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Hockenheim: A leg-up for spectators

Sutton Images

Discounted tickets for F1 races are as rare as free paddock passes from Bernie Ecclestone (unless you are either an A-list celeb or a wealthy potentate wishing to unwittingly contribute to CVC Capital's substantial profits). Credit to Mercedes-Benz for offering 90 Euros off the price of admission to the company's Hockenheim grandstand to mark the 90th anniversary of the German Grand Prix (the first of which, no surprise, was won by a Mercedes.)

The cut-price seats were snapped up immediately and I'm sure the promotion is being handled with the calm and efficiency we associate with Mercedes even if, like the F1 race team, the marketing division is paddling like crazy beneath the surface. Nothing, however, is likely to match the hilarious chaos accompanying an imaginative offer at this same track in 1999.

When Michael Schumacher had the misfortune to break his leg during the British Grand Prix a few weeks before his home race, the sports editor of 'Bild' hit on an idea to help increase sales. Germany's best-selling daily newspaper offered 50 free seats to Schumacher fans who happened to have a broken leg - or two - and were suffering the same frustrations as their hero. The newspaper was inundated with requests from more than a thousand walking wounded, the lucky 50 being drawn from a hat.

The publishers were surprised. They shouldn't have been. This was a prize worth having since the invalids were being given better treatment than the healthy 100,000 or so joining them and paying through the nose on race day.

Taken from the nearest railway station in a fleet of ambulances and mini-buses to the Ostkurve grandstand (at the far end of the original circuit), the winners were ushered to reserved seats. But not any old seat. Each guest was given enough room to stretch out their injured limb, even if that meant keeping the seat in front free. At least those sitting behind were not troubled by the fractured 50 leaping to their feet in moments of excitement.

With such special treatment on offer, the newspaper needed some form of medical proof that each injury was genuine. It was not difficult to imagine ambitious enthusiasts investing in bandages and plaster of Paris in return for free admission. Indeed, given the probative price of F1 seats, it was even considered possible to have the more adventurous punters get dead dog drunk and have an accomplice run them over on the way home from the pub.

This support by association with national heroes raises all sorts of possibilities, doesn't it? Semi-conscious Spaniards helped into the Alonso Arena at Barcelona; Bulldog owners and their pets shepherded into the Hamilton Hound enclosure at Silverstone (free poo bags supplied by 'The Sun').

Taking it a step further, last year at the Red Bull Ring they could have had a Groaning Grandstand with free admission for those who could moan the loudest and longest. And it's not true that Mercedes have advised guests against wearing matching outfits in lemon this weekend because they don't want any mention of double yellows.

This is getting silly. Which was probably what the 'Bild' sports editor thought when the offer of a leg-up revealed the true extent of his fractured readership 17 years ago.