I Was There

2013 Belgian Grand Prix – Lily Fenton

My weekend at the Belgium GP was amazing, Friday started off rainy and damp not that that was surprising, we soon found the perfect spot on the bus stop chicane. FP1 went very quick in the damp and the drivers finding the limit of the car with a lot of lock ups. By the time FP2 came round the sun was shining and lots more people had arrived, the red bull looked solid and planted whereas others were still finding the limits. As the session came to an end I looked up to see the red bull of Vettel going slowly. I didn’t realise it was a tyre failure straight away and while that was better than a big mechanical failure the risk of tyre delamination’s would sit with me for the rest of the weekend. By the time Sebastian got into the pits Van Der Garde had a big off but luckily he was ok. In the strong heat we watched GP2 qualifying and I was happy to see Calado in 3rd.

By the time Saturday came the rain  was on /off and predictably it came down its worst just as Q1 was about to take place, we couldn’t see the screen that clearly so between the rain and the busy track I couldn’t tell who had got through to Q2 so when the Caterham and Marussia’s came past I was shocked then I was the Toro Rosso’s got out the car, which was a big disappointment for them. When Q3 came about nerves were high and drivers were in and out of the pit lane deciding what strategy would be best. Paul di Resta set and amazing time that everyone thought would be hard to beat but then the last few drivers came out to try one final time to get pole. It looked again to be between Vettel and Hamilton and the lap time that Sebastian set was great but then Hamilton pulled out a very first lap which he was surprised about by I wasn’t really, he’d been on pole the majority of the past races.

After the massive storm that hit spa on Saturday night I was worried that Sunday would be a wash out and we would get very wet but it wasn’t raining when we got the bus to track extremely early. When GP2 finally started I was very nervous considering Calado would start on pole due to the fact he finished 8th in the feature race . As the lights went out he got away very well and 2nd place didn’t get a great start which worried me for later as Sebastian would start there for the race. Calado was able to pull out a lead and while the others raced closely behind with a lot of overtaking but not as much crazy and madness as GP2 usually throws up. Calado was under a lot of pressure for the last few laps and the flag couldn’t come quick enough but when it did there was a massive relief. Calado had worked so hard this year and the results hadn’t gone his way so in my opinion even though I am a massive fan, on one deserved that win more than him.

The F1 race came around quickly after that and soon enough the weather was cold but dry and the drivers were waiting on the grid for the lights to go out. As there were a lot of people sitting in front of us I thought it was Vettel that got the bad start and was worried a win looked about of the way but as they came down the kemmel straight I was it was Vettel that pulled off a good overtake using his kers well to get into the lead. You couldn’t take your eyes off the track there was action everywhere. Kimi was struggling you could see and finally he went straight off in front of us at the bus stop and then retired into the pits. There was a lot of Kimi fans sitting around us so a lot of disappointed faces appeared and Kimi is a great driver so it would have been nice to see him do well. Even though Di Resta’s accident happened in front of us it was hard to see what happened, looking back at it I don’t think it was Maldonalado’s fault more Esteban’s, but hopefully Williams and Paul can move on and be strong at Monza. Im not sure if it showed on TV but the green truck that came to pick the Force India up swung out and almost hit Vettel which was a heart in mouth moment, it probably wasn’t that close but in the moment there was a slight panic. Races go very quickly compared to when they’re on TV but the last four laps seemed to last forever, I think I was as bad as Christian Horner. I couldn’t quite believe it when he crossed the line, I don’t think anyone including them thought that the Red Bull would be that dominant but it was still an exciting race especially from where I was sitting. We ran down to the straight to see the podium after the race and it was great to see, all the support for all three drivers and Vettel being his usual cheeky self, pouring champagne over DC.  There’s still a long way to go in the championship but seeing your favourite driver win was amazing.

Twitter – @Lily_Fenton

2013 British Grand Prix – Chris Donati

Going to Silverstone is one of those things that always gets me excited. Despite having to get up at 5 in the morning for a 3 hour car journey (And then not getting home until about half 10 that evening), it’s definitely worth it. This wasn’t the first time I’d been to Silverstone either, the first time I went being in 2005, when I was just 9, when I went with my dad. All I can really remember from that trip was sitting on the pit straight grandstand and watching Takuma Sato stall as he made his way off the grid. Oh, and annoying pretty much everyone sat next to be with the air horn my dad had foolishly let me buy. After that trip I was hooked, and went again in 2009, 2010, 2011 and again this year with my dad and one of his friends.

So, after arriving at Silverstone and parking near to a few very nice cars (There was a Ferrari California parked opposite us), we took the trek over the road bridge and into the circuit, just as the second GP2 race was coming to a close (You could hear it from the car park). We managed to catch a few glimpses of the podium celebration before taking a nice walk over to our grandstand seats at Stowe for the Porsche race. Aside from 2005, we’ve always sat at either Stowe or Vale, and we were fortunate enough that it didn’t rain because the grandstand there doesn’t have a roof. I also had to borrow an iPod from one of my family members to listen to the radio commentary, because my iPod doesn’t have a radio function, and there was no hope of listening to the commentary coming out of the speakers because everything was far too loud (And, like men, none of us had bothered to bring any ear protection.)

It was certainly different not seeing Rene Rast racing at Silverstone in the Porsche, with me being so used to seeing him at the front, but none the less it was an interesting race to watch. After that race we decided to have lunch, with another impressive display from the Red Arrows which almost ended in me knocking half my lunch onto the floor because I was too busy watching them.

Then came the drivers parade which once again required the use of the radio, not because of any racing cars this time, but because of the steady stream of helicopters that were touching down and taking off and generally making far too much noise for me to listen to the track speakers. I was quite impressed with Kimi, who somehow managed to hold onto the truck without using his hands, because he was too busy trying to hide his new haircut under his hat (I never understood why he got that haircut and then tried to hide it from the public).

