LONDON (Reuters) - Usain Bolt, the “world’s fastest man”, will be putting Formula One title favourite Lewis Hamilton under starter’s orders for what could be a decisive U.S. Grand Prix this weekend.
The eight-times Olympic gold-medallist sprinter, who retired after the world championships in London last August, has been enlisted to send the field off for the pre-race formation lap at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
Mercedes driver Hamilton, who can clinch his fourth title on Sunday if he finishes first or second and other results go his way, might also be giving the Jamaican a quick passenger ride in a road car earlier in the day.
U.S.-based Liberty Media, who took over Formula One in January and have talked of treating every race like a Super Bowl, are keen to pump up the show at the sole round in the United States.
The pre-race programme has been expanded so that Michael Buffer, renowned for introducing boxing title fights with the call, “Let’s get ready to rumble”, can present the 20 drivers individually to the crowd.
Soul singer Stevie Wonder will perform, with the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders going through their routines on the starting grid.
“We continue to layer in new elements at each grand prix and this innovative driver presentatation format seemingly was an appropriate addition for Austin,” said Formula One’s commercial manager Sean Bratches in a statement.
“The USA is, without a doubt, the country where sports events are seen as entertainment that goes above and beyond the purely sporting contest.
“We want to do something that positions Formula One as breaking the boundaries, between sport and a show,” he added.
A mechanical bucking bronco will also be installed in the paddock for anyone brave enough to give it a go.
Pink strips have meanwhile been painted along the pitlane and around the track as part of a breast-cancer awareness initiative, with tyre supplier Pirelli colour-coding pink their ultrasoft tyres.
Organisers have also secured a schedule change for qualifying, with the Saturday session starting two hours later to reduce the gap between the track action and a Justin Timberlake concert in the evening.
Hamilton is 59 points clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel with four races remaining and will win the title if he scores 16 points more than the German on Sunday.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Neville Dalton