Damon meets the F1 Fanatics in Melbourne

From the stands

Matt Burge (Foocode), Stephen Jones (AUS_Steve), Scott U'Ren (scottie), Damon Smedley, Magnificent Geoffrey and Andrew Robertson (JarZ)

Matt Burge (Foocode), Stephen Jones (AUS_Steve), Scott U'Ren (scottie), Damon Smedley, Magnificent Geoffrey and Andrew Robertson (JarZ)

Damon Smedley met a group of F1 Fanatic readers at the Australian Grand Prix last week.

Read on for his experience of the race weekend and meeting some of the faces behind the comments.

A soggy start

First lesson of booking an F1 race trip: don’t leave it too late to buy your tickets. That nearly caught me out when planning my trip to the Australian Grand Prix.

My father and I planned to sit in the Jones stand but by the time we came to book there was only one seat left. Instead we booked two of then ten remaining seats at Brabham, next to turn one.

Thursday was uncharacteristically gloomy. Seeking shelter from the rain, we spent the morning exploring the city, and it was not until well after midday that we headed to the circuit.

When we finally arrived, the weather had worsened and we spent much of our time standing under trees rather than making full use of our AUS $500 seats.

Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren, Melbourne, 2011

Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren, Melbourne, 2011

With only support race practice and qualifying sessions on offer, plus Pedro de la Rosa in a lone McLaren doing a publicity stunt, we made an early retreat to the hotel.

Friday was relatively dry, but by far the coldest day of the race weekend. Almost as soon as we had arrived, an enormous crash at turn 12 halted the Carrera Cup race.

We saw Karun Chandhok’s Lotus go past once but never again as he dropped it into the barriers a few hundred metres down the road from us. Another of the day’s highlights was local hero Mark Webber topping the times in first practice.

I endured the first session without earplugs before the noticeably loud Renault, with its front exit exhausts, started to make me feel strangely dizzy. I saw sense and decided earplugs would be a wise purchase.

The F1 Fanatic meet-up

A message from Magnificent Geoffrey to his favourite F1 Fanatic

A message from Magnificent Geoffrey to his favourite F1 Fanatic

The weather improved as the weekend went on and although the sun remained elusive on Saturday, the wind eased and it was a much more pleasant day.

The Brabham stand proved an excellent vantage point, with drivers decelerating from speeds of over 300 to just 150 kph into turn one, before delicately applying the throttle and threading the car through the long radius turn two. We saw some amazing slides and equally impressive saves.

There was a hair-raising moment when Felipe Massa spectacularly went through turn two on opposite lock, and nearly everyone in the stand (including myself) gasped before turning to one another with enormous grins.

Later the crowd gave another cheer as Vitantonio Liuzzi slowly completed the first ever lap in the new HRT.

Final practice on Saturday morning was uneventful – a warm-up for the big event of the day. That’s right: the F1 Fanatic meet-up, scheduled for one hour before qualifying.

Stephen Jones (aka AUS_Steve) joined me at the rendezvous point with Magnificent Geoffrey. We were still a few members – it took a while for us to realise the group standing not five metres behind us were also F1 Fanatics.

We all had a chat and Magnificent Geoffrey revealed a humorous message he had printed out for the planned group photo in front of the F1 Central pillar (see picture). The meet-up was a great laugh, and a brilliant chance to meet the faces behind the comments.

Vettel’s masterclass

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Melbourne, 2011

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Melbourne, 2011

Qualifying proved to be one of the highlights of the weekend.

Unsurprisingly, HRT were well off the pace, but it was clear from the way that Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan were wrestling with the steering wheel through turn two that both drivers were pushing the car to the limit.

At the opposite end of the field, the Red Bulls were flying. I was in awe of how much earlier Vettel was able to open the DRS through turn two than anyone else, including his team mate.

Adrian Sutil provided the most spectacular moment of Q2, when he lost the car coming off the final corner, yet somehow managed to regain control. The cloud of tyre smoke filled the pit straight and could be seen and smelt from hundreds of metres away!

Vettel absolutely dominated. It was obvious how much quicker he was through the first corners, and he promptly smashed his own lap record. His final flying lap looked set to be even quicker, but he made a small error in the last sector, spoiling what surely would have been an amazing time.

After the first lap of the V8 Supercar race, we headed for the trams back to the hotel along with around 100,000 disheartened Webber fans, ready for the final instalment of what was proving to be the quickest four days of my life.

Race day

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Melbourne, 2011

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Melbourne, 2011

Sunday morning was overcast and drizzly, raising hopes the race might be a repeat of the 2010 thriller. But the sky cleared and by 5pm there wasn?t a cloud in sight.

An enormous crash on the back straight during the last V8 Supercar race shocked the crowd and wrecked several drivers’ cars.

