After crashing out almost as soon as I got in from Qualifying on Saturday, Sunday was an early start to gaurentee my seat for the race. I had arranged to meet up with Dave at the track and when I arrived I met up with Luke too. Outside the gate was absolutely rammed, with a few hundred people already queing up ready for entry. The previous 3 days had taught me where was the best place to stand for quick entry to the circuit and this paid off. Yesterday had also taught me that 9 hours sitting down in 26 degree direct sunshine - even with suncream - can severly burn the legs. I had given up and ended up putting jeans on - just to make sure I wasn't in agony.
After getting through the barriers, me and Luke sprinted to our seats. Upon arrival, we discovered half the area had already been claimed - it turned out you could buy early entry at 8am if you wished. I got both my towels out and tried to claim as large a spot as I possibly could, knowing there would be at least 3 people sitting there. Within 5 minutes, you could not get moved on the hill, and I was fighting people who were encroaching on my territory.
Dave turned up not long after, and he informed me that in addition to himself, two of his housemates were coming along as well - it had been a good idea for me to fight for as much space as I had in the end. We sat down and got ready for the days events. As it turns out, race day is actually by far the quietest for on track action besides the race. All the support races have had their events on Saturday, so with the exception of the drivers parade and a historics race, the track hardly sees action until 5pm.
Thankfully we were still entertained with a couple of events, and one thing that is always a showpiece of the Melbourne Grand Prix is the Qantas fly by of a 747. You would think seeing a jumbo fly would be nothing special, but trust me when I say this thing comes close to the ground, and makes some fairly interesting manouvers for a commercial plane over the track.
When 4pm came, the drivers parade took place, all the drivers sheperded round the track on historic cars, waving to fans. In front of us, a flag was assembled in support of Robert Kubica, wishing for his swift recovery and return to Formula One as soon as possible. Amusingly, the stewards ordered the flag down quickly, with the crowd behind growing very adgitated at the flag blocking their view.
At 5pm the cars formed up on track for the start of the race. Off the line, Jenson Button was quicker than Lewis Hamilton, and managed to jump him into turn 1. As they raced round the circuit, I followed on the big screen in front of me, until at last they emerged around turn 8 carrearing toward me at full speed. The sound was absolutely phenominal.
As the race settled in, patterns started to emerge. Jenson quickly pulled a gap out over Lewis, with Michael Schumacher holding up the Red Bulls who clearly had better race pace than one lap or qualifying pace. With Schumacher's help, Lewis managed to grab a 6 second lead over the Red Bulls, and the action did not change until when the second important pit stops came.
First into the pits was Jenson, who entered and exited clear in first place with a fair gap over Lewis. Lewis followed him into the pits on the same lap, and exited after a clean pit stop. However fate had it that on his exit from the pit lane, a safety car was needed to clear up an accident on track. Sebastien Vettel had not crossed the start finish line by this point, and dived into the pits. He was not hindered by the safety car's slow speed as Hamilton was emerging onto the track, and as a result, Vettel emerged ahead of Lewis when the cars formed up behind the safety car.
The race stayed in that order until the end, with Jenson Button first, Sebastien Vettel second, Lewis Hamilton third and Mark Webber fourth. On the final lap, Pastor Maldonado who was driving a storming race for Williams ended up dropping the car into the wall.
After the cars entered park ferme, the crowd at turn 9, and indeed around the circuit, invaded the track through the metal fences. It was a mad rush and as Jenson was crowned winner of the Australian Grand Prix, me and Luke set off to walk round the track to visit the home straight and the pits.
We arrived at the pits to see the teams already packing up their own areas, ready for jetting off to Malaysia for next weekends grand prix. Luke and I walked through the crowd, down past the McLaren garage to the far end and to Park Ferme, where the cars were lined up one by one to be inspected by the stewards. This also made for the best place to nab some good stills of the cars!
After grabbing as many photos as I could, I headed back up the pits to see the various members of the Sky F1 team - consisting of Ted Kravitz, Natalie Pinkham and Simon Lazenby - at working doing track reports and pit lane interviews. At one point, the McLaren garage flooded with people - all the McLaren team in their rocket red, along with Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button - and then the various broadcasting companies doing interviews. Sky F1 cameras were everywhere, and out emerged Damon Hill, Martin Brundle and various others to photo and video the McLaren celebration they always do after winning a race.
After the commotion died down and the drivers headed off, the pit lane workers returned to dis-assembling the pits and packing away. Not long before I planned to head off, Ted Kravitz was doing interviews along the pit lane with team workers. I was standing next to a group of people wearing lego men outfits with Ferrari costumes over the top. I mentioned that it was Ted Kravitz of Sky F1, and someone else said we should shout to grab his attention. We agreed, and on 3 everyone shouted his name. Sure enough he walked over to the crowd with his camera, and began interviewing people in the crowd. I stood waving into the camera for a good 5 minutes before the crowd dispersed and he headed off.
Again it was late when I finally left the circuit and headed home. Four days of awesomeness and andrenaline had taken their tole on me when I finally got in, and again I crashed out almost instantly. I vowed to take a day for myself before I wrote about my experiences at the weekend, however that ended up being two weeks - sorry about that!