And then for the race itself, which was a mad mess of trashed rubber if I say so myself. I actually watched most of the race through my phone camera, as I was trying (Largely unsuccessfully) to get a few photos. It didn’t help that there was a great big fence in the way, but I managed to get a few nice ones, and although me being my biased self tried mainly to grab pictures of the Mclaren boys, I did manage to get some of other drivers. Eventually. I have to say I really enjoyed the race, and although the many tyre blowouts did shift some of the focus from the race for everyone back home, in our grandstand everyone was fully intent on enjoying the racing. Infact, I’m sure people started cheering for Lewis Hamilton more after his tyre had exploded than at the start of the race, and we all went berserk when he passed Van Der Garde, myself included. The biggest cheer of the entire race though went to Nico Rosberg when he assumed control of the race. As you could probably imagine from the partisan British crowd everyone went mental when Vettel retired from the race, but when Rosberg came round for his first lap in the lead, we basically gave him a standing ovation! It’s quite possibly the strangest, funniest and most brilliant thing I have ever seen happen at the British Grand Prix. From my position I was also able to actually see firsthand Sergio Perez’s tyre blowout as he came down the hangar straight, which was spectacular if a little dangerous.


After the race had finished, we did what we’d done every year (aside from 05) and made our way to the after race concert, via the track where we would scour the floor for basically anything we could find. I’ve struck lucky before, finding quite a few pieces of the back of Pedro De La Rosa’s car, when Adrian Sutil drove into the back of him in 2010. This time however, after actually looking at the circuit map, we realised the way we walked normally (via the Hangar straight) was the wrong way to go if we actually wanted to make it there on time. So this time we entered the track at the pit straight, which is quite possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever had to in my life. If you imagine that the gate to the track is right next to the exit, and there are at least 5,000 people trying to access one of these things, you can imagine the sort of human traffic jam that created. Once we finally got onto the track, I made a break straight for the pit wall, where I managed to steal a piece of the Santander banner that used to live on the side wall to the track (It was only a small piece, considering I could have taken the entire banner). After getting a few shots of the garages, Nikki Lauda, some bloke who I’m told works for RTL and the backs of Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard’s heads, aswell as a few mechanics and of course the cars being rolled into parc ferme, we found the stage where the after race concert took place. As always it was great fun, and some of the drivers that come on stage have fantastic personalities. Sebastian Vettel, despite being hated by many for being a superior human being, loves his fans, and became the first man in history to actually ask the crowd to boo him so that he could film it on his phone. At one point he even asked us to boo louder, saying ‘Come on guys, I know you can do better than that.’ And he even tried his hand at playing the drums, and wasn’t that bad. Standard.

Other favourites to come on stage included Mark Webber, who gave us the honour of singing Waltzing Matilda, with the crowd joining in of course. I’m really going to miss Mark in F1, he’s someone who always has a great personality on stage and likes to have a bit of a laugh, even if things haven’t quite gone his way. Lewis Hamilton came on stage to complain about the tyres and Sergio Perez decided to complain about the lack of Mexican food around Woking. My favourite driver Jenson Button was in a hilariously bad mood; He came on stage in his McLaren cap before proclaiming ‘I know I’m supposed to advertise these things, but I really can’t stand them”, and then he threw his hat into the crowd. He then proceeded to make Mexican jokes about Perez which we all found extremely funny, before saying that Sergio was the only person he knows who would continue to drive down the Hangar straight at 300kph after his tyre had exploded, which we all interpreted as Jenson calling Sergio a madman, which is probably true. Eddie Jordan, true to form, came on stage drunk (As he has done pretty much every single year). When I last went in 2011 we all knew he was drunk because him and DC actually got on, and this year he came out with the line ‘Is it just me, or are Suzi and DC having it on backstage?’ which got a huge cheer from the crowd.

We left the after race concert at about 7 in the evening, by which time I think everyone had just about had their fill of Formula One for the day. The journey back, which should have taken about 3 hours, took a little longer because of traffic coming out of the circuit, which was understandable, but then that traffic extended onto the motorway, not because so many people were trying to get home, but because someone had managed to barrel roll their Citroen people carrier on the other side of the motorway. To this day I still can’t work out how they managed to do it.

And that was the end of Silverstone for this year. The best part? I get to do all of this again next year. Yes that does mean I’m now £200 poorer, but believe me, it’s more than worth it.

NOTE: If you’ve just read this and absolutely none of it makes much sense, you can blame the fact I wrote this between the hours of 11pm and midnight, whilst I was half asleep. I write everything whilst I’m half asleep.

2013 Canadian Grand Prix – Aaron Cooper 

The Grand Prix started for me on the Tuesday before the race, The Tuesday? Yes the Tuesday. There is a reason, I am from the UK which meant travelling.

Your probably wondering, why on earth would you go to the Canadian GP when Silverstone would have been closer. Well your right for wondering, for me, Silverstone is logistically a lot closer, but just after the 2012 Canadian GP I received an invitation to join a friend and his friends at the 2013 race weekend. Granted, I had to pay for my airfare and the tickets to the track but the invitation stood. This being potentially the first ever live experience of a F1 weekend, l had to say yes.

So Tuesday meant flying the eight and a half hours to Ottawa airport and meeting up with one of my companions for the race weekend. Side note, We first met online, almost 2 years ago, but hey, isn’t that how everyone meets each other these days? Immigration had trouble believing so.

The actual GP weekend started with a massive game of Tetris, Thursday night meant packing the car, which totally felt like a massive game of Tetris. Literally blocks of beer! Not all mine I assure you, I realised whilst packing that I was going to the GP with seasoned veterans of the Canadian F1 experience, These guys had everything from, cushions for the stainless steel bleachers to the Canadian delicacy of ‘Garlic’, this was clearly not their first GP.

