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F1 and football: closer than you think

This year, in addition to the FORMULA 1 RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX, Sochi will host another major international competition - matches of the FIFA World Cup. It would seem these two sports have very little in common, but in reality they are much closer than you might think.​

There is no doubt the F1 paddock will closely follow the events unfolding at the world cup in Russia, which will be held from 14 June to 15 July. Four years ago, during the previous world cup many F1 drivers and members of the teams watched the coverage from Brazil with interest.

This summer, 32 national teams, who have successfully qualified for the final tournament, will take part in the competition. 14 out of 20 current F1 drivers will be able to support their national teams.

Fans among drivers

Many F1 drivers are passionate football fans. They go to stadiums to watch matches of their favourite teams and are friends with the most famous players on the planet.

Fernando Alonso can be considered the most hard-core fan among the participants of the 2018 RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX. The Spaniard is a big Real Madrid fan. Last year, the double world champion even officially became a member of this club.

To commemorate this event President of Real Madrid Florentino Pérez presented Alonso with a special card and a T-shirt bearing the last name of the driver and the number 1. According to the McLaren driver, the love for the capital's team was passed to him by his father, a passionate supporter of the club from Madrid. Alonso also supports Oviedo, his native town's football club.

Other drivers also support mainly the most famous football teams. Apart from Alonso, Madrilenian Carlos Sainz from Renault also supports Real Madrid, while his teammate Nico Hulkenberg and Pierre Gasly from Toro Rosso root for Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain respectively.

Four-time world champion Lewis Hamilton from Mercedes has said in an interview that he has been an Arsenal fan since he was five, and Red Bull driver Max Verstappen supports one of the leading Dutch teams PSV Eindhoven.

But not all of the drivers chose one of the top clubs to support.  For example, four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel from Ferrari roots for modest Eintracht Frankfurt, based in a city close to his native Heppenheim.

The Russian drivers who competed in FORMULA 1 not that long ago are no strangers to football. Ferrari development driver Daniil Kvyat became a big Roma fan when he lived in Italy. Among the Russian football clubs, he supports the club from his home town Ufa, and his photo was displayed on team supporting posters.

As for first Russian F1 driver Vitaly Petrov - he roots for Zenit Saint Petersburg.

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Carlos Sainz carries a Real Madrid T-shirt with his name and race number.​

Charity matches

F1 drivers not only like to watch football, but also play it. The charity matc​​hes, in which they participate, ahead of every Monaco Grand Prix have already become an integral part of the F1 world.

This year, due to the Luis II stadium being under ren​ovation, the match has taken place in Menton, France. Nazionale Piloti, consisting of F1 stars and other drivers, lost to AS Star of football stars, 1:2. The match featured current F1 drivers Sainz, Gasly and Charles Leclerc, former F1 drivers Mika Hakkinen, Felipe Massa, Giancarlo Fisichella, Vitantonio Liuzzi, feeder series drivers Sean Gelael, Mick Schumacher and others. The football stars' team included Francesco Totti, Marco Simone, Ludovic Giuly, William Gallas, Flavio Roma, Sebastien Frey and Prince Albert of Monaco. 2016 F1 world champion Nico Rosberg played for both teams. The only goal for the drivers' team was scored by Formula E driver Maro Engel, while Simone and Gallas scored for their opponents.

A similar match was held in Sochi ahead of the 2014 Grand Prix. During this match the F1 stars' team including Petrov and Kvyat, was beaten by Russian celebrities 5:6.

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​​Felipe Massa and Prince Albert II ahead of the football match in Menton.

Michael Schumacher - a football player

Seven-time F1 world champion Michael Schumacher shined not only on track, but on the football field during drivers' charity matches as well. The German's ball handling skills were so great that he was even a part of the amateur club of the third division of the Swiss championship Echichens, for which he played one match.

In 2008, Murata from San Marino offered him a squad place for the Champions League qualifying matches, but in this case it all ended in talk.

It is a known fact that the German champion kept a big collection of football boots at his home in Switzerland. Schumacher is also a big fan of the Germany national team and FC Cologne.

Other former Formula 1 champions of the recent past Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button also have favourite football teams. The German supports Bayern Munich, while the Englishman roots for little-known Bristol City and Arsenal.

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Michael Schumacher with a ball.​

Best football player in paddock

Perhaps the best football player among the current F1 drivers is Sergio Perez. The Force India driver said once that in Mexico he had his own amateur team, for which he played with his friends, most often as a forward. Usually Perez is among those who stand out the most on the football field during charity matches, and his favourite club is America from Mexico City.

As for the racing skills of the Mexican and other F1 drivers - fans will have a chance to judge them at the FORMULA 1 RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX at Sochi Autodrom from 27 to 30 September.

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