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Amy's Australian diary - Part 2, Thursday - Track day at the Melbourne street circuit with autographs ahoy

Published by Amy Fulton

On Thursday morning, I arrived at 2 Doors Down to see Pamela and Paul already there. Jeremy showed up later on, but no one else came, or so we thought. It turned out there was another commenter and his wife inside the cafe, they hadn’t managed to spot the Sidepodtable but they worked out who we were as they were leaving so came to say hello. We didn’t see them or anyone else for the rest of the weekend so our little posse was complete!

Breakfast was very tasty by the way.

A good start to Thursday at 2 Doors Down
Credit: Amy Fulton / Flickr

To me, Thursday at the Australian Grand Prixmeans autograph day. Although, I’m not actually a big fan of autographs, so I prefer to just stand in the queue and take photos of each of the drivers. Williams were first up, followed by Sauber and Force India. Because I had seen and taken photos of these drivers the day before I wasn’t too concerned about getting into the queue. We went and saw Barrichello just so we could show the boys, who were at their first Grand Prix, where the autograph stage was and then we left to wander around the track for a bit.

Thursday is autograph day, and Rubens happily complies
Credit: Amy Fulton / Flickr

We hit up the merchandise stands, where I purchased a Ferrari and a Red Bull mug to add to my collection. Seeing a Red Bull mug made me very happy as they hadn’t had one in their merchandise the previous year. We then went to show the boys where the paddock entry is because Melbourne is a great track for seeing people and getting autographs there too. While we were there Alonso arrived! Say what you will about the man, every time I’ve seen him he has always been more than obliging to sign for people.

Fernando Alonso takes a moment to sign autographs before heading to the paddock
Credit: Amy Fulton / Flickr

We got back to the autograph stage in time for Red Bull and then didn’t move again for the rest of the day. When we first got there, a Brawn/Jenson hoody was hanging over the railing and after 15 minutes or so no one had come to claim it so Jeremy put it in my bag. I felt kind of mean but we knew it would make Lou very happy! The Red Bull drivers were fantastic as after their allocated time was up rather than leave out the back of the stage they came down to the crowd and started passing out autographed cards to the people who hadn’t made it up to them. They were the only team to do so and it was a nice gesture.

Mark Webber entertains the crowds in Melbourne
Credit: Amy Fulton / Flickr
A rare glimpse of a smiling Sebastian Vettel - before all the pressure kicked in
Credit: Amy Fulton / Flickr

Red Bull were followed out by Renault who didn’t engage with the crowd too much.

Renault take to the stage, with new driver Petrov soaking up the limelight
Credit: Amy Fulton / Flickr
Kubica looks curious whilst signing autographs in Melbourne
Credit: Amy Fulton / Flickr

Then it was HRT’s turn. It’s quite funny to look back and realise that Bruno got absolutely mobbed for being a Senna, while Karun was ignored by most of the people going up to the stage. I’m sure if the same event was held here tomorrow, Karun would be equally as popular now that the F1 world realise what an awesome guy he is.

The lady running the interviews ran out of things to ask so asked for questions from the crowd. Jeremy got to ask a question which was “have you heard of Christine on the internet and” The interviewer was not impressed to say the least!

Bruno Senna laughs at the thought of a question about Sidepodcast
Credit: Amy Fulton / Flickr

Virgin were up next, and their drivers came across as very friendly. At one stage a lady stopped to pose for a photo with Timo and he did bunny ears behind her head with his fingers! The poor woman didn’t know why the crowd was laughing as every time she turned around Timo would stop doing it and try to look innocent.

It was around this time that the teams started varying from the original timetable, as Virgin and HRT weren’t actually on it, and some teams showed up late so had to be on stage at the same time as other teams, which lead to some very interesting situations.

Glock behaves himself for a change, signing an autograph for a fan
Credit: Amy Fulton / Flickr

McLaren came out at the same time as Toro Rosso so poor Jaime and Sebastien were rather ignored. They both seemed OK with this though as they came across as quite shy. They had time to sign lots of cards so after they had left the stage the staff bought them down to the crowd and I ended up with a signed card from each driver, as well as a big Australian Grand Prix poster signed by Buemi.

Jaime Alguersuari smiles whilst signing for fans, despite being overshadowed by McLaren
Credit: Amy Fulton / Flickr

The two McLaren boys were fantastic with the crowd, Lewis especially took the time to chat to each person and actually made eye contact with everyone, which most drivers won’t actually do. After seeing some photos of their autograph session, super Jenson fan Lou realised that her favourite driver is left handed. You never know what you’ll learn at an autograph session!

