Fernando Alonso's vast popularity proved frustrating to the former double world champion at the Circuit de Catalunya on Thursday.

Fernando Alonso's vast popularity proved frustrating to the former double world champion at the Circuit de Catalunya on Thursday.

When attempting to meet his fans and sign autographs, the Renault driver found himself amid a frantic crush in the paddock, and ultimately escaped to the sanity of a rival team's garage.

His bodyguard tried fervently - and physically - to give 27-year-old Alonso some space, but the enthusiasm of some members of the press actually led to one or two minor fisticuffs.

Dismayed by the lack of order, Alonso himself raised his voice and demanded calm, before scurrying for cover.

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Local forecasts predict a more than 50 per cent chance of rain for Sunday's Spanish grand prix. After earlier predictions of a dry race meeting, it then rained overnight before the event officially kicked off on Friday.

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Sebastian Vettel's entire family is trackside at the Spanish grand prix. His father Norbert is a paddock regular, but also at the Circuit de Catalunya is mother Heike, sister Stefanie and his 10-year-old brother Fabian. Asked if the extra attention was a distraction, the 21-year-old German answered simply: "No. There's only one seat in my car."

 

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