So, more travel ensued, we drove the 2 hours to Montreal and a parking lot right next to the track. We were staying in an RV that had a lean-too outside, which meant BBQ every night. What a result! I had visions of a cramped caravan, but this was like a portable hotel. I found a place to hit the sack and got my head down, Friday was coming up and that meant, weather permitting, soaking in my first every experience of an F1 car on track before my very eyes. To say I was excited, would have been an understatement.

So, as you probably figured Friday was a wet one.

Yeah, it was. Thanks to some of these guys though, I was prepared for whatever the weather could throw at me, I am the guy who flew to Canada without so much as a coat, let alone a poncho.

Friday was a very special day for me. As I have eluded to, this was a weekend of firsts for me and in my companions eyes I probably could not have been more greener. Unfortunately much of the day, is a bit of a blur and I don’t mean that because of the beer. I mean it because of the build up to Free Practice 1.

That first walk to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is hard to put into words. Summoning the words to describe what it felt like to step on to the grounds of the circuit is impossible. Although there had been no running so far that day, its was almost as if I could already smell tyres and petrol. I could not have, but I swear it was my brain welcoming me to what would become one of the greatest weekends of my life.

So, we found our seats and literally soaked in the weather and the view.

So, It had come down to this, I was nervous, I was biting my nails and I had a ball in my stomach so tight, I actually felt a little sick. The wait for the lights on the end of the pit lane to turn green was unbearable. Then as I could take the wait no longer the lights finally turned green for Free Practice 1 and if you asked me who came out first I still would not be able to tell you, With the crowd cheering and clapping the sight of the first F1 car of the weekend I started shallow breathing and my heart was pounding, I was overcome with emotion, I had actually started welling up, much to the enjoyment of my companions.

That first session, whilst wet, was incredible. You can watch it on TV, you can talk about it all you want, you can listen to another person share their first experience of seeing and hearing their first Formula 1 car live, nothing prepares you for it. Not only do you see and hear the cars going past, you actually feel it within every fibre of your being, your hair stands up on end and your bones literally shake.

I saw most of the days action from the lofty heights of my perch at turn 2, including the support series’ such as CCTC and the Ferrari Challenge, a field of 458 Italia’s, incidentally a car I have had the pleasure of driving.

The track, having dried up a lot since the morning, made FP2 a lot more interesting in terms of track and lap time. That is something I would have noticed had I been watching the session on the TV, However I was not, meaning another bout of nerves, build up and euphoria at the sights and sounds. It took at least half the session to get myself to a point where I actually started taking photo’s again. A group of us made a decision to take a step back, get off the stand and head to the side of the track just on the outside of the exit of Turn 2 to feel the power of an F1 car coming past at 130 – 150 MPH within 15 feet of us. To explain the feeling of this take what I said earlier about feeling the car coming past and magnify that 150%, wow, just wow.

I went back to the RV that night, happy, wet and slightly deaf. I could not have been happier.

Saturday started out very similar, waking at the crack of dawn, opening the door to the RV, taking a deep breath of Canadian air and strolling to the circuit for Quali day. We really made the most of Saturday, taking a stroll around the support pits, although when I was told we were going to the pits, I thought it was the actual pit lane.

We got to spend a solid hour walking around the support pits, taking in the sights of engineers race readying their cars, There was plenty to see, Porsches, Ferrari’s and even a CCTC race prepared Honda Jazz, although its called something else in Canada.

I took in Q1 and Q2 from my spot in the stands, but with the terrible long sighted eyesight I have, this made reading the information on the large screen very difficult, (note to self, get glasses) I went down to the outside of turn 2, where I could actually see the timing and take some more awesome photos.

Quali was a bit of a blow to the, what felt like, one hundred thousand strong Ferrari fans, with Massa going out in Q1 and Alonso’s sub-par performance, you could sense the disappointment in the air, the continued rain didn’t help the mood in the stand either.

So, it had come to this, Sunday, race day.

Sunday was a tale of two halves for me, I was disappointed that this was the last day of going to the track, but I was also buzzing at the thought of taking in my first ever F1 GP. The walk to our seats, although I knew where I was going seemed to take a lot longer than the previous two days, whether this was the anticipation, I do not know.

The stand at turn 2 was packed from around 10am local time, not a spare seat in the house and completely full of colour, there was plenty of build up to the F1 race with the supporting cast doing their final races of the weekend. From Midday though it all changed. This was the formal start to the F1 race, the 2 hour preparation started with the grid girls walking all the way, in heels, from the exit of turn 2 right up to the starting grid.

We then got the drivers parade, in order of worst qualifying position to best, each driver came around on their own individual chauffeured cars. Then it was time to get the show on the road.

As usual a half hour before the race start the pit lane opened. I tried to keep my emotions in check and much to my amazement I managed to. I was surprised to see several drivers take their car through the pit lane several times prior to forming up on the grid. This, as someone who has only ever watched F1 on television before, was a surprise, I was anticipating the cars going straight to the grid, not doing several practice laps prior to the race itself.

Then as everyone was milling around on the starting grid, in my mind was silence. Not a sound, It had come down to this moment, this starting grid, this circuit. The cars left the grid for the warm up lap.

In what felt like a flash, Vettel was back on the starting grid waiting for everyone to form up behind him, again silence from the crowd.

Five lights went out and twenty-two 2.4-litre V8 engines were let loose before my eyes. The noise was colossal, unmatched by anything I had ever heard before. That feeling in my bones returned once again as every car came out of turn 2 for the first time.

To say I was ecstatic, would have been an understatement of the highest order. The entrance fee was worth experiencing the start alone.

I am not going to go into the detail of the race, because if you are reading this then you know the result. The only thing I will mention is Vettel’s dominance. This was not boring, as I have seen reported elsewhere, this was a man on a mission that no one was going to stop him completing. His performance all weekend merited that result and I was happy to see him achieve it. You should also know that, I am a fan of the sport in general, not of any particular driver or team.

