An F1 Dream Come True - Part 2 - Track Day 1
Albert Park, Victoria
Its 9:41pm, Thursday 15th March 2012. I have just got in. Im soaking, I stink of rich petrol fumes and burning rubber, and I have a whopping adreneline headache. I also have had one of the single best days of my life. The reason behind all of this? Formula 1 has finally rolled into town.
It started last night. At 4pm local time, I heard from my flat in South Yarra (which is 2km - 1.2miles away from Albert Park), the roar of a Formula one car. It didnt last long, maybe only 5 minutes, and then it was gone. But then it happened again, at 6:30pm. This time, I decided I could not sit in my flat listening to such a beautiful sound without taking a look. So I ran.
I arrived at Albert Park just in time to catch two laps of what I think was last years Torro Rosso on track. Security at the track was very tight, the gaurds refused to let me look. So I collected a stack of traffic cones and stacked them up, one on top of each other and climbed on top - I managed to get a snippet of video.
After watching the Torro Rosso I headed back home, and prepared for the big day ahead. I cooked up some bacon sandwiches, bought some bottled water, charged up my phone and tried to get an early night. I'd set my alarm for 7am.
Sure enough I woke up at 7am, and dragged myself out of bed. I got ready and had breakfast and coffee - I wanted to make sure I was completely 'of this earth' when I left for the track. After leaving the flat, I headed to Big W to grab a couple of towels to lie on the grass at the track. For those that are interested - I'm really glad I did this - helps in the rain especially.
I headed to to the track and collected my tickets at the box office. The gates opened at 10:30 and I headed through gate 5 - the north-east most gate. I knew exactly where I was heading - turn 9. Turn 9 is situated on lakeside drive, just before the long back straight and is opposite Gunn Island. It is fantastic because for a General Admission ticket, you do better than those who paid for grandstand.
Firstly, immediately opposite you is a big screen - so you are always up to date with what is going on - on track. Turn 9 is on a bank, meaning you can lie down but with a pillow under your head your view of the action is not obstructed. Turn 9 is known for being a reasonable overtaking spot - its good for the late breakers. It is also great because it has a run off area and cars can and very often do make use of it. Finally, after the turn, you can see all the way down lakeside drive as the cars accelerate past you. In short - turn 9 is awesome.
I settled in at turn 9 and didn't move all day. The action on track never stops, with the 4 main support races plus showpiece events filling up almost every minute you are there. Let me say right now, I firmly believe you get value for money when you pay to see F1. You are entertained almost every minute.
During my day at turn 9 - I learned a lot which will help me over the next 3 days. First off, I had considered taking a foldable or inflateable chair. I'm glad I didn't but took towels instead. As I mentioned earlier - its far more comfortable over the day to be able to lie down, and as you can still see everything whilst lieing down - why not!
Next up, definitely take and use sun cream. It was raining for about 50% of the day, and fior the other 50% it was overcast, and yet - I have ended up with very bad sunburn on my legs. I wont make the same mistake tomorrow. Just sitting outside in one place for so long got me good.
Definitely pack your own food. The cost of food and drink at the track is absolutely extortionate - if Australia tends to be 2 x more expensive than the uk, the food at the track is 5 x. Make sure your water is in a clear plastic bottle, and the manufacturers seal is not broken.
Take a coat and prepare to get wet (unless its Bahrain!). You never know when the heavens might open, and they certainly did today - in fact upon entry to the circuit a massive thunderstorm crossed the track. This is where the towels will help you!
One of the great things about going to the F1 today was the people I met and talked to. A camera man was setup directly behind me doing shots of turn 9 and down lakeside drive. I had to go up and introduce myself, and off and on throughout the day we were chatting. He was a brit - who had applied for the job thinking he would never get it.
He told me about what he does - that in addition to being the camera man he is also the rigger for all his camera equipment. He has to set it up and make sure its working, lay all the cable to F1 tv centre, and test everything. He told me there are 2 teams that alternate between grand prix's to do the fimling, as it takes longer to set up than the time available between each GP. So his next GP would be China.
He also showed me the camera, and all the different stuff he could do with it. It was on a long arm, balanced with weights at the other end. He could rotate the camera 360 degrees, and had full control over zoom and what he was videoing. He also had what he called a 'hand-off' button - when race control are following a car and he needs to see where it is, he can press the button to get an idea of when to be ready to film the car. I was fascinated.
The 4 main support races of the day are the V8 Supercars, Formula Ford, the Shannons Group Legacy race and the Porsche Carrera cup. The V8s were beasts - ferocious noise roared from them and the smell of rich petrol they emitted was intoxicating. Formula Ford looked like a race full of Airel Atoms - Cars with no wings, just bigger than go-karts, and clearly a lot of power behind them. The Shannons Group Legacy was just about every fancy historical car you could think of (Jags, DB5s etc.). The Porsche Carrera cup was exactly that, a race full of Carreras battling out by proving who is the best racing driver - not the best car.
The events finished at 7pm, after which I set off for home. As I left the circuit the sky turned to look like fire, and out of nowhere a massive downpour of rain, together with thunder and lightning, swept across Melbourne. I cant wait for another day of this.