The Formula 1 Grand Prix is a star-studded global event with drivers from around the world racing in a calendar of events in various different countries. My parents have always enjoyed watching the F1 on TV so I grew up with the likes of Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher battling it out on the circuit. As an adult, I had only really dipped in to the Grand Prix but as the Melbourne race took place during my time in the city I decided I had to go.
I was staying at Cooee on St Kilda (now Habitat HQ) hostel just a mile from the Albert Park circuit. The race takes place on a “street circuit” in the park sandwiched between St Kilda Road, a main artery in to Melbourne city centre, and the beach. I purchased a general admission ticket for race day at the bargain bucket price of A$99. At the time, this equated to about £50, half the price of entrance to the British Grand Prix. I got up early in order to make the most of my day and walked up to Albert Park. It was already sweltering. During the day the temperatures hovered around 40 degrees C. A bit too hot my my pasty English self.
The actual F1 race wasn’t on until late afternoon but throughout the day there were other races on including the Carrera Cup, which was all Porsches, the V8s with flames spurting out of the exhausts (that was awesome!) and the funny little Aussie Racing cars which are Fiat 500s, diddy, bubble cars. They ran an Aussie Racing race with celebrity drivers, including the Australian tennis player Mark Philippoussis.
Before the race commenced there was a fly-past by the Australian Royal Air Force and a Qantas Boeing 747 before the national anthem was sung. The race itself was exhilarating. The noise was immense and the speed incredible. There were many other spectators wearing ear plugs and I could understand why.
I spent the first half of the race perched on what was once a grassy mound (it was now mostly dirt and dust) near one of the corners with hundreds of fellow fans. I was wearing my newly purchased official Lewis Hamilton McLaren Mercedes cap and wishing there was some shade. It was so hot. The queue to refill water bottles was 10 deep around the cart and the drinks vendors sold out of cold drinks! A friendly Mancunian lady offered to top up my sunscreen on my back and shoulders raising laughs from her friends as she slapped it on an inch thick! I certainly didn’t burn but got filthy dirty. The ground was so dry that it was mostly dust, which stuck to sweaty, hot skin. Yummy!
Having spent 9 hours in direct sun in such hot conditions I soon developed a headache so ended up spending the last hour of the Grand Prix laying on the floor watching the race on the big screen with a wet paper towel on my forehead. Lewis Hamilton won the race with style so I rushed to the track side to wave him on his victory lap. I proudly waved my cap at him as he drove past in celebration. After the race, the track was open to spectators so we all piled on to the track and walked down toward the pit straight. I collected some orange kerb gravel as a souvenir and then managed to grab a photo of Lewis’ winning car parked in the pit lane. My little stolen souvenir was slightly more discreet than a group of lads who were rolling a used tyre down the track! I somehow doubt that they managed to get away with that one.
After the race, Kiss were performing a live concert, which I know I should have stayed for but I was on my own, hot, tired and had a banging headache. I took a leisurely stroll back to my hostel where I jumped in the shower. I was obviously not the only filthy person that day judging by the black floor in the shared shower room!
The day was amazing. I had such a good time. My experience in the evening spoilt it slightly though. I decided to get takeaway pizza for my dinner. On my way to the pizza place, I was approached by a man who thought I was touting for business if you know what I mean! I soon told him where to go! I was so incredulous that he would think I was a prostitute! He suggested I was making a hand gesture at him. I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean. My friends back at the hostel thought the whole episode was hilarious though!
I would love to go to another Grand Prix. It is so much fun, possibly not so much if you’re not in to cars but I definitely want to go again. It’s just a shame that it’s so expensive. I was lucky that the Australian F1 Grand Prix has such good value tickets. If you’re in a country when the Grand Prix is taking place, check out the general admission tickets, you won’t get a grandstand seat but the atmosphere is incredible and it’s much more exciting than watching on telly.
By Rachel Birchley