Biggest Celebrity Supporters of International Motorsports
International motorsports are not for the fainthearted or the light-walleted, so it's no surprise that a whole host of celebrities number among the supporters of Formula One and its ilk, from George Lucas to Leonardo DiCaprio to Cameron Diaz.
Though American racing fans have been mostly contented with NASCAR and IndyCar, Formula One returned to the United States in 2012 with the Grand Prix in Austin. Also, F1 chief exec Bernie Ecclestone has been talking about staging the Grand Prix of America in New Jersey for several years now.
The action and skill of the F1 series transfixes fans with the endless variety of challenges presented by road racing. As international motorsports become increasingly international, it helps to have that celebrity clout to bolster fan support even further. Here are 10 familiar names who feel passionately about their auto racing.
Friends star Matt LeBlanc left some F1 drivers starstruck at the 2013 United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas. James Calado and Adrian Sutil even shared their excitement on Twitter.
Just met Matt Leblanc! Awesome 😃— James Calado (@JamesCalado) November 16, 2013
Judging by the references to the TV show and general enthusiasm of the tweet, it seems Sutil was an especially big fan of the sitcom.
The principality of Monaco is a charmed, little, sovereign microstate (and tax haven) nestled fortuitously between France and the Mediterranean. Nearly all activities include beaches or boats, making it a playground for the rich, but even the people of Monaco get all giddy at the sight of Leonardo DiCaprio.
With Leo in town, you can be sure that Albert II, Prince of Monaco, son of Rainier III, got his photo opportunity. Yet, despite those power players at the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix party, Cameron Diaz still dominates the photo.
When Cameron Diaz visits the Monaco Grand Prix, she doesn't just go for the parties, photo ops, yachting and tanning. She wants to see what's under the hood:
The Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One team was kind enough to give her a peek at the goods. No word on whether Leonardo DiCaprio ventured into any of those garages.
Though he'll always be "McDreamy" from Grey's Anatomy to a certain segment of the population, Patrick Dempsey has interests that extend far beyond the small screen. He's actually a semi-pro race car driver.
Dempsey has been racing since 2004, and he drove a Porsche in the American Le Mans Series. As noted by Hannah Elliott on Bloomberg.com, Dempsey said last year while speaking about the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin that "Formula One is a beautiful sport."
But his love of racing started during his youth, and he recalled for Elliott his experience of seeing a Porsche for the first time at 8 years old: "I walked in and saw a 1979 Turbo on a big poster. That’s when I fell in love with Porsche."
Before Luke and Han and Leia and Chewie and Obi-Wan, billionaire filmmaker George Lucas harbored dreams of being a Formula One driver. Instead, he just directed 1973's American Graffiti.
Lucas has remained a fan of motorsports, numbering among the attendees in Austin at the 2012 U.S. Grand Prix as F1 returned stateside. He's also chatted it up with F1 champ Lewis Hamilton, though Lucas was a man of fairly few words in this odd BBC interview during a rain delay at the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix—which became the longest F1 race in history.
Ron Howard directed the 2013 film Rush, which follows the 1976 Formula One rivalry between a pair of world champions, brash Englishman James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Austrian Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl), though Lauda suffered a horrendous crash that year at Nurburgring.
However, when Howard spoke to Forbes' Hannah Elliott in 2012, he confided, "The real reality is I am not a car guy. I've been a VW Volvo driver all my life. Just family cars. Just to get around."
Oh, OK then.
Howard did attend the 2012 U.S. Grand Prix, but his real motivation was to promote Rush, which hit theaters several months later. He also pandered to NASCAR fans by driving the pace car at the 2012 Brickyard 400.
Antonio Banderas has portrayed a desperado, an assassin, Zorro and an adult spy in Spy Kids. But in real life, he's a genuine fan of Formula One.
He not only attended the 2013 U.S. Grand Prix at Austin's Circuit of the Americas, but also he kicked back with Team Ferrari and even discussed motorsports with Sky Sports.
David Hasselhoff is still best known to most as Mitch, the noble lifeguard on Baywatch. Even though he was born in Baltimore, he takes pride in his German heritage, in part because his 1989 song "Looking for Freedom" became a hit thanks to the Teutonic ear.
Hasselhoff even used the clout of his 500,000 Twitter followers to send well wishes and prayers to seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher, who suffered a debilitating injury in a 2013 skiing accident.
In 2001, actress Ashley Judd married Scottish race car driver Dario Franchitti, who began his career racing in the feeder series Formula Three. The IndyCar champion won the Indianapolis 500 three times, but a frightening crash in October 2013 forced him into retirement.
Though the couple had divorced earlier that year, Judd rushed to her ex-husband's aid and tweeted thanks for the outpouring of concern. The crash left Franchitti with partial memory loss more than 18 months later, but he currently assists Chip Ganassi Racing, which competes primarily in IndyCar and NASCAR.
Richard Hammond numbers among the speed fiends of Top Gear, the long-running BBC series about fast cars and unique vehicles. Fellow presenters James May and Jeremy Clarkson joined him as they analyzed, raced, constructed and destroyed any number of automobiles over the years.
But Hammond takes the cake for his undying devotion to driving. (Also, the often-controversial Clarkson has called Formula One "a mess," and he was suspended by the BBC earlier this year.) Hammond once managed to tool around in a Renault R25 F1 car for two laps on the famed Silverstone track without ruining the pricey racer.
However, Hammond's need for speed nearly claimed his life in 2006 while filming a segment for Top Gear in which he piloted a jet-powered dragster. The supercar blew a tire while traveling at 288 miles per hour, but incredibly Hammond survived.