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Paddock Postcard from Melbourne 17 Mar 2013

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing signs autographs for the fans.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 17 March 2013 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing meets local School Children.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Preparations, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, 13 March 2013 Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo tries his hand at breakdancing Rookies on the Beach (L to R): Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham F1, Esteban Gutierrez (MEX) Sauber, Max Chilton (GBR) Marussia F1 Team, Jules Bianchi (FRA) Marussia F1 Team and Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Preparations, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, 13 March 2013 Rolex Pit Lane clock.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Preparations, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, 13 March 2013 Sir Chris Hoy (GBR).
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Preparations, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, 13 March 2013

After three months away, everyone returned to the Formula One paddock in Albert Park with a spring in their step, eager for the frivolity of media events and the business of racing.

Local hero - and Red Bull stalwart - Mark Webber was particularly in demand, with the Australian packing in a Q&A session with 35 five to seven-year-old schoolchildren set up by team sponsor Infiniti and a trip to the Melbourne Sports & Allied Health Clinic for a biomechanical analysis of the leg he broke in his 2008 cycling accident.

Fellow Australian Daniel Ricciardo from Toro Rosso had an even more demanding time as he joined members of a breakdance crew to learn some moves and throw some shapes in front of an audience.

"Doing some moves with the Flying Steps was awesome but a bit nerve wracking performing in front of a crowd. I only had 30 minutes to practice, but that was enough to show me how tough this type of dancing is - respect! I was using muscles I didn't know I had. Having done this I'd really like to see the Red Bull Flying Bach show and a big thanks to my two ‘teachers’, Punisher and Lil Rock.”

With five new drivers and enough time over the winter for the others to get creative, there were plenty of new helmet designs in the paddock. Never one to shy away from a new lid, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel led the way with a look inspired by Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner, who made history back in October when he successfully carried out the highest sky dive on record, jumping from the edge of space as part of the Red Bull Stratos project.

Rolex, title sponsor of the 2013 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix and Global Partner of Formula 1, marked the start of its long-term partnership with the pinnacle of motorsport by unveiling the new Rolex Pit Lane clock at the Albert Park circuit on Thursday.

The iconic clock face on a pit lane gantry has been specially designed and created to be present at all 19 Formula One races through the year. “It is superb to have Rolex with us for the first time and nice to see a prestigious brand so strongly represented around the circuit,” said Bernie Ecclestone, CEO of the Formula One group. “We welcome them to the Formula One family and look forward to a long partnership.”

The weather - either when it still had traces of the heatwave or when the rain came - failed to deter the hardy from visiting Albert Park, which as usual was packed with personalities. Sir Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Damon Hill, Alan Jones, David Coulthard, Johnny Herbert, Vernon Schuppan, Larry ‘The Cowangie Kid’ Perkins and steward Danny Sullivan rubbed shoulders with FIA President Jean Todt, Martine and Ryan Walkinshaw, former Lotus/McLaren engineer Steve Hallam, singer Leo Sayer and Olympic cyclist Sir Chris Hoy.

Hoy qualified third behind Aussie celebrities Brad Hodge and Jonathon LaPaglia for the first Mazda 6 Celebrity Challenge, but finished 20th after contact in the race. His fellow Olympic cyclist, Anna Meares, finished sixth. Cricketer Hodge and actor LaPaglia repeated their one-two performance in the second race, with Meares leading Hoy home for fourth behind chef Shane Delia.

For more pictures, check out our Paddock Postcard gallery.

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