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Paddock Postcard from Melbourne

16 Mar 2014

After one of the busiest winters in living memory, the F1 fraternity was positively buzzing with anticipation as the teams and drivers arrived in Melbourne this week ahead of the 2014 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix.

Local hero Daniel Ricciardo prepared for his first home race with Red Bull in unusual fashion, as he went head to head in his RB10 with an Australian Air Force jet at a local air base on Wednesday.

“The craziest part was looking in my mirrors and seeing a Hornet - I’m just used to other Formula One cars behind me,” said Ricciardo. “It was very surreal. I definitely felt the pure power of the Hornet and as it passed me I was just hoping that it wasn’t going to blow me off the track. It makes what I do seem low level compared to that!”

Australia is a sporting nation - a fact not lost on Formula One drivers. On Tuesday Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez enjoyed some Aussie-rules football training with AFL Premiership side Western Bulldogs at Whitten Oval, while on Wednesday Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg visited the Melbourne Victory Star Players soccer team.

The layout of the paddock in Albert Park always makes for a tight but congenial venue and as usual it was humming with familiar racing faces. Past World Champions were aplenty, starting with Australia’s own Sir Jack Brabham and Alan Jones, then Sir Jackie Stewart and wife Helen, Niki Lauda, Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve and Mika Hakkinen.

Race winners Johnny Herbert and David Coulthard were present in their respective SKY and BBC television commentary roles as was Le Mans winner Allan McNish, while Mark Webber, John Watson, motorcycle world champion Pat Doohan, BRM and Ensign racer Vern Schuppan and his wife Jenny joined them.

Rubens Barrichello, driver steward Emanuele Pirro, Zsolt Baumgartner, former Minardi owner Paul Stoddart, Martine and Sean Walkinshaw, MSA boss Alan Gow, singer and uber-racefan Leo Sayer, and Danish former F3 and sportscar racer John Nielsen all paid visits too.

Other sports were represented by cricket hero Ricky Ponting, skateboard legend Tony Hawk and Winter Olympians Torah Bright and Lydia Lassila. Motorcycling documentary maker Charlie Boorman was also in town.