So we all know the result, Sebastian Vettel took the chequered flag and his twenty ninth race win in Montreal. Immediately after the race some of us decided to attempt to get to the podium to see the top three receive the adulation they deserve. We made it, just as Eddie Jordan was conducting the driver interviews. At the time, I have to admit I really did not hear anybody booing Sebastian, even though I was on the Start/Finish in the middle of the crowd that had appeared for the podium ceremony. As Eddie finished up, the only thing I had in my mind was, The team photo, finding the optimum position for it would be difficult as, I knew it would happen, I just didn’t know where.

I made a run for the pit lane opening for the timing board, opposite Sebastian’s garage. After a little argy bargy, I was there. There I stayed for the next 45mins soaking in the DJ Squire anthems being played over the Red Bull garage tannoy and the atmosphere in general. Whilst I didn’t get into the pitlane, It really was amazing to see how choreographed, the BBC and SKY were around not just each other, but also in getting the maximum from the opportunity in the pit lane itself, in terms of interviews and geeing up the crowd.

Unfortunately, Red Bull decided on having the team photo just beneath the podium itself.

We moved away from the pit wall and made our way up the starting grid towards the wall of champions, stopping along the way to take the opportunity of photos.

You know the type. The I was there photo’s. So we walked the Start / Finish and most of the back straight, actually seeing the distance in real live really puts it all into perspective for you, I mean, I did not realise that the back straight was that long.

We retired back to the RV to pack up and reflect on the weekend. And what a weekend it was, as I said to my wife during a telephone call on the Friday night. As an experience, it was up there with being born, and getting married. What a weekend.

I would also like to extend a massive thank you to Eric Hébert for the invitation.

Aaron Cooper

twitter.com/slvaaron

2013 Australian Grand Prix – Chris Daley

I started typing out a report of the GP in a day by day, hour by hour style. Frankly by Friday afternoon I was bored. I realised that there was no point in going into minute detail when this was going to be read by people who didn’t need nor want to know the finer points.  So instead, I want to tell you about the things I experienced as a spectator, not a motorsport enthusiast.

I spent four days at the 2013 Australian Grand Prix, some of it was wet, some was scorching, but all was enjoyed. Thursday was a quiet (as quiet as motorsport is) day at the track with practice and qualifying sessions for the support categories and some demonstration laps from classic and historic race cars.  My Thursday was spent walking the track looking at the different car club displays, watching cars that I raced on my Scalextric set as a child, race out on the track and watching some of the off-track entertainment.

Each year a host of off-track acts are invited to appear, last year the feature act was the Crusty Demons and this year we had Nitro Circus. There were also a host of other things to watch, including a high wire motorcycle act over the center of Albert Park Lake, various stunt shows and musical acts. They also have a mini airshow each day with displays by the Royal Australian Air Force with their Roulette’s display team and F/A-18A Hornet jet fighters. It is truly a four-day festival centered around the Formula 1 circus.

Friday morning started well. Especially when I checked Twitter on my arrival at the track and I saw that The Australian Grand Prix Corporation, through their Twitter feed @ausgrandprix, was running a competition for a tour through the Williams F1 garage. I managed to run towards the pit paddock, answer the question and keep updating Twitter to check to see if I had won. Amazingly I had won and got a message to call straight away to get my spot on the tour.

For someone who can generally only afford to get a General Admission ticket for the four days, the chance to go into the hallowed ground that is an F1 paddock is akin to winning the lotto. There was nothing that would have, or could have, stopped me from getting to that tour. Not even the blister that I had developed on my foot from running the half-length of the track to get to the paddock entrance.  While it may seem like I may be making a big deal about this, it’s because the F1 paddock is a different world that is unlike any other part of Australia. For the 45 minutes that I was in the paddock I was a part of something I had only ever seen through the worlds media, and I loved it!

It wasn’t the fact that I was rubbing shoulders with the luminaries of F1 though, it was the chance to spend a small part of my life in amongst the team that I have followed ever since Alan Jones became Australia’s last World Champion driving the FW-07 in 1980. They didn’t hide or cover up anything while we were in the garage, they were in fact preparing both cars for FP1 and had Valtteri Bottas’ car running while we were being shown the Engineers bunker. For someone who had never been that side of the fence I found the openness very surprising.

The fun continued though, as not long after leaving the paddock I won another @ausgrandprix Twitter competition for an upgrade into one of the Premium Zones for the day. While this would have cost me $50 ordinarily, I didn’t think this was that much of an advantage for watching the F1 practice sessions on Friday, but it was an extra bonus that wasn’t expected. Really I think AGPC should be applauded for the competitions they run over the four days and the prizes they give away. I don’t know if there is anything similar at other GP’s, but it certainly adds to the excitement of the event.

The sunshine and pleasant weather couldn’t last forever though. It seems to be a curse for major events like this in Australia that they will attract some form of bad weather and the 2013 GP was no different.  While Thursday and Friday had been sunshine and high 20′s, Saturday the whole city had been moved to the Antarctic coast. While the day started at the track with warm temperatures and sunny conditions, come time for the F1 qualifying the cars came out on the track on dry tyres but very quickly the clouds came over and the rain started falling. It made the first qualifying session interesting, but it also made the folks in race control a little bit anxious. Fortunately, they got through Q1 without too many issues.  Unfortunately, the constant delays for rain led to Q2 and Q3 being postponed to Sunday morning and everything else that was due on the track that afternoon was cancelled.

It was a little disappointing and hopefully not a sign of things to come that the best drivers in the world in some of the best cars in the world were held in their garages because of a little rain. Quite a change from drivers having to beg for a race to be stopped in the monsoonal rain that Adelaide used to get.  I can understand the concern, but they’re big boys now, a little play in the puddles is good for everyone.

