It was a beautiful day at Albert Park Sunday for the Qantas Australian Grand Prix in Australia. The sun came out, the skies were blue, the clouds were white and the fans were in a jovial mood – seemingly all 111,000 of them. There was no rain, the wind was reasonable and a good time was being attempted by all.
The day turned out to be a good one for photogs as it was sunny and bright after three days of gray and gloom.
The Formula One drivers were slow to arrive at the track Sunday as they had quite the window. The drivers arrived in a variety of conveyances. Turns out the utility-type vehicle chauffeuring MICHAEL SCHUMACHER was a Mercedes G55; SEBASTIAN VETTEL drove himself in an old 70’s Porsche 911. Others arrived in nondescript rental cars.
The area around the entrance to the F1 gate is getting more and more regulated and access-controlled.
Schumacher, Vettel and Webber were among the few drivers who spent a lot of time with the fans in the ‘viewing stand’ area.
The F1 drivers’ first public obligation as a group was the annual Class Photo on the front straight at 3:30 pm local time. All 24 drivers were there including the two HRT drivers who failed to make the grid for the 2011 inaugural F1 race.
The photo was taken twice – once with the usual F1 sign in front, and once with the Pray for Japan sign.
Afterwards, the drivers each rode in an old Mustang convertible around the track for their parade lap. Even with all the security guards and spectator marshals, the huge mob of photographers massed everywhere and it was controlled chaos.
During the day the various support categories had their final races. One special event was the Shannon’s Exhibition. Three drivers from the United States brought their rare 250F Maserati’s – PETER GIDDINGS, who had chassis 2501-heavyweight; JEFFREY O’NEILL, who had the lightweight; and TOM PRICE, with a third such car.
The car Giddings drove was the same car SIR STIRLING MOSS drove to victory in the 1956 Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, albeit on a different course which included driving between the trees near the lake. It hadn’t been raced for 20-25 years when Giddings found the car in a private collection in Santa Barbara. He races it and has restored it four times.
Moss told Giddings that that Maserati was his favorite car. Giddings met Moss when Giddings was a wee lad, and was entrance not just by meeting Moss, but seeing his model of that Maserati. Moss was impressed that Giddings knew, even way back then, what the car was, and Giddings vowed to save his pennies to buy one some day.
Giddings, O’Neill and Price all received a special award Sunday for their cars.
Last weekend at the Shannon’s historic race meeting at Phillip Island, Giddings drove his Maserati in a class of 40 cars, and smashed the track record. It had been 2:05 and he turned a 1:58. He had been put to the back of the pack and still finished sixth in the six-lap race.
One little known fact about Giddings is that he was an early financial supporter of Webber, before DAVID CAMPESE.
Monday the three Maserati’s go to the docks to be shipped back to the United States. Next weekend Giddings races at Infineon Raceway in his 1928 Alfa Romeo Tipo C.