When most people think of motor sports they imagine beer bellied, mullet sporting, booze swilling petrol heads standing around discussing engine capacity, top speeds and which driver has betrayed loyal fans by swapping drives. When you think of Formula One you also add the glitz and glamour of the world’s biggest PR circus, Monaco living multi-millionaire playboy drivers, celebrities on the grid and the ridiculous sums of money that are thrown at the sport. Fair to say motor sport and Formula One is not everyone’s cup of tea.
I however am a fan. I love Formula One racing, sure the races have become a little boring and mundane over the last decade or so, and you almost need to be a rocket scientist to understand the new rules that are introduced every year. Combine that with Bernie Ecclestone hogging the spotlight more than the drivers and teams themselves and I understand why people have switched off and turned their backs on the sport. More than anything I love the engineering and the science and physics behind the cars, call me a nerd, but I bet many fans of Formula One would say the same thing.
So therefore how convenient was it that the Australian Grand Prix almost perfectly coincided with our visit to Australia, how could we not go! If you ask many of the teams, drivers and associated ‘hangers-on’ in the F1 paddock they will all tell you the race in Melbourne is one of, if not, their favourite. Close to the centre of town, close to some great bars and pubs and combined with Melbourne’s famous restaurant scene what is not to love? So with my Dad in tow (or as Natalie would put it with her in tow!), we headed down to the Albert Park track to enjoy the first race of a new season and our last day in Australia.
It has been 11 years since I last went to the race and things have certainly changed. As I mentioned in my previous blog about Melbourne, the city loves a sporting event, not only that they know how to host an event. The atmosphere around the track felt less like a motor race and more like a carnival or fun fair. There was so much to see it would have been very easy to miss all the action on track.
The event catered for everyone, with an enormous ‘Kid’s Zone’ filled with rides and entertainers for the children, to an extreme sports area with everything from legendary skateboarder Tony Hawke giving demos on the half pipe to motorcross riders braving the ‘Globe of Death’. Of course there were the stock standard souvenir shops selling event merchandise and each of the major F1 teams had their own dedicated shops selling everything you may ever need to support your team of choice.
Strolling around the track there were entertainers to keep us all amused. Small three piece jazz bands in racing jumpsuits, military bands, and even two guys in racing kit on mobility scooters angrily chasing each other waving their walking sticks at anyone who got in their way made sure the day had a fun element.
Several of the support races, the old restored cars and the Porsche racing cars, allowed you to walk right up to them, pose for photos, or see the cars being prepared for their respective races. A rare insight and a chance for the petrol heads to get up close and personal with their beloved machines.
Of course the reason we were all there was for the action on track, and this was also very well organised. There would be a break for 15 to 30 minutes and then something to entertain you. Everything from parades of restored cars, a celebrity challenge race, parade laps of drivers in nearly all categories and even a ‘drive by’ by country fire brigades that had helped the state of Victoria during the recent bush fires. Whether you were walking around or watching the action on track there was never a dull moment.
The pre-race entertainment concluded with an aerobatics display from the RAAF Roulettes, an incredible fly over by a FA/18 Super Hornet fighter jet (probably Dad’s highlight) and finally a QANTAS flyover with their brand new Dreamliner (which was flown by a distant relative of Natalie), all helping raising expectations and excitement.
The race itself was pretty one sided but plenty of fighting for position further down the grid. The one thing that stood out to us was how many families were there as well as how many people who either didn’t know much about F1 or who you wouldn’t expect to see at a car race. I guess that comes down to how well organised the event was. It was a day out for friends and family. Sure there were some people who were purely there to make their partner happy, but the race was set up to appeal to everyone, get people involved and expose people who normally wouldn’t be interested to the complexity, politics, engineering and excitement that is Formula 1.
Melbourne you have done it again!
P.S. For anyone who was interested Nico Rosberg from Mercedes won the race.