Shanghai (AFP) – Formula One drivers rank among the world’s richest sportsmen, but after dining out at a swanky Shanghai restaurant before this week’s Chinese Grand Prix they split the bill 17 ways.
World champion Lewis Hamilton, who last year signed a new three-year deal with Mercedes worth $140 million, chose the venue for Wednesday’s bash and paid the deposit, but the Briton claimed German team-mate Nico Rosberg insisted on going Dutch when the bill arrived.
“We shared the bill, which was a little bit silly really,” Hamilton told reporters on Thursday.
“Someone said let’s just share the bill and 17 drivers shared the fricking bill, which is insane.
“It probably wasn’t that expensive so I was like ‘one or two of us should get it now and the next time someone else get it’ and then it was ‘no, no, no, I wanna pay individually.”
Asked who had opted to split the bill, Hamilton replied mischievously: “I’m pretty sure it was Nico!”
Hamilton even revealed the moneybags drivers had all asked for a receipt.
“We all got a copy of the receipt,” he smiled. “Seventeen receipts and 17 credit cards — it was the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen!”
All but five of the Formula One grid attended the meal at flashy Italian restaurant ‘The Kitchen’.
Rosberg begged to differ, however, saying: “Interesting. From what I can remember the hidden agreement usually is that the world champion pays. But that might just be my opinion.”
The drivers posed for photographs which lit up social media after their meal with Rosberg adding the hashtag #windbagsunited on Twitter — a reference to Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone’s comments about complaining drivers in Bahrain two weeks ago.
“(Bernie) was so kind as to call us that so I thought I’d just mention it again,” said the championship leader, explaining that the group dinner was partly a show of unity among the drivers.
“No, it doesn’t piss me off at all (that Ecclestone said that). In the end what we’re trying to do is help and if we’re together we have a certain power. In the end we are driving the cars.
“We want to try and support F1 with some opinions and give a little direction,” he added.
“Yesterday there was no hidden (agenda) or whatever, we were just having a good time, a chat.”
Not all of the drivers attended, however, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen explaining he had work to do in Taiwan while Renault’s Kevin Magnussen opted to get his groove on at a local nightclub.