So, last weekend we had the event I'd gone to Melbourne to see – the 2008 Australian Grand Prix.
The “we” was myself and Luther – while standing in the queue at the ticket booth on Saturday replacing my lost tickets, a nice lady came up with a spare single to the stands – and after a minute I clicked that she was trying give it away rather than sell it and I gratefully accepted! So that meant I could bring a friend along on Sunday, which was all good (though of course we weren't sitting together, unfortunately).
The event nominally goes for four days, but unless you have some personal interest in each of the F1 practice sessions or each of the individual secondary races (the 3-4 each of the Aussie Racing Cars, V8s, celebrity races), there's really not much point at all in going before the third day as it's all repeats through the days – so I just went for the Saturday and Sunday.
As well as various secondary races the Saturday has the F1 final practice and qualifying sessions, which is a good chance to wander around the track and have a look a the layout and how the various corners are handled.
Otherwise, between various flyovers from the Aussie fighters & choppers and Qantas Jumbos, you can wander around and look at the classic racecars like the Triumph TR2 and modern faves, including the oh-so-sexy Aston Martin DB9 and DBS (no Vantage sadly), the Bugatti Veyron supercar, and the more future-looking Aurora solar racer.
A few of the teams bring older versions of the racecars for the fans to get close to – the McLaren stand had people queueing up to have a go at doing the tyre quick-changes which looked like fun!
A few of the punters were dressed up to support their teams – the Ferrari fans being vastly more visible, some dressed as Romans, others flocking together with Ferrari flags (which they were even waving around proudly after the race despite getting caned!).
Most of us though were just trying to stay cool – Melbourne's summer has been extended out by a heat wave and this was a 37-40C day and it was very hard just to stay functioning – drink continual water, grab what little shade you can find, and make full use of the “chill machines” (which blow cold water vapor over you – very nice) when you can get to them.
I'd be happy to see Melbourne's F1 become a night race, for one! That's on the cards as the F1 bosses want it to meet European TV viewing times better (but there's a fair bit of opposition from the Melbourne F1 ppl, so don't count on it).
The start time finally drew near and we grabbed our last drinks – the stands ran out of iceblocks and water bottles (though they did let us steal their leftover cooling ice freely – I filled a bag and put it on my feet, which turned out to be a good move!) – and headed to our seats.
The grid, which I was sitting at the end of, was a real hive of activity, but shortly the teams have all inserted their drivers and started the cars, and the mechanics all zoom off the grid and head toward the pits. The cars then do a low-speed formation lap and form up…. and then they're off!
Is it interesting to watch? Well, yes… but it's more a good experience than a good watch.
The cars zip fast very, very quickly – this Ferarri photo is on one of the slow corners, and the second pic here gives you a good idea what it looks like from the pit straight stands as they go past at over 300 km/h. They look just that blurry when you're looking at them in person!
And of course you're just at one part of the circuit at any time, so you end up watching the TV feed like everyone at home to find out what's going on elsewhere in the race.
Still, there's a real buzz seeing it in person – it is very very loud, and they go by a lot faster than it often looks on TV – and it's good to see the tracks and get a good picture of how things are in the flesh.
The race was good, lots of action – of the 22 cars starting only 7 survived, thanks in large part to the heat and a number of changes to the cars this much year, eg. traction control being banned.
After the race you can jump down and swarm over the tracks which is good fun, and it's interesting to walk around and check it out. Within half an hour, the big cargo trucks are already moving in around the track to pack up the teams and ship them out to Malaysia in time for the race just a week later.