As the race began, to my irritation, the late afternoon sun hung low in the sky in front of the east-facing stands, at the worst possible angle for spectators, and I spent much of the afternoon squinting. I hope everyone in Europe enjoyed their extra three hours’ sleep.

Finally, the race got underway. The first corner produced none of the customary Albert Park mayhem and, for the second year in a row, the biggest loser was Fernando Alonso.

By Albert Park standards, the race was somewhat uneventful. The Jenson Button-Felipe Massa battle provided the most excitement of the afternoon.

Sergio Perez’s late race un-lapping move on none other than reigning World Champion and race leader Sebastian Vettel proved popular with the crowd. Vettel cruised to victory, but I was happier for Perez and Vitaly Petrov, who produced fine drives. Later I was quite upset to hear of Sauber?s disqualification.

The Australian Grand Prix weekend has long been my favourite of the year. Whether I?m attending or simply watching on TV, it puts me on a high. So you can imagine how disheartening it is to read stories about its uncertain future.

I?m sure many of you would agree it is one of the best events of the calendar, not only for the race itself, which is often exciting, but for the atmosphere and joyous feel of the event. I sincerely hope it remains in Melbourne for many more years.

Damon and Steve’s pictures from Melbourne

Find other F1 Fanatics who are going to races this year here:

If you’re going an F1 race this year and would like to write a ‘From the stands’ article, get in touch by email, using Twitter or leave a comment below.

This is a guest article by Damon Smedley. If you want to write a guest article for F1 Fanatic you can find all the information you need here.

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Images courtesy of Damon Smedley, Andrew Robertson and Stephen Jones

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43 comments on Damon meets the F1 Fanatics in Melbourne

  1. ajokay (@ajokay) said on 6th April 2011, 16:33

    As an F1 fan, either your surname should be Hill, or your first name should be Robert. You parents did it wrong, Damon!

    Great article and photos, either way!

  2. BasCB (@bascb) said on 6th April 2011, 16:39

    Very nice write-up Damon. After all the tweets in the past days you did build up quite an expectation, but it was worth the wait.

    Very nice pictures as well. I also saw that Sauber without the engine cover side you sent to ScarbsF1.

    I’m sure it was well worth the cold weather. And yes, those extra hours of sleep were nice, although I would be just as glad to get up a bit earlier!

  3. sato113 said on 6th April 2011, 16:52

    nice one Damon! and yes my sleep was fine! lol :D

  4. Fred Schechter said on 6th April 2011, 17:21

    The Flanders shoutout is awesome!

  5. Fixy (@fixy) said on 6th April 2011, 17:22

    I’m sure many of you would agree it is one of the best events of the calendar, not only for the race itself, which is often exciting, but for the atmosphere and joyous feel of the event. I sincerely hope it remains in Melbourne for many more years.

    I agree!

  6. Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 6th April 2011, 17:34

    This is great. It makes me really want to go to an F1 race for the first time, which I suppose is what these types of articles are all about. Shame about the weather, and the relatively dull race, but it still sounded like a fantastic weekend

  7. George (@george) said on 6th April 2011, 18:01

    Nice write up, I was expecting Geoffrey to be wearing a top hat and monocle though :(

  8. djdaveyp85 (@djdaveyp87) said on 6th April 2011, 18:06

    Thanks for the great insight mr smedley! Makes for lovely reading.

  9. RIISE (@riise) said on 6th April 2011, 18:19

    So these are the guys I was racing with!!!! Trying to imagine people through a game screen is tough.

  10. JarZ said on 6th April 2011, 20:26

    Nice writeup. It was cool to meet you guys :)

    You’re lucky you ended up with Brabham stand tickets though, IMO. We had Jones stand tickets last year and Brabham this year, and the Brabham seats are much, much better. With the Jones stand you can’t really see as much as the racing line is right next to the barriers in front of the stand. Here is a link to my video of the start from last year for comparison’s sake.

  11. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 6th April 2011, 20:33

    Great write up Damon! You’ve certainly set the bar high for those to follow ;)

    Glad you enjoyed it and always interesting to put faces to names /usernames ;)

  12. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 6th April 2011, 20:45

    You don’t look anything like your avatars. I’m thoroughly disappointed…

    ..and insanely jealous!

  13. F1Yankee (@f1yankee) said on 6th April 2011, 21:25

    well done, guys! i’m jealous

  14. Guilherme (@the_philosopher) said on 6th April 2011, 22:30

    Thanks for the article Damon, I really really enjoyed it
    : )

  15. Troy Alexander said on 6th April 2011, 22:43

    Great article Damon, I really would like to watch a grand prix in Melbourne. Shame I am leaving dull old England at the moment :(

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