The 2017 Formula One season got away to a flyer at the weekend, as the fastest cars, and the best drivers in the world returned to the scenic Albert park circuit in Melbourne Australia.
Luckily for me, this was my fifth straight Australian Grand Prix weekend, and by far and away the most enjoyable on many levels. I, like most F1 fans, turn to ‘mush’ when the engines get fired up, and the new carbon clad beauties take to the track in their race trim for the first time.
Friday morning sunshine was accompanied by pure excitement and expectations, as the F1 cars would journey onto the track from midday local time. After a couple of ‘nerve settlers’ (with my new shoey stubby holder) I nestled onto the hill at the inside of turn 2, and waited patiently, throwing out the odd tweet in preparation!
When the cars finally did emerge, it was clear as mud, that the new machinery was massively quicker than last year’s cars, and much sexier looking too! Who cares about overtaking? The F1 look is finally back!! Special shout to Toro Rosso too as they look magnifique in the flesh.The tyres look amazing! Big fat racing rubber akin to generations gone by, offering much more mechanical grip for the drivers to delve into. The noise levels were very much the same as before, but I have never been a fan of the screaming nuggets from previous era’s. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the noise, but it has never been the defining factor for me to go to the track, and I also respect for some fans ‘the noise’ was.
Anyway, slightly off track! This year, the engines fromall the manufacturers sounded different for the first time to my ears. Mercedes sounding very muscular, Ferrari sounding very sweet and refined, the Renault sounding rather nervous, and the poor old Honda like a lawn mower I used to own back in the UK. The sound of the Honda ‘upshift’ was cringe worthy. Later, in the day (after a few more nerve settlers), the crowd at the side of the track would participate in a ‘two handed’ gear shift on cue when the Honda flew past.
Qualifying on Saturday was tremendously attended by the Australian public. It was great to see the lake side track hustling and bustling with eager fans, determined to see ‘Dan the man’ do well. We all know what happened there so I won’t pursue, but the groan from the crowd when images of ‘that spin’ came on the screen was memorable.
Sunday race day was another well attended party by the lake! The biggest crowd in my five years pouring into Albert Park. Trepidation was building in the stands around the newly tweaked starting procedures, and whether they would contribute to some place juggling on the run down to turn 1.
They entered turn 1 pretty much as they started, and then the beautiful looking (and sounding) beasts settled into their rhythmic race pace. I had a keen eye on the sector times and it became clear straight away that Ferrari were indeed ‘on it’. Was it the car? The hottest track temperatures of the weekend suiting them? Or just damn right Italian passion?
From the track, the Australian Grand Prix was a thing of natural beauty. What a race! I have heard and read various comments from people jumping to conclusions that the new cars are rubbish for overtaking. Please give them a chance! I know the drivers have piped up about this but… anyone remember the previous Albert Park races? Max getting stuck behind his old team mate last year for example. Albert Park has never seen a mass commodity of overtaking. It just isn’t that circuit.
Also, the park called Albert, has not in recent seasons been representative of the pecking order, so I myself, will be looking forward to that evolving over the next few races. At least for now, some family members are happy, poor parenting I’ve been told!
At the end of the day… “well done Australia”, what an amazing start to the new season, and my weekends are now complete again. I take the following shot every year, as I cross the pontoon and reflect on what the past four days have given me. The sublime Melbourne skyline stands tall and proud, puffing its chest out once more.
Thank you Melbourne… its been emotional.