F1 stars enjoy a boys' weekend as the sport's leading female Susie Wolff retires

    Story highlights

    • F1 stars headline Race of Champions event
    • Sebastian Vettel takes title in London
    • Farewell for F1 pioneer Susie Wolff
    • Racers from across motorsport compete

    Olympic Stadium, London (CNN)Locker-room hijinks, fast cars and a few wacky races were on the bill at the Race of Champions (ROC) as F1 stars, including world champions Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button, arrived in London for three days of male bonding.

    Susie Wolff also raced against her male peers for one final time at ROC -- which was staged on a purpose-built racetrack into the 2012 Olympic Stadium -- before retiring from motorsport.
      F1's drivers may travel together for nine months of the year but friendships within the sport's intensely competitive and secretive world and the global grind are rare.
      "A lot of F1 drivers do get on," Red Bull racer Daniel Ricciardo told CNN in London. "But F1 is our world, it's our business and we do take it seriously.
      "On the drivers parade [before the start of a grand prix] we talk a bit but other than that we keep ourselves to ourselves a lot over the weekend.
      "It's not that we don't like each other, it's just how the sport is. F1 is quite a selfish sport. You look out for yourself.
      "Events like this are where we can share our common interests, our love of racing cars in a light-hearted atmosphere.
      "That's why we come. We get to hang out, get to know each other a bit better and realize there's no reason not to like each other."
      The ROC is an annual event that pits champions from the worlds of F1, NASCAR, MotoGP, World Rally, and more motorsport series, against each other.
      For F1's travelling contingent, the 2015 event inside the glittering dome of the Olympic Stadium -- soon to be home to London soccer team West Ham - was the perfect excuse for an end-of-term party before Sunday's final grand prix in Abu Dhabi.
      The ROC sees drivers, and guest passengers, in head-to-head pursuit races in identical cars. The winning driver from each best-of-three rounds progresses, with the final two facing off for the silverware.
      To add another dose of drama, the drivers must squeeze into the cockpit of a variety of cars including a Mercedes-AMG GT S, KTM X-Bow and a Radical SR3 RSX.
      "We're all very exciting this weekend," said Button, in need of a lift after a despondent season driving for the renewed McLaren-Honda partnership. "It's not that serious, we all have to realize it's a lot of fun out there."
      Nico Hulkenberg, Felipe Massa and Romain Grosjean were among the regular F1 stars also taking part alongside ROC aficionado Vettel.
      "I think it's a great event ever since I started," said Vettel, who has competed at seven ROC events, most of them in the team event alongside his hero Michael Schumacher.
      "Meeting different drivers from different fields from across the ocean and to meet the people underneath the helmet is the great value of this event."
      On a bitterly cold Saturday evening in November, Vettel added the 'Champion of Champions' crown to his four F1 world titles. He celebrated with a series of smoking victory 'donuts'.
      The party atmosphere inside the stadium extended to the locker-room.
      Former McLaren and Red Bull race-winner David Coulthard explained to CNN with a twinkle in his eye: "It's a chance to hang out with the guys you admire. We're all brought together by a common bond, which is a love of competition and the motorcar.
      "It's an opportunity to share time in the changing room, which I know sounds a bit weird, it's not like that, although there is very impressive communal shower which I'm curious to check out later..."
      Coulthard may have been teasing about the communal shower but the theme of a boys' weekend was enlivened by the revelation that all the drivers stay at the same luxury hotel in central London, and some like to raise a glass in the evening to the day's driving.
      There were also photos on Twitter of the drivers commuting on the London Underground. The relaxed travel must have made a nice change to the mobs of fans that regularly wait for their heroes at the gates of grands prix circuits.
      The drivers seemed so enthused by their racy weekend in London that Massa, who was joined on the boys' weekend by his son Felipinho and brother Dudu, even suggested a similarly social event should be included on the F1 calendar.
      "We have very good relationships [in F1] but unfortunately in the F1 paddock we cannot enjoy things together like this weekend, which is really good fun," said the Brazilian Williams driver.
      "Maybe we need something a little bit more like this in F1 as well."
      It may have been a boys' weekend but the ROC also provided the stage for a poignant farewell for F1's leading female driver.
      Susie Wolff, who raced against three-time world champion Lewis Hamilton as a junior on British soil, has now officially retired from motorsport.
      When she got out of the car for the final time, after losing her head-to-head with fellow Scot Coulthard, husband Toto Wolff, the Mercedes F1 team boss, was there to offer her support and a big smile.
      As Williams' development driver, Wolff came closer to racing in a GP than any woman in the last 20 years but hit a brick wall this year when the team overlooked her as a potential replacement for injured race driver Valterri Bottas.
      The 32-year-old told CNN in London: "I always knew in my head this was going to be my last race since the summer really.
      "I get to drive lots of different cars against great drivers. What a race to go out on!"
      But asked about her future plans, as she hung up her race helmet for good, Wolff was clear-eyed on one thing. "I want to inspire the next generation of young girls to get into motorsport, to understand that it is accessible and it's not just for boys."
      On a boys' weekend in London, there is a certain irony that F1 is about to become a boys-only club once more, and where's the fun in that?