Sunday dawned looking very uncertain, it was fair skies when I left home to catch the train into Melbourne. About 2/3 of the way in the skies had clouded over and rain was falling, not a good start for St Patrick’s Day celebrations and an even worse start to a race day when the guys with the buttons had already shown they were a bit gun-shy when it came to precipitation. By the time the train got to Flinders St Station (Melbourne’s central rail station) the rain had eased to a very light drizzle which made the walk to the track a lot easier.

Thankfully the light damp on the track wasn’t enough to stop the carsfrom coming out and Q2 got underway on green band intermediate tyres. I am a little sorry to say that I was focused more on taking photo’s then who was setting what time, but then again I have never been one for numbers.  Qualifying went through, photo’s were taken, people were amazed by the fast cars and Alan van der Merwe drove the wheels off the Medical car at every chance he got.

One of the highlights for me on Sunday was the Heritage Lap which drove the traditional anti-clockwise direction of the lake and included cars that raced in the first Australian GP to be held at Albert Park in 1953. At the lead of this parade lap were two Mercedes SLK Roadsters, one carrying Alan Jones MBE and the other carrying Sir Jack Brabham. These two men are personal hero’s of mine, indeed Alan Jones is the man responsible for my interest in Formula 1 and my 33 years of support of the Williams team.  It was fantastic to see Sir Jack make the trip down from his home in Queensland to visit the GP as ‘Black Jack’ has done more for the profile of motorsport in Australia over the years than just about anyone else short of the late Peter Brock.

Throughout the day the crowds kept building and building in the lead up to the start of the race. They were kept entertained by the V8 Supercars, Porsche Carrera Cup, Mazda 6 Celebrity Challenge and the International Sports Cars. Once the track had been cleared in preparation for the F1′s to be released the show took to the skies once again for a display by the RAAF Roulette’s, Hornet and a flyby by one of QANTAS’ new Airbus A330.

As the cars came around for their installation lap you could feel the excitement and tension build in the crowd, everyone was anticipating the start of what was hoped to be Mark Webbers race. You don’t need me to tell you again what happened over the next hour and a half, suffice to say that a slipping clutch put Webbers plans to bed early. The rest of the race was a bit of a blur as I moved around the track, catching up quickly when I went past one of the big screens dotted around.

By coincidence I ended up at turn 15 as the cars were pulling into the pits, so it was just a quick wait for the course car to come around and then a quick walk up to turn 16 and down the start finish straight to catch a quick glimpse of Kimi, Fernando and Sebastian on the podium being interviewed (Sorry to all the Fernando fans out there, the perspex on pit-lane makes him look a bit like Karl Pilkington). The crush on pit straight was amazing, but there was no-one upset about the result, everyone had just witnessed the first race of the year. It was very slow going getting through the crowd, but eventually I made it off the track to catch up with a friend.

They had already started pulling the fence down as I was leaving the track. I walked as much of the track as I could between turn 2 and turn 6, it was a strange feeling walking on the same spot that only and hour before had the pinnacle of modern motorsport technology blasting along. The sky was already getting dark and the street lights around the track were coming on, but you could hear the Nitro Circus doing their last show over the sound of forklifts stacking tyre bundles ready to be trucked away at the storage yard where they will live for the next year. In a couple of days time you wont even be able to tell that there had been a major event at Albert Park Lake, the stands will be gone and rubbish cleaned up.  But there will be 323,000 people who will be able to say they were there to see one of the worlds great sports.

For me it was made better because of the things I got to see for the first time and the people I got to spend time with. I was lucky enough to meet some people who I knew only from Twitter and I spent some time with some friends that I met last year.

I want to thank the Williams F1 team for taking the time to show people like myself through their garage in what was a stressful time, not only because of the preparations for their race weekend, but also because they were working so hard having just lost one of the teams greatest supporters and family member. All team members over the weekend were wearing black armbands and the cars had a special decal on their front wings in loving memory of Lady Virginia ‘Ginny’ Williams, who passed away the week previous.

The media would have you believe that the Grand Prix is unpopular here, that people would rather see the money spent elsewhere. The truth is that if it was as unpopular as they make out, it wouldn’t happen. If people didn’t want the money spent on it, the government would know it. Sure, it cost’s the state a lot of money to host this event and much of that money isn’t recovered from ticket sales. The Grand Prix generates a lot of money for the local economy, but that’s not the most important thing that it does. For four days, the Grand Prix brings together people from all walks of life, from around Australia and the world and gives them a chance to sit next to each other and enjoy an incredible spectacle and have a bit of fun. Shouldn’t all sporting events be like that?

The 2013 Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix, I was there.

Brazilian Grand Prix – By Rita Xiumé

It is extremely hard for me to explain how I feel today and how I was feeling during “my last race”.

Racing is a state of mind and I’m trying to be still in it. But to speak about racing you need a race or at least a racer and when you follow “THE RACER” for 21 years, the day after his last GP you realize you can keep on following F1, but your heart won’t be able to thud again. Those feelings that only a fighter that has never backed down can give you, won’t came back anymore. I’ll keep them in my heart and they will be my reason to live.

So sorry if I’ll write more about my feelings than about the race, but, be sure, I was there, my heart was there and if I’ve to synthesize the Brazilian GP 2012 I could only do writing “STAND UP FOR THE CAMPION” and I don’t mean the winner of the world championship.

I left my home on Wednesday and twenty hours later, on Thursday, I reached Sao Paulo. I spent my first day in Brazil just collecting my tickets at Hotel Transamerica and having dinner.

My very first day was on Friday. At 7:30 in the morning I was already at Interlagos. Why two and a half hours earlier? Simply to … make everything perfect to celebrate as much as I could the best driver F1 has ever seen.

