The late start time in Melbourne makes race day last forever. Early morning passenger rides by a two-seater Formula One car wake up people staying within a two-mile vicinity of Albert Park – which is most of the F1 paddock – and you then have to wait hours for the serious business to begin.
But the lull before the storm gives the great and the good of Australia a chance to wander the F1 paddock, and there are plenty of celebs out and about.
Rock star Lenny Kravitz is back for his second visit of the weekend to Albert Park; model Kate Peck poses seductively in her role as official ambassador to the Australian Grand Prix; Harry O’Brien – a Brazilian Aussie Rules Footballer – hooks up with Bruno Senna; soccer player Harry Kewell hangs out in the Paddock Club, as does American actor Aaron Eckhart, who’s in Melbourne filming ‘I, Frankenstein’.
And that’s not all! But the other celebs have to work a bit harder for their lunch. Motocross-Stuntfahrer, Robbie Maddison, gewinnt das Red Bull Rennen, das aus einem Fünf-Runden-Sprint in Tourenwagen bestand. Doch sein Rennen war ereignisreich und schmerzvoll. When he’s hit from behind by Aussie V8 driver Rick Kelly, he feels a sharp pain in his shoulder.
“I thought doing four wheels would be a bit safer than doing two wheels,” says Robbie afterwards. “But when one of the boys hit me, my shoulder dislocated real quick and then went back in.” Ouch!
David Coulthard is another celeb to feature in the Race-Off and he has an unusual mid-race conversation. “My mother called me on my mobile when I was on the way around and I had to tell her I was a bit busy,” he says.
After all of the build-up, the big-hitters take to the grid at 4.30pm local time. Sechs Weltmeister bereiten sich auf das Rennen vor, während sich eine handvoll früherer Weltmeister sich auf ein Wortduell vorbereiten. Sir Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Alan Jones and Damon Hill give their opinions, and perhaps Lauda sums up the occasion best.
“The start of the F1 season is always more exciting than anywhere else,” he says. “Everyone thinks they’ve designed a winner before we get to Melbourne, but it’s only when we get there that we find out the truth.”
Fifty eight laps later Jenson Button comes home a dominant winner, with the usual mix of frustration and happiness behind. Noch einer, der sich nach dem Rennen erleichtert zeigt, ist Fernando Alonso. He salvages fifth place in his Ferrari after starting 12th. “From here we can build,” he says.
For now, though, it’s time to head to the Yarra River in downtown Melbourne for the official F1 Rocks post-race party. DJs Mr Hudson and Havana Brown: bring ’em on!
Then on to Malaysia.
How pumped was Michael Schumacher after qualifying fourth for the season-opener? It was the seven-time world champion’s best qualifying position since returning to Formula One in 2010 with MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS.
It was enough to make Schumi fans around the world ‘feel like dancing’, which was apt given that Leo Sayer - the popstar behind the song of the same title - was in the F1 paddock today. Leo ist Engländer, aber er liebt das Leben Down Under und er wurde 2009 in Australien eingebürgert. He’s attended all 17 Australian Grands Prix at Albert Park.
Schumi’s last win at Albert Park came in 2004, when he was driving for Ferrari. While neither Fernando Alonso nor Felipe Massa made it into the top 10 during qualifying this afternoon, the Scuderia was very much on people’s minds.
Ferrari celebrates 60 years in Australia this year and to celebrate the occasion there was a procession of 60 ageless Ferraris this morning. Marc Gene, der Ferrari-Testfahrer führte den Konvoi um den Albert Park in einem 458-er Spider an und alle fuhren bemerkenswert vernünftig. Why? There was more than €40 million of Italy’s finest on display, none of which wanted to be bent.
Alonso wasn’t part of the parade because he was talking up the structural rigidity of the 458 Spider to guests in the Paddock Club. And so he might: the Spider was launched in Melbourne on Tuesday.
Ferrari’s anniversary Down Under gave Fernando lots to write about on his new Twitter feed. Ja, der zweifache Weltmeister ist unter die Twitter gegangen. He joined the Twittersphere three days ago (@alo_oficial) and he’s already reached 158,000 followers!
Another great tweeter is Heikki Kovalainen (@h_kovalainen, 128,000 followers). Barely a day passes without a tweet from the Caterham star and he’s given a lot of twittersphere time to his new personal sponsor, Angry Birds.
“Being a Finn,” says Heikki, “I’m happy to be backing a Finnish company on a global platform. Most importantly, I’m a big Angry Birds fan!”
There were angry birds, and boys, at the entrance to the paddock this arvo when the other Finn on the grid, Kimi Raikkonen, failed to stop for a single autograph. Too cool for school, or disrespectful towards the fans?
“I was running late,” said Kimi.
A good first day of term for MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS, with Michael Schumacher topping the times in P2 for the first time since the 2004 Japanese Grand Prix. His performance will no doubt inspire many of the wannabe female racing drivers in Australia, whom he met earlier in the week while helping to launch the Women of Australian Motorsport scholarship, open to women aged 15-25.
“There’s no reason why women can’t do well in motorsport,” said the seven-time champ. “I’ll bet there are many female sportsmen who are fitter than me, so they’d be able to cope with the physical aspects of F1. What they need is the right experience and the right opportunities.”
Nico Rosberg, meanwhile, had less contact with the fairer sex during the build-up to the season-opener. He spent last week on a bike tour of New Zealand with his trainer Daniel Schlosser. “What an amazing place,” he said. “The scenery was awesome. The only downside was the roughness of the main roads; I picked up a couple of punctures when we went out on road bikes, which delayed us a bit.”
Several other drivers embarked on random routes to Melbourne. Jenson Button flew via Nagoya in Japan, where he completed a 10km running race in 35 minutes (that’s an average of 17kph! – Ed); Mark Webber went to Noosa in Queensland, along with surfing fanatic Damon Hill; Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta flew via Force India’s paymasters in India and Bruno Senna spent time in Sydney, where he visited his sister Bianca.
Talk of Damon Hill brings us nicely onto the subject of Sky TV, for whom the 1996 world champion is a pundit this year. The UK’s newest F1 broadcaster has brought 82 people to this race, which is more than any of the F1 teams! Not only that, their team gear is identical to the red, white and blue of Williams F1, which has caused confusion – particularly when Sky’s presenters are interviewing Williams personnel.
Another potential muddle for Sky revolved around the surname Kravitz. Heute hielt sich der Rockstar Lenny Kravitz zusammen mit Nicole Scherzinger (Freundin von Lewis Hamilton) bei den Fahrern auf. Imagine the confusion when Sky TV’s pitlane reporter Ted Kravitz approached him for a few words. Okay, maybe not…