Jenson Button reveals that he is left handed, by signing autographs for fans
Credit: Amy Fulton / Flickr

By this stage we had been in the queue for hours and it was very hot! Because Jeremy and Paul weren't so keen on the driver spotting they had been off watching support races, but kept coming back to bring us drinks and iceblocks. Much appreciated!

Ferrari was supposed to have been on before McLaren but they came out after them, and it was announced that they would be at the same time as Mercedes. The crowd was amped for this, and it got a little pushy as people tried to ensure they could get autographs from both Ferrari drivers as well as Michael. The crowd was then told that Mercedes would be a few minutes late and it was quite funny watching people hesitate because they didn’t want to go up before Michael got there. Talk about snubbing Felipe and Fernando! When Pamela went up she too did her bit for advertising the site by talking to Felipe about Christine’s Felipe Baby song. She then posed for a photo with her favourite driver, Fernando Alonso.

Fernando Alonso poses with Pamela during the Thursday meet and greet
Credit: Amy Fulton / Flickr

It was quite well known that I wasn’t a fan of Nico Rosberg but after seeing him be ignored by hundreds of people while they were all fighting over Schumacher made me feel genuinely sorry for him. The crowd was getting antsy as people were getting multiple things signed, regardless of how many times they announced the rule was “one item only” so the line was moving very slowly and it was obvious that many people would miss out. I saw people crying after they missed out on a Schumacher autograph. Absolutely insane!

After 6 hours the final team out was the one I had been waiting for, Lotus! The crowd for them was bigger than anticipated since so many people missed out on the previous two teams they seemed to be hanging around to take whatever they could get. I was starting to worry I was going to miss out too as all the people behind me in the line suddenly ended up ahead of me! Finally I made it up to the stage, Finnish flag in hand, I had my target and was determined to see it through so I walked straight past Jarno up to Heikki. Pamela and the boys in the crowd said Jarno definitely noticed that I snubbed him, he sort of gave me a confused look as I marched past! This was the start of the infamous, not-actually-serious “feud” between us.

Amy spots Jarno Trulli and her target Lotus dream, Heikki Kovalainen
Credit: Amy Fulton / Flickr

From what I’ve been told Heikki was very happy to see my flag, but I have no recollection of his expression when I first went up to him. He laid the flag down and very carefully marked out his signature on the fabric. It was very sweet of him to make the effort because when compared to the scrawls he was making on other things, it actually looked like a proper autograph! I asked him for a photo and he was very obliging and when I got to see the photos I saw he’d given the thumbs up. I then told him good luck on Sunday and he said thank you very much, and then it was over. My day was absolutely made and I’d like to think that my flag made a piece of his too. I hadn’t clicked until that day that this would be the first year of Kimi-less Formula 1 so the number of Finnish flags flying in the stands was probably down on previous years, but all the ones that are there now are flying for Heikki so hopefully that means something to him

Amy's weekend is made on the Thursday, by meeting Heikki Kovalainen
Credit: Amy Fulton / Flickr

The circuit was starting to empty out by then, so we all went our separate ways. Jeremy and I later met up at Crown Casino to see who we could find, as there were rumours of an F1 driver's poker tournament. We didn’t make it to the poker room, but we did spot Adrian Sutil through the window having dinner at Nobu. Jeremy and I decided to sit down and have some dinner in The Pub upstairs, and while he was at the bar ordering our roasts, I realised I had a voice mail. Very odd, as my phone hadn’t actually rung.

I listened to it, and it was someone from McLaren in Woking offering me a pit tour for the following day! I was very surprised as they had said they would contact you two weeks in advance if you were selected to have one, plus in previous years they had been on Thursday afternoon. I quickly rung them straight back and they kept apologising for the late hour as it was almost 10pm by then but any F1 team offering me a paddock pass is more than welcome to call me at any hour of the day or night. They asked if I had any friends who were members who might like to come along so I gave them Jeremy’s name and he was added to the guest list. He was so happy that his membership was about to pay off that he paid for my dinner.

Thursday had ended up being so good that I wasn’t sure how it could be possibly be beaten by any other day of the weekend. How wrong I was...

To be continued...

All content in the series Amy's Australian Diary