I began fixing my banner in my stand, that, as usual, was in front of Schumi’s garage. Security wasn’t too happy with the banners but they had to accept them, as they’ve realized I’d have fought to my death to protect them. So I fix my “NEVER GIVE UP, MICHAEL, YOUR FRIENDS WON’T LET YOU”, that has been made by a friend of mine and that I’ve brought with me to every race this year. Some meters left of mine they fix a German Flag, then my Russian friends arrive with their banner: “thank you for these three years” (where thank you is written in eight different languages). My Italian friend was also next to me and she fixed her “it was magic having you back”.

My stand, such as the others I’ve to say (in stand A there’s a huge “Michael we love you”) is full of banners reading which you can’t imagine we’re not speaking about the leader of the championship or about the driver that contends it to him, but simply about “THE LEGEND” or as he prefers “the FIGHTER who never backed down”.

FP1 is ready to begin.

You sure will remember my memories of Abu Dhabi (the whole autograph session next to Michael’s table). You won’t remember, as I haven’t written about, that a few days later I’ve met Michael again for the Nazionale Piloti football match and the gala dinner, talking with him and taking pictures together.

After Abu Dhabi and Padova how could I feel so excited for a race, that is the last race? I wasn’t excited, I was sad, really very sad. I turned my iPhone on and I see a picture of my drivers helmet … there was something new. Michael wanted on it “Life is about passions, Thank you for sharing mine”. I breathe deeply, trying not to cry. I’m mad, I know, but for a good reason: Michael is really the most special person in the world. We’ve to thank him. Well, as I’ve written in my t-shirt (I was obviously wearing it!) I’m really proud to be a Schumacher fan.

Now free practice really begins. It’s ten o’ clock and after taking my usual pictures of Michael getting into his WO3 I turn on my Fan Vision (the small TV from which I follow the race even from Schumi’s car) I watch.

Hamilton is the fasted followed by the two Red Bull’s driven by Vettel and Webber, then Button, Alonso. Schumi is eleventh.

We stop for two and a half hours and it’s two o’clock. FP2 is on. The first three are the same as FP1: Hamilton is the fasted followed by the two Red Bull’s driven by Vettel and Webber, then Massa and Alonso followed by SCHUMI … Sixth …I can be very happy, but I feel so sad … I want to stop my watch but the time keeps on running: my first day is out and I’ve only two days left.

And Saturday arrives. I join the track even earlier than the day before, at 7. I’m the first behind the gates and I can easily fix my banner . A few moments later I can see a different banner I’ve not seen on Friday. It says “Thank you Michael Sc” from Argentina. Yes, now I’m sure. Italy, Russia, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Philippine … all of them are physically on the stands but the whole world is there and through my iPhone I can share their support for Michael.

When my Russian friends arrive they have a new banner with “Michael, F1 is nothing without you”. They fix it while … I’m crying…. I don’t know why … I just wish to shout to Michael THANK YOU so loud to lose my voice forever.

While my tears go down my face I’ve an idea. I can call Globo TV that is filming on the track and I can record something dedicated to Michael to touch his heart.

Free Practice three at eleven o’ clock stops my thoughts and my tears.

Button is the quickest, followed by Vettel, Webber, Hamilton. Alonso is 8th, Michael is fifteenth.

At noon time a journalist by Veja approaches my friends and me to know more about our love for Michael. My Russian friends go first. Then I go and speak to him, I don’t even think at what I’m saying … I talk about a passion that has started in 1991 and still grows up more and more, I show some of the great quantity of pictures I’ve with me, I tell him I’ve even stopped working to follow Michael this months and … I ask him to call Globo TV …. He shares my idea, he calls them and … they arrive.

Now it’s only Michael (behind TV) and me (together with his fans all over the world that I’m representing).

I open remembering Michael’s “Life is about passion, thank you for sharing mine” and I say to Michael that we need to thank him for sharing his life with us, as in these 21 years he has been our life. I tell him that I speak in the name of his fans from Italy, Russia, Germany and Kerpen, Argentina, Hungary , Chile, Brazil, Facebook groups and I thank him with my heart in my hands … I’m looking for the video as I can remember what I’ve really said, I can just make you be sure my whole heart is in that video.

TV stops filming and I cry. The journalist tries to calm me and says well done, we’ll send it on soon.

But I’m crying because I wish more…..

And it’s two o’ clock. Qualifying session ….

Q1 is ok, Michael goes through as Grosjean, Petrov, Kovaleinen, Glock, Pic, Kartikeyan, De La Rosa are all out.

In Q2 it doesn’t work and Michael is out (14th place) together with Di Resta, Senna, Perez, before him and Kobayashi, Ricardo, Vergne after him.

It’s Q3 … My heart isn’t thudding anymore … my brain is over. … my last qualifying session …

Hamilton gets pole position, Vettel is 4th, Alonso 8th.

I ran away and a little bit later I know Maldonado has got a penalty so Michael will start from 13th.

Suddenly I feel excited again.

Now I know what to do to farewell Michael “in my way”.

I go next to the tickets seller and I buy a second ticket of B stand that is in front of the starting grid. From there I can shout to Michael during his last picture, his last parade … his last departure.

It’s useless to write I didn’t  sleep on Saturday night, I simply watched my pictures, my videos, … thought of my 21 years following Michael all over the world … and at these three MAGIC years … at these last months during which I’ve spent most of my time following him even where the wheels have never rolled before.

I keep on praying to stop the time passing, but it keeps on passing unrelenting. Even if I don’t want it to, the sun rises … and … it’s the final countdown.

At 6:30 I leave my hotel. I arrive really early at the track, I’m alone in front of stand B (the other fans are in stands A and M), I’ve one of the banners of Friday with me and I’ve to fight as Michael has taught me to take it with me inside.

At the end, as a miracle, the security believes me. He allows that banner plus two other ones and he even helps me.

One of my banners is the one of Friday, the second says “Michael we love to see your races, your fight, your passion. We will always support you”. The third, “Michael these were a wonderful three years.  The car was bad but you never give up. That’s why we love you. You are the greatest racer of the world”

I manage to fix the three banners, to tweet to the team to tell that the whole track is full of banners for Michael.

