Monthly Archives: March 2014
I’ve never been a huge fan of Formula 1. It is the chicken parmigiana of sports – you don’t really want it, but when you are faced with it on the menu, you choose it anyway. On the whole there’s not much excitement and generally not too much overtaking. But, in the week leading up to the race something stirred me into actually spending my hard earned and going along for the show. I live about 5 kilometers from the track and the noise was carrying quite easily into my bedroom whenever the cars were running. Formula 1 is one of those sports that even if you have no real interest, once the noise starts, it makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck and the adrenalin starts to pump through your body.
There had been a whole raft of changes to the rules and regulations, which saw most notably the change from the 2.4L V8 engines to the turbo powered 1.6L V6 donks. Exhaust systems, aerodynamics and fuel limitations have also been drastically altered supposedly to “green up” the sport.The cars are now exceedingly ugly and are now more foreign to the road cars that they are meant to represent than they have ever been.
You have to ask the question – do we really want to watch a lesson on how to save money and be economic, or do we want cars driving as fast as they can with a loud noise to accompany? I guess this could be the ultimate oxymoron, especially when you have 12 teams (each employing between 40 and 100 people) flying all around the world with 40 truckloads of equipment. Tracks should be build around mass transit routes, so that race fans don’t have to take their own cars.
When the F1s went out for their warm up laps you instantly knew something was different. The sound I had experienced before was gone – this time it was pallatable. David Coulthard had been doing demonstration laps in the 2011 Red Bull car. That engine revved to extremes and that sound blew your eardrums. And that was only 1 car – 24 of those and you literally struggled to stop your bladder from self-imploding. This time round it was like comparing AC/DC to One Direction. Someone has kindly uploaded a 2013 comparison to the 2014 on youtube, and the difference is pretty evident.
At the end of the day, unless you are a true and dedicated fan, the whole event is not just about the F1’s. There are other racing classes happening, there is also a whole host of “off-track” entertainment too – in the form of bands, stunts, skateboarding etc. There are huge trade stands promoting their wares; or more accurately trying to justify their huge sponsorship outlays! There are more food and drink outlets in place than you would even see at the biggest of shopping malls. What is also appealing about the Albert Park track is the wonderful setting. The track winds its way around a lake and as a punter you are free to basically wander around within the complex as you wish. There are literally hundreds of vantage points, which spread the crowds out so you are almost guaranteed some sort of track view.
I watched the start in the midst of the masses from between turns 2 and 3. When it was announced early on that Vettel was having car troubles and may have to retire, an almighty cheer went up. Despite Red Bull’s popularity from the Webber years, and now Ricciardo, Vettel is a hate figure among the Aussie race fans. The cheers were much less muted when, at about the same time Lewis Hamilton had also been forced to retire his car. Whilst the race was on I wandered between turns 1 and 8 to get some different perspectives on the “racing”. Even without watching the big screens it was fairly clear that after the initial quarter of the race, it was processional at best. The only excitement was whether the Australian “local boy” Daniel Ricciardo could hold on to the 2nd place he had occupied since the opening laps. He eventually did that, which brought out huge roars from the crowd at the finish line and then during the podium presentations.
Alas, just hours later, the Aussie was disqualified as it was found that the car had been using too much fuel throughout the race. The Red Bull team claimed that it was a faulty sensor, but it does start that age old question of whether all the Formula 1 teams “cheat” to some degree, until they get caught. When the difference between winning and losing can come down to 1/100s of a second, with the teams all on the edge, it wouldn’t surprise me (and thousands of others by the way!). Can a scrutineer check absolutely everything on a car precisely? It must be a difficult process to say the least, but would those incredibly clever engineers employed by F1 teams take whatever advantage is available to them?
It was a fun day though. You see some interesting sights, and there is rarely a dull moment. Before the race there was the traditional F-18 display, the noise of which was absolutely phenomenal. As I said, I did wander quite a bit and must have covered over 10 kms during the day around the lake. I was invited into the XXXX pub on wheels to sample their most popular brew – it was on the house, which is the only way I would ever want to drink it, but it did come with a prime, elevated view of the track, which kind of made up for it!
The other bonus is that literally 10 minutes after the race is finished you can get out on the track and walk around. Everyone hunts the track peripheries for that special piece of broken carbon fibre or helmet tear off as their personal souvenir. The main straight becomes busier than the Boxing Day Sales very quickly and the crush to get out leaves a lot to be desired. What strikes me though is the number of inebriated types there are. It is a long day, but in true Australian fashion, it looks like this is another day/event on the calendar that just can’t be enjoyed without drinking to excess – I guess it’s okay unless they get the urge to drive themselves home after!
ROUND 1 – FIA AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX
WINNER: Nico Rosberg – GER (Mercedes)
Moomba Festival is best known for extortionately priced fairground rides and carney rip-off games, the biggest water skiing meeting on the planet (which has nothing to do with the rides, games, fireworks, live bands, BMX and skating contest, or other kids activities….) and of course the Birdman Rally. Over a million people pass through the inner city river areas over the space of three days.
The Birdman pits men against gravity in home made flying machines – or more appropriately, just simply costumes representing some form of air activity- capes & feathers included. One participant even dressed up as a blowfly, and when asked why, the true-blue Australian remarked “Because it is the Aussiest flying animal about!” – when you read this aloud in your mind, remember to stress the rising inflection, and do it in a high pitched squeak! Trust me, there is nothing more Aussie……
They launch themselves into the not-so-inviting waters of the Yarra River off a 5 metre high platform. No-one dares mentions the possible hazardous levels of murk, shopping trollies and/or pollutants in the Yarra River below. The Birdman was halted for a number of years as there were dangerous levels of E-coli found in the river. Of course the competitors don’t do this for their own simple enjoyment and thrills. Every participant does it for their own chosen charity and they all have to raise a minimum amount of money ($ 500) in order to take part.
There were only 2 “serious” competitors in the end. 7 times winner Michael Paul ended up flying 13 metres as unfortunately there was a tailwind which contributed to a major lack of lift or glide. This was still the longest flight of the day though and well short of his 25 metre record from 2011. However it wasn’t quite enough to take out the top prize. The complicated handicap system saw a 6 metre jump magically transform into 116 total metres, due to the $ 16,000+ raised by Daniel “The Eagle has Landed” Mazzei for the Bravehearts charity. Well over $ 40,000 was raised by the competitors for a range of local charities, which is truly a fabulous effort.
The Birdman remains one of the major drawcards of the Moomba Festival. Over 50,000 flocked to the river banks to watch the competition, that is more comedic than Qantastic (is that a word? It is now!) It is also becoming a must-do thing for daredevil bucket lists. The added bonus is that if you manage to raise a mountain load of cash for your charity AND pluck up the courage to actually complete the jump, your name might just go into the annals of history for evermore. Is that a future challenge for 365DaysofSport???
MOOMBA BIRDMAN RALLY
WINNER: Daniel Mazzei, Bravehearts Charity