race would be as a spectator.

Probably predicting the likely scrum, or having heard the story about the gun-wielding teenagers who attacked Toyota team members on Friday, 37-year-old and casual-clothed Schumacher was flanked by not one but two bodyguards.


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