I miss the pictures of the team with Michael in front of his garage, his jokes, his tears … I’m very sad for that … but I’ve missed it just because I wished to organize the farewell Michael deserves.

Now it’s 9:30, I’ve achieved my job and I turn on my I-phone. There’s an interview taken with Michael … I can’t believe he thanks us and says he’s really touched.

Now I feel I’ve done what I wished to and what he deserves.

At 12:30 it’s the drivers’ parade time..

The drivers appear. I’m just in front of Michael with my small banner “Never give up ..” shouting to him … he smiles … my heart stops….

When the drivers’ parade is about to finish the truck stops suddenly, the drivers are about to fall one upon the other … I’ve Michael’s face in my camera’s zoom … he smiles … I take a picture … I really feel in heaven.

And 1:30 pm arrives too quickly. The cars are moving to the starting grid. It’s going to rain. Even the clouds agree with me and they want to farewell Michael crying as he deserves even their feeling.

At last my driver arrives. I can’t believe it. I begin to cry again. In his car there’s something new. On the right you can see “Thank you, good bye Michael” and even more … he arrives showing a flag with thank you written on .

Dear Michael,

Every little thing you do is magic, I’m really proud and proud to be your fan. Nobody is like you.

Michael stops his car at position 13th, I’m just upon him, a few meters upon his face. I take a picture of him, one of him with the team, one of the flag.

Then he enters in the car for the last time, he closes his visor … a last picture.

Then I stop.

I move my banner “Never give up” upon his head and I simply try to fix his giving gas to his engine inside my heart FOREVER.

Wow. What a feeling his last departure. It’s hard to let you feel how I was feeling, under the rain, his engine in my heart, … just Michael and me … no pictures … no people .. no sadness … the whole world was out.

But such a feeling was to finish early. As in 2006 Michael has a puncture and he has to pit. He rejoins last and he begins his fight.

To be fair, I’ve to say he hasn’t been the only fighter of the race, as Vettel has had a problem with Senna at the first lap, he’s lost his radio power during the race and he’s had a problem with intermediate tires. Seb has moved to the back up to forward positions.

At lap 40 the best show of “my race”: a great fight between Michael and Kimi … how I love these moments … how today I miss them … Michael, how will you live without? What kind of experience will give to you and to us such adrenaline?

At the end Alonso goes over Massa for the second place, Sebastian goes over Michael for the sixth place and the race is over.

Button has won the Brazilian GP 2012 with Alonso and Massa on the podium.

Vettel has won his thrid world championship and even the DHL award for the fastest lap.

Michael Schumacher, seven titles, car number seven arrives seventh closing his career with a race I’ll never forget.

He gets out of his car, really covered by photographers, he congratulates Sebastian Vettel and he runs quickly away towards his garage where “his team” is waiting for him.

Yes, in the happy moments as in the tough ones Michael has always tried to build up “HIS TEAM” . He has never said “I” or “me” to share a good result, only “we”, “the team”, “thank you guys” …. And “I” or “me” just to say it’s my fault.

He’s been as brave as a lion in coming back. Now Michael’s comeback is over …

He’s come back as he has believed in a project, he has always considered it “his project”, he’s tried to build up “his team”, “his car”.

What he has wished hasn’t happened, but what Michael has built WILL survive.

It’s Monday night now. I’m in my plane from Sao Paulo to Rome, It’s impossible for me to close my eyes without crying … so I’m trying to write my feelings before they fly away and to share them with my friends, living all over the world, the ones Michael’s allowed me to meet in these years.

I don’t know if I’ve been able to make you really feel what I’ve felt.

I can simply add that I’ve felt to be in a dream: my dream has started in 1991 and it hasn’t stopped yesterday …. My dream will go on and on as Michael’s example, his loyalty, his passion will live in each of us FOEREVER.

Thanks Michael, with you from the beginning to the end … as I’ve been able to, but, be sure with all the passion I’ve had, with all my heart and as promised …. keeping my tears inside my eyes as, I know, … I won’t lose you … you’re inside my heart forever

#DankeMichael

#Proudtobeaschumacherfan

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – By Rita Xiumé

If you’ve read my previous “I was there” articles, You will know that I am a diehard Michael Schumacher and that the last Grand Prix I’ve been to is the Singapore one.

I can’t clear my head of Schumi’s lap 39 crash with Vergne. A few hours later, I heard of the penalty that was given to him by the stewards and a few days later I got even worse news. Michael would be retiring. And it would be permanent.

That is why I aren’t as happy this year, when I was preparing to go to Abu Dhabi. I was leaving for my penultimate race and it wasn’t an easy moment knowing I’d never see him race an F1 car in Abu Dhabi again.

I arrived at Yas Marina Circuit on Thursday, two hours before it opened. My first big surprise was to find a security guard at the gate who said “Hi ma’am, welcome back to Abu Dhabi”. Wow! He had remembered me from the year before. Suddenly my melancholy had extinguished. I was in Abu Dhabi again for my third year and I was happy again.

At twelve o’clock the gates opened and I ran faster than an F1 car to get to the place where the autograph session was taking place. My problem is that the first autograph session won’t be Michael’s so I queue but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to queue for just Michael. I stay there next to Michael’s table, waiting for Michael (I’d wait for hours), when a lady approached me and said “Can you please come back stage with me”. I replied “Me? Just me?” And she said “Sure, Who else?”.

The lady had recognized my farewell t-shirt to Michael and so she brought me back to where Michael was waiting. She even lets me sit beside Michael at his table for the entire autograph session! I have followed Michael around the globe and he had recognized me. He signs my t-shirt which reads “My dream started in 1991: Proud to be a Schumacher Fan” and on the back it said “Legend or fighter you will be my example forever”. He looks at me, smiles and thanks me. I get loads of pictures and I was allowed to spend the autograph session with him.

