The 2019 F1 season began today…on a Wednesday!
Long gone are the days of drivers being able to arrive at the circuit on a Thursday morning due to the fact that thanks to social media ‘the buzz’ starts several days before the race itself. F1 is a billion-dollar industry and Liberty Media and the City of Melbourne spared no expense on this free to attend launch. So, how was it?
First of all, busy! The Melbourne faithful turned up in their thousands. Whether it was the double-sided procession at the mockup of the Melbourne Walk or the area in front of the main stage it was very much standing room only. Such dedication for some had started at 9am…for an event which would not have any drivers arrive (by boat) until 5pm – devotion in the truest form.
Based on audience reaction, the stars of this wannabe ‘Melbourne Walk’ were...Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel.
Even before Vettel took to the stage to reveal to Mark Webber that his 2019 challenger has already been named Lena (spelling to be confirmed), he was busy laughing and signing memorabilia for all present on 'The Walk'. So much so, that when one fan said thank you to Seb he replied ‘No worries mate, as they say in Australia’. This was a relaxed Sebastian Vettel and if we are to believe that he is anxious as to the pace shown by Charles LeClerc – he didn’t look it.
Daniel Ricciardo’s name was heard far and wide even before he had stepped off the boat which had transported the teams down the Yarra River to the shore alongside Federation Square. Ricciardo would spend a considerable amount of time signing autographs and posing for fans, many of whom were in yellow. Given the transformation of colour, it was fitting that across from the main stage was a five storey high electronic advertising board featuring a beaming Ricciardo with the tagline ‘Make The Move’. Obviously, this is his home race but his fans have certainly listened. Such a point was commented on by Renault Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul. When told by the interviewing Mark Webber that the crowd expect them to become a top three team, he pointed to the change in coloured shirts and indicated that things are already changing.
Prior to the drivers arriving on stage via the Transport Bar and through the many VIP tables, another VIP took their moment on stage to enjoy the sunshine. Lord Mayor of Melbourne Sally Capp proudly told the media and the droves in attendance that Melbourne was being watched by the world. This was later followed up on her Twitter feed with a selfie on the Melbourne Walk showing her at the ‘first ever global launch of the F1 season’.
As previously mentioned, all drivers arrived by boat and the fans were ecstatic to see their idols. One of which was a lighthearted Kimi Raikkonen who probably signed 4 times the amount of autographs than in previous years. A jovial Raikkonen socialising and signing for so many in attendance could be the biggest (and most welcome) surprise of 2019 so far.
Pirelli Preview: Australian Grand Prix
Finally though, spare a thought for George Russell, Robert Kubica and Clare Williams. They were first off the boat to enter the immitation of the Melbourne Walk but due to the televised event being 15 minutes behind schedule they were hurried along with Russell telling the crowd he will sign ‘On the way when we’re coming back’ as he was in a rush for the stage. Following a pre-season to forget this Melbourne Walk was a PR nightmare for Williams - they will be hoping for better luck with the real thing tomorrow.
So no major annoncements bar 'Lena' and not a single F1 car in sight - but the 2019 F1 Season has well and truly begun!