• The Inside Line

Burlesque dancers and naked women

ESPN Staff
May 16, 2014
© The Code 20

Paddock parties are somewhat strange affairs. From the outside, Formula One looks like a glamorous place, filled with beautiful people sipping champagne on yachts before flitting from event to event.

The reality is somewhat more prosaic, with the majority of events put on by teams and their sponsors to promote a new initiative or partnership. Champagne is available, but only after a mini press conference has taken place, and guests' hands are filled with memory sticks and press releases.

The summer season and the return of the motorhomes means that paddock parties become a near-daily affair. Last weekend in Barcelona saw McLaren soft launching a book on Ayrton Senna, GP2 and GP3 throwing a cocktail party to introduce the press to the drivers, Rolex hosting their own drinks do for the press in the Paddock Club, a screening of Human Ignition by Lotus and burn!, and Red Bull opening the doors of the Energy Station for a media drinks party.

Good times all, but the best fun always happens at the parties that don't involve any form of work.

The Amber Lounge has long been established as one of the key events for the beautiful people of Formula One, with parties in Monaco, Singapore, Austin, and Abu Dhabi.

Last year's Montreal event was based on food porn, and saw guests eating sushi from the bodies of naked women.

But recent years have seen a succession of excellent events from The Code 20, who now put on grand prix after parties in Shanghai, Montreal, and Abu Dhabi. Pitched at a young and affluent crowd, Code 20 attracts swathes of drivers on a Sunday night, and each party is planned around a theme. Last year's Montreal event was based on food porn, and saw guests eating sushi from the bodies of naked women.

The most recent Code 20 party, which took place on Sunday night in Shanghai, was themed around 'wonders', a concept that saw the M18 club on the world-famous Bund transformed into a magical forest. Champagne flowed faster than water, with corks popping everywhere you looked.

To put it in perspective, your average Monaco soiree looked like a tee-totaller's afternoon tea in comparison. Five minutes spent watching the champagne go by - bottles with sparklers attached were being held aloft by groups of waiters working their way through the crowds - painted a better picture of affluent modern China than any essay in The Economist.

But that makes it sound like 'just' a party, when what sets Code 20 apart is the way in which each event is stage-managed to provide an assault on the senses, starting with the themed food and décor, and augmented by the series of stage shows.

The Shanghai edition saw burlesque dancing, glittering girls in corsets and fetish shoes transfixing the crowds, while previous parties have seen trapeze displays, performance artists, and all manner of associated excitements. With music by Erok, Red Bull's preferred DJ, the Code 20 party was still going strong when we staggered out into the daylight during Monday morning rush hour, although the attendant drivers had called it quits at a semi-respectable 4am.

It's a far cry from the more sedate events we see in the paddock, and the only place that sees Formula One living up to its glamorous and decadent reputation. All the best F1 parties take place miles from the track itself…

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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