Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

Amy's Australian diary - Part 5, Sunday - The final tale in an epic Melbourne adventure

Published by Amy Fulton

Sunday was another day that we decided to skip Sidepodbreakfast. We had a good reason though! Pamela and I decided that since Sunday was our last chance to scope out the paddock entrance we were going to do it, and do it well. The boys had had enough of standing in one spot for hours at a time so they decided not to join us.

The final GP Advantage benefit of the weekend is a 9am walk along the pit straight. I have never bothered to do it because it involves getting to the circuit 8 hours before the race starts, and you actually see less than you do on the pit lane walk on Wednesday. Pamela and I decided to be sneaky though, and get in the queue at Gate 1 for the pit walk but head straight to the paddock instead. A few other people had the same idea, some of them had even managed to talk security into opening other gates early! We managed to get spots on the fence line and then it was a matter of waiting. Again.

It took a couple of hours before anyone showed up, but eventually the first to arrive was Karun. He was very friendly that day, and when he got to us we told him that he was leading Christine's Rankings on Sidepodcast. We explained to him that they were like the Castrol Rankings, but better and Karun laughed and replied “I bet!” He then got out his Blackberry and entered into it and told us he would have a look at it later.

Jarno Trulli was the next to arrive, he signed a few autographs but was looking quite surly. The first non-driver to stop and sign autographs was Rob Smedley, he seemed amused by the whole thing and kept telling the crowd they should be getting signatures from the other Ferrari staff who were arriving at the same time. Martin Whitmarsh followed Rob over, and he was in a fantastic mood! He was joking with the crowd about Lewis' trouble with the police, saying he had no idea what a hoon was so he was pleased he had come to Australia and learned a new word. I was wearing my bright rocket-red victory T shirt that day, so when he got to me I told him 'good luck today, Martin' and he said thanks and continued on his way. I am totally claiming responsibility for McLaren's later victory.

Martin Whitmarsh has a whale of a time at the Australian GP
Credit: Amy Fulton / Flickr

Jeremy and Paul had shown up by this time and we managed to get a drinks order to them at the back of the crowd. The people around me were quite amused when I asked for a coffee instead of a beer or something more typical of a race-attendee, but they were all very good at passing it through the crowd to me. It's amazing how friendly some strangers can be when you are sharing the same experience of standing still for hours on end! It's like some sort of weird bonding ritual.

Both of the Virgin drivers arrived next. It was nice to see Timo as we hadn't seen him since the autograph stage on Thursday, and of course it's always nice to see Lucas. Ahem.

Lucas di Grassi proves just how delicious he really is
Credit: Amy Fulton / Flickr

Ross Brawn and Fernando Alonso were the next to arrive. While Fernando was signing for the crowd, a van of Renault mechanics drove past him, rolled down the window, and yelled something to him in Spanish. I have no idea what they said but it made Fernando laugh!

The media had started to emerge by now, and Jake Humphrey and Lee McKenzie from the BBC came out together. The crowd all started yelling out for Jake and he gave a big grin and a wave, but no one was paying Lee any attention so when it got quiet again I yelled out “Hi Lee!” and got a wave out of her too. I think I was delirious by this point, I'm not normally the type to yell out anything at anyone! Anthony Davidson came out by himself a little bit later, and deciding we were obviously BFFs after breakfast the day before I yelled out “Morning Ant!” to him. He gave us a very shy smile and small wave which had the crowd laughing.

Because we were on the fence line we had hung the Finnish flag over the fence to grab Heikki's attention when he arrived. It certainly worked! He turned up with Catherine (Catherine in daylight = excited Amy) and his physio Petri. Petri was taking photos of Heikki with the crowd behind him. By this stage I was starting to think that Team Heikki are quite snap-happy! When Heikki got to our spot on the fence he looked at me and said 'nice flag!' and then signed it again. The man next to us said to him 'don't take this the wrong way, but you are a very attractive man' which made Heikki and the crowd laugh. After he had gone the crowd were in agreement that he was consistently one of the nicest drivers over the weekend.

Heikki Kovalainen and his crew document their day
Credit: Amy Fulton / Flickr

Kobayashi and Sutil showed up next, they were another two that we hadn't spotted much so were pleased to see. Then it was Red Bull time – Newey, Horner and Coulthard all showed up at the same time. After staying all night the night before Pamela was pleased to finally get a photo with Christian!

By now it was getting closer to race time and the crowd had grown significantly. It was starting to get quite pushy and we didn't have anyone else we specifically wanted to see so we decided to retire from the paddock entrance for the year. We heard later that Webber arrived just after we left and the crowd went nuts so it sounds like we got out just in time!

We then had some lunch and went our separate ways at 3.30pm just in time for the drivers parade. I was most impressed to get to my seat and see that it was directly in front of Lewis' garage, and for once I didn't have the pitwall gantry blocking my view! When the cars pulled up for the drivers parade I was most impressed to see the one marked Kovalainen was directly in front of where I was sitting. There were two girls sitting a couple of rows down from me who also had a Finnish flag so when Heikki came out we all stood up and held the flags up for him. Being as snap happy as the rest of his team, he got out his phone and took a photo then gave us the thumbs up. That made my day!

Heikki gets some tips on the circuit from a local... maybe
Credit: Amy Fulton / Flickr

I'm sure you all know how the race went – it got a little bit rainy, I had to put a poncho on for the first time at a race ever, and then Jenson won!

A tiny glimpse of McLaren's winning moment
Credit: Amy Fulton / Flickr

My favourite part of sitting in the Fangio stand is watching the podium ceremony. I laughed when I saw Jessica Michibata come running out of the McLaren garage as she was wearing shoes that really weren't made for running in and she had the 'I don't want to fall over' hobble perfected. The combination of a twilight race plus stormy weather meant it was quite dark by the time the presentation started. It made for great lighting though!

Jenson Button soaks up the glory in the twilight hours at Melbourne
Credit: Amy Fulton / Flickr

After our earlier paddock retirement we didn't bother going over because, for one it was raining and for two the crowd there after the race is always massive and unless I'm at the front, I'm not a big fan. We had a chat in the cold for a little while, then left the circuit for the final time.

The weekend wasn't quite over though, on Monday night we all caught up at Albert Park Yachting and Angling Club for An Audience with Joe Saward. We all took our laptops along and spent the time swapping pictures from the weekend and filling in the comments with what was going on. Other people at the event were looking at us strange for being on our computers but I thought considering Joe is getting more known through his blog and the podcasts on this very site that most of the people there would be rather technologically savvy.

Pamela and I also stood out as the only two females there, two more showed up but didn't stay long but we later found out they were Australian Grand Prix office staff, who had just come to say hello to Joe! The big finale for me on Monday night was after dropping Paul and Jeremy off at their hotels, Pamela decided that she would change her European travel plans for later in the year around so she could come to Spa with the Sidepodcrew! After having the most excellent weekend ever with her, I was so pleased to hear I would get the chance to do it all over again.

Which is a lovely link back to the present day, as I am writing this sitting in a terminal at Singapore Airport, waiting for my flight to Heathrow to meet up with heaps of Sidepodcast commenters! If Spa is half as good as Melbourne was, I guarantee we're going to have a fantastic time.

All content in the series Amy's Australian Diary