As two of the world's most popular and action-packed sports, F1 racing and soccer ("football" to just about everyone outside North America) share more in common than you'd think. This past season, the F1 race calendar was adjusted to avoid conflicting with the World Cup. No wonder, as grands prix are consistently second only to the World Cup (and the Olympics) for global television ratings.

Nearly all of the F1 drivers are avid football players, and routinely play friendly matches against each other. In a recent article in F1 Racing magazine, most of the drivers seemed to agree that Giancarlo Fisichella was the best player among them (though Schumacher and Alonso came close). Schumacher himself plays for FC Echichens, a third division Swiss team, whose coach (ironically named Patrick Ferrari) is hoping Michael will spend more of his new-found free time with the team. In the past, Schumi's demanding schedule had meant he'd leave in the middle of games to get to the track. And it was none other than soccer legend Pele who was on hand to present the retiring champ with a parting trophy at last Sunday's season-closing Brazilian Grand Prix.

Most of these intersections between soccer and grand prix racing are ad-hoc, but the Real Madrid football club is making it official. The team is going to sponsor an F1 car for the 2007 Spanish Grand Prix, and Williams appear the likeliest candidate, not least because, as an independent team, Williams.F1 wouldn't pose a problem for Audi, Real Madrid's sponsor.

NASCAR racing and American Football are undoubtedly the more popular forms of the two sports in the United States, and aside from the occasional special edition Ford truck, the two don't often cross paths. But everywhere else in the world, F1 racing and soccer are the be-all-and-end-all of sports. The FIA World Championship and the FIFA World Cup, it seems, share more than similar names, they share common fans with a common passion.

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