Two hours plus of pre-race festivities filled the time before the start of the twilight Qantas Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix. The Aussies know how to have a good time. Presenting sponsor, Qantas, brought its child choir which do the wonderful ‘I Still Call Australia Home ‘ commercials. They sang it, and then later, the Australian national anthem. A long caravan of beautifully restored Austin Healey’s chauffeured the F1 drivers as well as Australian Motorcycle Legends DARRYL BEATTIE, MICK DOOHAN, and WAYNE GARDNER for the slow parade lap around the circuit. Pole Sitter SEBASTIAN VETTEL/Red Bull Racing was wearing ear phones for music during his ride. The parade was led by Qantas Ambassador, JOHN TRAVOLTA, who his own Qantas 737.

Overnight the F1 cars had the equivalent of Parc Ferme house arrest. Instead of impounding the cars after Qualifying in a couple of locked garages, they were parked in their own garages, all sealed up – literally, in the equivalent of a zip-lock car cover bag. Each car had two bright blue tie wrap seals affixed and removed by FIA. The cars were under lock and key, so to speak, until exactly 12 noon local time. When the team rolled up its doors, the CAMS F1 Scrutineer Observer was on hand, standing guard so to speak, over the car. Three FIA officials lined up in front of garages and on the command, they began to clip the seals, in front of the team mechanics. The seals were collected, counted and put in a sealed envelope. When the FIA official got to the HRT garage, there was no member of the team in the garage at all. The bemused official walked around, searching for someone, anyone; and then threw up his hands and walked away muttering in French, leaving the car sealed.

Those F1 teams are losing a marketing opportunity. The sealed car covers for the most part were plain, baggy and unattractive. Lotus had its traditional BRG color, Ferrari was red, and Scuderia Torro Rosa actually had its name on the cover. Another lost opportunity is the end plate of the long compressed air boom. If given the chance, check out the Ferrari boom. That team doesn’t miss a trick. Their compressed air bottles have custom-made red insulated covers with the black prancing horse.

Ferrari boom end plate. Photo by Rich McLean
Ferrari boom end plate. Photo by Rich McLean

So far there has only been a spritz here or there during the day, usually coming during one of the support races. The skies have remained grey all day, so no sunset glare problems today for the concerned F1 drivers. The worry now is if/when the rain will hit.

All the F1 cars have cameras, either on their noses or behind the driver’s cockpit.

Saturday’s Albert Park crowd certainly was Feeling The Energy. There were people everywhere, the grandstands looked full, and all the viewing mounds were packed. The estimate attendance was 82,200.

The skies were grey and leaden all day but it was not cold. The brisk breeze felt good. There have been afternoon forecasts of 40-90 kph winds, depending on which source you believe.

SCRATCH THAT! The rain has started just prior to the National Anthem. The two Virgin cars will start from Pit Lane, a penalty incurred for working on the car overnight.