2014 Australian F1 GP: A Bear's Perspective
"Greetings fellow McLaren fans, my name is West. I live in Melbourne and have been a McLaren fanatic since I was born. In fact, my blood type is Rocket Red.
As you may know the Australian GP is held in March however, for me the adventure begins in January. You see, the Albert Park circuit is a street circuit which means it needs to be assembled a couple of months prior to the GP then disassembled after the race. I’m fortunate enough to live next to the track so I’m able to walk, cycle or drive on the track every day. This ensures I’m able to inspect its progress on a regular basis. Once the track is complete I give the all clear and the 4-day event gets the go ahead.
Most teams arrive in Melbourne 1 week before race day and this year I was fortunate enough to greet some of the drivers. Jenson Button had just returned from a 4-hour cycle along Melbourne’s coast when I spotted him and he was only too happy to stop for a quick chat & pose for a picture.
On Monday morning I set out on another track walk as the Pit Lane had come alive with F1 cargo lined the main straight as teams were unloading pallets and setting up garages. I was lucky enough to spot some lovely McLaren mechanics who came over to say hello and this is always one of the highlights of the weekend for me because I get to interact with my favourite team.
By Thursday morning the wait is finally over as the gates officially open to the public and the GP weekend comes alive. I waited at the paddock for 6 hours to greet the F1 fraternity, including mechanics, engineers, racing directors and drivers. I loved every minute of it!
Media representatives from all over the world were there too so I struck up conversations whilst we waited and I was interviewed by numerous journalists who spotted my Danish flag. By the end of the day I had filmed a promo for Fox Sports Asia, been photographed by numerous photographers (including Mark Sutton & numerous Getty images photographers), filmed by Movistar TV Spain, BBC, Sky Sports F1, Ten network Australia and many more. My favourite by far however, was RTL Germany.
This unsuspecting journalist had his back to me as his crew were filming him, so I decided to ‘video bomb’ him! His film crew and all the race fans burst into laughter when they saw my antics. When he finally saw my reflection in the camera lens he turned around & laughed along. Then he asked for a photo with me. How could I refuse? He was a great sport.
Shortly after the lovely McLaren Marketing Team came my way to say hello and they kindly took a couple of pics which very quickly appeared on McLaren’s Twitter & Facebook pages!
Then it happened. The moment I’d been waiting for. I finally met Kevin Magnussen! He too headed my way as soon as he got out of his car and autographed my Danish flag as I welcomed him to F1 & had a brief chat. After posing for a couple of pics, I was one happy little bear!
After lunch it was time for the pit lane walk. Naturally, I spent most of it in front of the McLaren pits where I finally met the Team McLaren Fan Blogger for Australia - Andy Dinalli (@Dinalli on Twitter).
Team McLaren Fan Blog: Andy Donnelly at the Australian GP
Many hours later, I arrived home to a very special delivery as my Team McLaren merchandise had arrived and I was one very happy little bear – now all dressed up ready for race weekend!
I woke up early and had breakfast at one of my favourite venues, the Hilton Hotel. There I dined with numerous McLaren personnel and I was even lucky enough to speak with Oliver Turvey and Sam Michael who said he was hoping for a McLaren podium this weekend. You and me both!
Race day is finally here!! First item on today’s agenda is a grid walk and I need to ensure grid slots 4 & 10 are free of debris and ready for our drivers.
I have a few hours to sit back & relax with fellow race fans but not before being asked to do an interview with a Melbourne based radio station followed by a photo shoot with Australian newspaper, the Herald-Sun. I even got to meet the AusGP grid girls. Every bears’ dream!
Race time is here.
I sat very quietly in my seat… who am I kidding. I spent most of the race on my feet screaming and cheering for Kevin & Jenson. I even got to see some incidents in front of me on turn 1. Kevin drove brilliantly to finish 3rd in his debut F1 race and Jenson drove brilliantly as well plus the crew did a fantastic job pitting him at the right time - he started 10th & finished 3rd.
I ran onto the track after the race & waved my flags for Kevin as he stood on the podium. There were so many people, but I didn’t care. I was there to celebrate with my team and I was absolutely certain now - McLaren are back!
After the podium celebrations I made my way to the paddock to watch pack-up and I was lucky enough to meet the newest member of our team Eric Boullier. I welcomed him to McLaren & congratulated him on a fantastic race. He said he knew who I was & wanted a pic with me. How could I say no….
So there you have it. Another successful Australian GP. It was a fantastic event and I encourage everyone to attend it at least once in their life.
The next race for me will be Austin, Texas in November where I hope to fulfil my dream. I am yet to meet Ron Dennis but I’m hoping to do so in Austin!"