Following yesterday’s imitation of The Melbourne Walk alongside The Yarra River at the inaugural Season Launch of a Formula 1 season – today was the real thing. Hundreds of fans waited in blistering heat for a glimpse of their idols and the team that most turned out to see was Renault - and they did not disappoint.
Of the household names associated with the sport, the only one leaving fans wanting more was a hooded Lewis Hamilton shying away from the spotlight - seemingly already in race mode. This was a very different character to the one on display 24 hours before.
Hamilton’s brisk walk was probably in response to the sea of yellow before him. Upon arrival, Daniel Ricciardo was greeted by the crowd in a same way you would say hi to a friend arriving at a pub. There were the usual cheers of ‘Ozzy, Ozzy Ozzy!’ and many a fans dream came true. Whether it be a personalized cap and spending the time to get the spelling right - ‘M – a – r – i – a?’ - or a selfie (with the recipient having almost as wide a smile as Dan himself) this was Renault’s Melbourne Walk.
Prior to Ricciardo’s arrival, Cyril Abiteboul had been on stage telling the crowd: ‘Yellow is the new colour of Australia’. When asked whether it would have been better to have the Australian Grand Prix later in the season Abiteboul replied:
‘It would have been nice to have more preparation but why not, let’s start.’
Follwing his time on stage being interviewed, Abiteboul then returned to the Melbourne Walk to find many a request for an autograph. On this occasion his reply, ‘I am sorry I have no pen’ could be a sign that even he is surprised by how quickly Renault has taken over the heart of so many fans.
Niko Hulkeburg joked with the crowd 'Yeah it's great, I can't wonder why, why is that?' when told Renault is extremely popular this year. Hulkenberg would also comment:
'It's not just about the engine but for sure we have had improvement on that side...I think the package that we have is good to start with and we can worry about trying to close that gap.'
Today is only Thursday, the crowds over the next three days will continue to grow and many people will be clamouring for an autograph. Don’t be surprised to see Cyril Abiteboul with a permanent marker next time because the love for Renault is going to grow and grow.