Most drivers were in town well ahead of the event - which this year celebrates two decades in Melbourne - not just to adjust to the inevitable jetlag, but also to soak up the Victoria capital’s renowned pre-race atmosphere.
At Ferrari, drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel joined renowned Italian chef Guy Grossi for a lesson in pasta making, helping him create ‘Ravioli all’ Uovo ad alta Prestazione’, a complex egg-based dish that is traditional of the home town of Enzo Ferrari, Modena in Italy.
Local hero Daniel Ricciardo was inevitably much in demand, and the Red Bull driver completed numerous media interviews, attended a team fan event, met singing superstar Kylie Minogue and promoted the Wings for Life World Run which takes place later this year.
Albert Park’s paddock teemed with celebrities, with actors Charlize Theron and Arnold Schwarzenegger expected, and several former world champions in attendance: Alan Jones, Sir Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve, plus motorcycling’s Mick Doohan.
Other familiar racing faces were those of commentators Johnny Herbert, David Coulthard, Allan McNish and John Watson, while former motorcycle road racer Daryll Beattie was a guest of Porsche sportscar star and F1 veteran Mark Webber, who was on hand to give the lucky few passenger rides in his employers’ latest 918 Hyrbid hypercar.
BRM and Ensign driver Vern Schuppan was also there, together with former Minardi owner Paul Stoddart, Martine and Ryan Walkinshaw, former Lotus and McLaren engineer Steve Hallam, Haas F1 technical director Guenther Steiner, touring car ace Allan Moffat, veteran scribe Graham Ward and Australian actor Eric Bana.
Outgoing Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman Ron Walker was naturally present, together with his eventual successor John Harnden, and CEO Andrew Westacott.