I arrived at the Albert Park circuit early this morning with my good friend and The Qualifying Lap co-host Ben Waterworth in the hope of securing a few autographs from our F1 hero’s.
We found ourselves a good position alongside the drop off area at the entrance to the Formula 1 paddock, where only the privileged few are permitted to enter; and it wasn’t long before Force India’s Adrian Sutil pulled up and signed autographs for the 12 or so fans that had arrived early. I was also lucky enough to snare a photo with Adrian and wished him all the best for the weekend. Next up was his teammate Paul di Resta, who unlike last year, offered a few responses to the small talk offered by the fans.
Next up was Ferrari test driver Pedro de la Rosa, Nico Hulkenberg, and Jean-Eric Vergne, who borrowed my pen and kindly returned it at the end. By this stage about a hundred fans had arrived and were eagerly anticipating the arrival of F1’s biggest stars. Daniel Riccardo was happy to oblige, and appear gracious as the Aussie,Aussie, Aussie chant went up.
Following the arrival of Jenson Button, Sergio Perez, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, the biggest surprise of the morning was young Esteban Gutierrez’s mother coming over to warmly great myself, Ben and a few other fans. She is a lovely lady and possibly the nicest F1 Mum. She thanked us for the support we offered her son and was thrilled with the prospect of Esteban making his F1 debut here in Melbourne.
To cap it off, I finally landed Damon Hill’s signature, and got a photo with one the the best blokes in the F1 paddock, Mr.Johnny Herbert. Johnny was in a very jovial mood and spent a few minutes chatting with us.
Other notable occurrences
– Kimi Raikkonen offered no more than a slight wave to fans, compared with Sebastian Vettel spending about 15 minutes signing for fans (Kimi is rather hard to like)
– I finally landed Charles Pic’s elusive autograph
– Jean-Eric Vergne nearly was dragged by his driver who was a little too keen to drive away with the Toro Rosso’s driver still getting out of the car. He showed how keen he was by driving off with Jean-Eric’s bag still in the boot, much to the amusement of the fans.
– I spotted Zsolt Baumgartner from a distance and got his autograph (a pretty good effort seeing as he has put on quite a few kilos and now looks like Felipe Massa’s dad)
– Sebastian Vettel having a great chat with Ben, with our favourite host asking the reigning World Champion if he was keen to knock of Lewis Hamilton’s fastest time on Top Gear. Vettel was keen to do so.
It was a great morning, and Ben and I are already looking forward to the thrill of chasing some more autographs tomorrow!