After a week of waking up to the sound of either V8 cars backfiring or the Formula 1 cars accelerating after the 13th corner we finally get to see a lot of the action for ourselves! A 10:30am start means we left the apartment at 10:29am to make it down to the gate. A little queue meant we were inside the event by 10:45am and wandering around the stalls and concession stands. There was so much to see. From free posters and lanyards to physiology grip testing comparisons to Lewis Hamilton’s. We of course went round and saw everything we could. My grip strength was 30kg, Adam’s was 50kg and Lewis’s record is 78kg. So I’m somewhat way off the goal.
What we did see that we thought was fantastic was an education based marquee full of Secondary school children who had designed, marketed and created their own mini F1 cars to be raced on a track in the centre of the tent. Total ‘Apprentice’ style projects. There was a project manager, marketing guy, graphic designer etc. Not only was the concept a great one, but schools from all over Australia had flown in to take part and to compete for the best model F1 car. We didn’t expect this kind of idea to even feature at the event and it really was a main feature near the entrance. All school children had taken the project up as extra curricular studies and each 14/15 year old looked the part with their presentations and business savvy fashion. One team even gave me some of their marketing merchandise in the form of a hand sanitiser – complete with logo and team name – how did they know I’m a clean freak.
We moved on and walked towards the pit lanes and on our way we were quickly herded half-way across the zebra crossing to find that we’d walked in front of Nico Rosberg’s car who was about to arrive ready for the race. We snapped a couple of photos before being herded off the second half of the crossing – feeling quite pleased!
After many photo opportunities….
…we took our box office guy’s advice and found a place to sit. He advised a 2pm stake out for a 4pm start. We’d read online that the 5th corner provides best views for general admission tickets as you could see the cars coming towards you from 4, turn through 5 and then head towards the 6th. Each car only took about 3 seconds to make it through all of that before they were gone again – making it tricky to capture any moment of the race. 2pm was probably an oversight for finding a seat. We took the last two slabs of concrete before the 5th turn was full. I would estimate that the seasoned pro’s (camping chairs, picnic blankets, beer coolers, binoculars, khaki bucket hats and ultra zoom lens cameras) had been seated and positioned since the gates opened.
We staked our claim with our own picnic (I over-estimated the number of sandwiches needed by about 20) and made ourselves at home for the 2 hour wait. After just enough time for a toilet break, with the mens queue being much longer than the women’s for once, and a beer or two an airshow started. We had seen elements of this already, from the apartment and from the beach, but not as close or as loud as we were now experiencing. The fighter-jet (A18) was the loudest and sounded like a long, loud thunder was directly above us. This was preceded by the Australian equivalent of the red arrows (RAAF Roulettes) and followed by a Qantas passenger plane which was extremely large and low to the ground – we half expected it to drop out of the sky at any second it was that close to us.
After no time at all the drivers were doing their F1 drivers parade where I managed to get a snap of Jenson Button, Hamilton went by in a flash so there was no chance of getting a quick snap.
We were sat right by some on-hand track officials incase there was a crash, they looked as excited and eager to see the drivers as the crowds were, busy taking snaps the same as us!
Once the race began the photos were hit and miss. Mostly miss. The speed of the cars combined with the camera focusing on the trackside fencing meant that most of my photos were great advertising for Pirelli…but nothing else.
My shot became increasingly better as the day went on, featuring only the front wheel in some, then only the backend of the car in others. Definitely a trial and error challenge.
Eventually I got the hang of it. Having a car front and centre of the shot and in focus was difficult and something that I don’t think I fully achieved but I was happy with the ones I managed.
The day was topped off by Hamilton’s success, leading for the whole race meant the thousands of Brits that had descended on Melbourne left the race with a big grin – helped by the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger was there and presented the trophy. We weren’t close enough to the start/finish line when the race finished so we captured the ceremony on screen instead. I did manage to get a shot of 1st & 2nd place as they did a victory lap though… (Lewis Hamilton & Nico Rosberg, both Mercedes drivers).
At the end of the race, once all vehicles had finished on the track the stewards allowed any and all visitors onto the track! We walked on just like everyone else – a slight oversight on the security front as thousands of people were squeezing through gaps, climbing over bollards and tyres just to touch the tarmac. People were running towards the finish line to capture a glimpse of Arnie & Lewis but it just ended in a blockage and a bottle neck so we ended up turning around and queuing to get off the track again!
To finish the day we got a quick snap on the track, after being asked (and trusted as a stranger to take their photo) by one group, they gladly reciprocated.