It took a while, but I made it. I landed in Melbourne this morning. The program at Albert Park started today with several support races practice sessions. But I took a day off from Formula 1 and everything and spent it doing nothing in Melbourne .
Here are some F1 related observations from today:
1) It is extremely hot here. I do not carry thermometer on me but I can tell that Sepang has a very serious competition for the 2008 Hottest F1 Race title.
2) There is very little around the town that suggests the F1 is here this weekend. What is on the photos in this article is all that I have seen. Of course if I do not count the immediate vicinity of Albert Park. I landed at the airport this morning – no sign of F1 at all, except for few appopriately dressed Ferrari fans. In the city few flags here and there,
tents with official F1 Merchandise at 2 places in the city (full of 2007 or older merchandise)
and some ads on public transport (but these are placed there by Bridgestone and Vodafone).
If there is more, than they managed to hide it pretty well… Basicaly if person that has no idea about F1 race being in town will only realize there is something going on when security kicks him/her away from Albert Park entrance . But there is one positive as well – unlike in some other F1 cities, here in Melbourne they sell the F1 program brochures in the newstands not only on the track.
3) Nando is everywhere though, but this may have nothing to do with guy who won the title twice and returned to Renault this year
4) Birds are all over the place
5) And another significant positive – This must be the easiest to get to F1 track on calendar (not counting the flight time). You hop on tram at one end of the city, and within 10-15 minutes you are disembarking at the F1 track. Even in the tiny Monaco getting to my seat was pain in the butt with all the roads and walkways closed and locked.
The F1 cars will be in action tomorrow from 10am local time in Melbourne. I will be there with my camera.
I am not sure if the latest Ecclestone had to say on future of F1 racing in Australia is just another chapter in his game of negotiation or this guy is getting completely mad.
“The only way the race could stay in Melbourne, or anywhere else in Australia, is if it is staged during the night so that the public in Europe can watch it. At the moment, it is ridiculous that people are asked not to sleep in order to see it live. That can’t carry on. The alternative is to pull the race completely from Australia. I’ve spoken to (new prime minister) Kevin Rudd and he’s told me it would cost too much to re-stage the race, so I guess that’s it. We won’t be going to Australia for too much longer.”
So it is ridiculius that people in Europe have to wake up early … And he only knows that now ? The Australian GP has been on calendar since 1985 !!!
Two quotes from Bernie Ecclestone appeared in the news this weekend and after reading I began to wonder what did the Australians do to him …
Quote 1 – On the reports that Sydney may fill the gap if Melbourne looses the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix (in the interview for the Herald Sun)
“There is nothing in Sydney – they haven’t even got a circuit. “
Quote 2 – On his planned trip to St. Petersburg and discussions about staging Formula 1 race in Russia (reported by Daily Mirror):
“Nothing is done yet. But this could be an interesting development for the sport. We’d like to get it in the calendar as soon as we can but that depends on them. It’s down to how long it takes them to get the circuit ready.”
I am not saying that Sydney is a feasible option. It may or may not be, it is not upon me to say. I do not even know whether the city would be interested. But that is not the point … What strikes me is The Formula 1 Supremo dismissing the possibility of the race in Sydney outright with such an argument. All the new races (current and future) – Singapore, Valencia, Abu Dhabi, Seoul, India only began to build the race tracks after Bernie signed them up. Russia, as it is obvious from his remarks, would be the same case.
Sydney would stand no chance though, because like all the others who got the new races it does not have a race track …
Bernie Ecclestone has a fresh new target for his axe:
“Maybe we don’t want to be in Australia. Our costs are very high in Australia and we get a lot less money. It’s bloody bad for us. We’ve got quite a few places on the list which would like to have Formula One and, as it seems your guy (Victorian Premier John Brumby) down there doesn’t want Formula One, we can make him happy and make the other people happy.”
Mr. Ecclestone loves to threaten F1 venues and some do not survive his threats, Indianapolis being the latest example.
I am not sure how serious Bernie is in this case, but there seem to be some real issues with promoting the race in Melbourne. Few weeks ago I read an article by an upset Australian fan on poor or almost non existent promotion of the race by the organizers. I also recalled my trip to Melbourne back in 2005, few weeks before the race. There were no signs of the Formula 1 race coming to town except for the preparation works in Albert Park and few angry posters around the lake…
I hope Australia keeps the F1 race, but if that is to be, the organizers and the local authorities should not continue sending the wrong messages to Bernie …
Here is a short re-cap of how Kimi Raikkonen’s season went from Australia to Brazil, race by race.
AUSTRALIAN GP – 1st
Raikkonen 10 (+2)
MALAYSIAN GP – 3rd
Raikkonen 16 (-2)
Kimi wins on his Ferrari debut. Lewis Hamilton drove excellent F1 debut race. After great start he kept Alonso behind him and lost 2nd place only through some bad luck with traffic before his second pit stop. Massa gambled on 1 stop strategy and finished 6th after starting from 22nd. Heidfeld came home 4th. Sixth Fisichella did probably all that he could with the car he had. Both Williams and Toyota must be happy with points in bag.
Alonso over a second faster than Massa, Kimi 10 seconds behind Alonso. Looks funny, but these result do not tell much, as not all drivers managed to get runs on dry track and try tyres.
- Australian Grand Prix, 1st Practice
We are a week away from the start of the new season. Here is a look back at the last 10 season openers.
- Two of the 10 drivers who finished the race in 1997 will be on the grid in 2007 (Coulthard, Trulli), one will be in Melbourne as a team owner this year (Berger).
- Last 2 years the cars provedto be reliable right at the start of the season with only 3 (2005) and 4 (2006) cars retiring.
- 2002 offered quite an exciting start to the season with 8 cars crashing out right after the start.
- Six time in last ten years the winner of the opening race won the championship (Hakkinen, M. Schumacher, Alonso)