Monday, 18 March 2013

Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Melbourne 2013

Mark Webber.
For Formula 1 week we took up residence in a clean and tidy one bedroom apartment within walking distance of the Albert Park race circuit. One of our GP Advantage privileges promised us a pit walk at 9am on Thursday morning and we were waiting, with thousands of others, by 8:30am. For some reason the pit walk was delayed by half an hour, but Victorians are a patient bunch and everyone waited quietly and calmly in the queue. When the pit walkers finally arrived in pit lane the group stopped moving while hundreds of digital cameras snapped away. Even security, who kept barking “move along, move along,” seemed to have no impact on the large group of punters. At one stage it looked like they wouldn’t be able to clear pit lane in time for the first event at 10am. We stopped long enough to take some great photographs of the F1 pit garages. Many of the photographs were the same ones we had taken in 2009, however it was important to get the new and updated images.
There is plenty of on track activities but there is no racing on Thursday so it was a great day to enjoy some of the grand prix’s off track entertainment. We browsed through the merchandising stalls and noticed that Red Bull T shirts and caps were the most popular. Ferrari merchandising seems to be taking a back seat after the departure of Michael Schumacher.
Nitro Circus.
The FLAIR Moto Trials Show was very entertaining but it’s difficult to compete with the motorcycle and bicycle acrobatics of the Nitro Circus; those guys are truly insane. There seemed to be a lot more entertainment aimed at children and teenagers and I thought the age demographic was younger than it was in 2009.
On Friday the F1 cars took to the track for the first time and we were treated to three hours of F1 entertainment during the course of the day. Since 1985 I have always been a Mclaren fan. When Lewis Hamilton joined the Mclaren it seemed like a match made in heaven for both me and the team. Unfortunately Lewis is now driving for Mercedes and I missed him. First and foremost I always hope that Australians Mark Webber or Danny Ricciardo win, no matter who they drive for. If the Aussies can’t win Mclaren is my team.
Saturday Qualifying in the rain.
Rain stopped play after the first qualifying session on Saturday and we were thrilled with our undercover seating while we watched the high tech sport of Formula 1 use brooms to try and sweep the standing water off the track. Eventually race control rescheduled the second and third qualifying sessions until 11am on Sunday morning.
We couldn’t take our undercover seating home with us and we were drenched walking back to our unit in South Yarra. A hot shower, a plate of Peking Duck and a bottle of Red from a local Chinese restaurant and we were all smiles again.
Because of the rescheduling of qualifying, gates opened at 10:00 on race day Sunday. Luckily Steve remembered that GP Advantage ticket holders could enter the circuit from 8:30am on Sunday so we didn’t have to queue with the masses. With a quickly drying track the final two qualifying sessions were a nail biting experience. Eventually the two Red Bulls, Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, took out the first row of the grid.
Front Row: Vettel and Webber.
Steve and I always choose our seats so they overlook pit straight as we find there is always something going on in pit lane or on the starting grid to keep us entertained. On Sunday we stayed in our seats for most of the day and enjoyed the support races which included V8 Supercars, Porsche Carrera Cup and International Sports Cars. Moto GP retiree, Casey Stoner certainly brought a touch of celebrity to the Ultimate Speed Comparison and I made sure I was in my seat each time this event was on track.
The Podium.
Sunday’s race is always full of drama and Mark Webber was the first victim, losing several places before the first corner. Kimi Raikkonen surprised everyone and took out the win using good tyre management; Kimi only made two pit stops instead of three. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso came second and Sebastian Vettel, the current world champion, third. Mark Webber finished sixth and Danny Ricciardo retired in the late stages of the race. The fans were quickly on the track after the completion of the race so they could join in the celebrations on the podium. When the Premier of Victoria was introduced an audible booing came from the crowd. This happened again when Sebastian Vettel was awarded his third place trophy. I hope, in Sebastian’s case, the booing was delivered with a touch of humour as Aussie Mark Webber is his team mate.
We stayed a while, watching the celebrations and soaking up the last glimmer of this amazing event. The Melbourne F1 Grand Prix just keeps getting better and better and it felt like a pleasure and a privilege to be there in 2013.

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