Afterwards, I go to the pitlane for a walkabout. Everybody keeps stopping me and asking me for pictures, asking me how I knew him, Why I was allowed to sit beside him. I felt like Michael in Monaco. It was fantastic.

And it’s Friday. Free practice one begins at 1pm. I get to my seat in my grandstand, in front of Michael’s garage as usual. We all wonder who will be quickest. Alonso or Vettel? But it’s actually Hamilton that goes fastest. Schumi is sixth. It’s not too bad!

Free practice two begins at 5pm. Vettel is quickest and Michael goes 14th. Not great, but I look to FP1 for reassurance.

Free practice three starts at 2pm. He sets a purple S2 and after 25 minutes he was still 2nd. But he soon dropped and finished the session in 14th.

At 5pm Qualifying begins. He has no problem making it through as Vergne, Kovalainen, Pic, Petrov, Glock, de la Rosa and Karthikeyan are all out.

Q2 begins and Michael gets out on track. On his flying lap he has a problem with his KERS and he can’t improve. He goes 14th, like he did in FP2 and FP3. Hulkenberg, Perez and di Resta are 11th, 12th and 13th. Kobayashi, Senna and Ricciardo are 15th, 16th and 17th.

Q3 starts and to nobody’s surprise, Hamilton takes pole position. Webber is 2nd while Vettel is 3rd. Even though he couldn’t run for most of FP3, he goes P3. Extraordinary. Q3 starts Hamilton than has already controlled FP 1 and 3 gets pole position with 1.40.630, Webber is 2nd, Vettel 3rd. He has run not too much during FP3 for a problem in front brakes, and even in this session he stops a few meters after the final flag alongside the track. Raikkonen is 5th, Button 6th, Alonso 7th, Rosberg 8th, Massa 9th.

BUT, there is suspense in the Grandstand. Vettel has stopped on his in-lap. Does he have a problem or is he out of fuel? As a Schumi fan I find it funny to see the Vettel fans debating with the Alonso fans if it is an illegal problem. I’ve wait wait a long time before I hear the final starting grid. A 11pm, the stewards notify the paddock that Vettel had been disqualified. Back of the grid. Wow. Vettel fans are angry, Alonso fans are very happy … I’m simply looking at my pictures with my driver, dreaming of a lucky race for him.

Finally Sunday arrives. I reach the circuit at twelve, five hours before the race. At two o’clock I take a seat in my stand, I need my “pole position” in front of Michael, to take as many pictures as I can during the drivers parade. Michael appears next to Vettel and greets us. I love this moment and as usual I shout “Michael, Michael …” he seems to move his head and greets me again.

The parade ends and the grid forms up. I’ve changed seats and I’m now next to the 13thplace that Schumacher will start from. This is my favourite moment. I feel Michael so close to me. From the pictures you can see that I am very close to him. A few minutes before 5pm he enters his WO3 and he’s ready to race. My heart is fluttering but I can still notice Schumi’s engineer. They shake hands, and he shakes Michael’s helmet. They are so good together.

The race starts. My heart is thudding more than usual. Michael starts on the hard tires and he quickly moves up to 10th position. On lap 9, Rosberg crashed into Karthikeyan. Wow. That was a big crash. Thankfully both drivers are ok and the SC comes out until Lap 15.

Hamilton is the leader at the restart but he retires on Lap 20. It’s just like my last race in Singapore! Schumi is 9th and Vettel is moving further and further up the grid.

On lap 39, Perez causes a crash between Grosjean and Webber and both drivers are out. Michael is 7th and I’m really dreaming! He seems to be really quick and more competitive that the other drivers. But at lap 42, Disaster. “Michael, You have a puncture”. He comes in, Changes tire and comes out in 16th place.

Pic retires on Lap 42 and the Safety Car goes in on lap 42. At this point, Michael begins his fight. He’s really the best fighter that F1 has ever known. He keeps on pushing, never giving up and he pulls a fantastic overtake on Vergne. I love watching him race. Vettel is also fighting and he moves up to 3rd. Meanwhile, Schumi is advancing; 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11. If he had one more lap, he could have had points. But I don’t care. Schumi fought in Abu Dhabi. He was fantastic. I am reminded why I love him, Not like I forgot!

Raikkonen has won the race, then Alonso, Vettel, Button (I really laugh when Alonso’s engineer tells him “Button has fallen asleep, Vettel is past”), Maldonado, Kobayashi, Massa, Senna, di Resta, Ricciardo, Schumi, Vergne, Kovalainen, Glock, Petrov, Perez and de la Rosa.

A few laps more and perhaps this would have been a different story. Maybe even a different Championship. But as Michael usually says, that’s part of the game and as Michael is able to play his role, the role of a legend, “The legend of motorsport”, the award he just received. But also the role of a fighter, someone who’s never backed up. That’s the role I prefer, that’s the example I’ve been trying to follow since 1991. That’s the reason I’m sure that November 25th, the driver will finish his driving career but the man will stay with us and we will stay with him.

We are the tifosi.

We are for Michael.

Indian Grand Prix – By Chitra Subramanyam

Late 2010: Gigantic mounds of earth dot the arena that will be named the Buddh International Circuit. The monsoons have just passed and the rain god has been kind, but not to the workers at the circuit. Artificial lakes have formed and you can just about spot an occasional water buffalo. Over yonder are the pits, says a BIC official, and that, he says, pointing to a building still under construction, will be Bernie Ecclestone’s office. There’s mud, dust and the sun – all bearing down on us. But the excitement is palpable. F1 is coming to India.

Fast-forward to October 2011: I am stuck in a traffic jam to the race, my bus rubbing shoulders with the Audis and Beemers. We are headed to the circuit to the first Indian Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel raises the trophy. And just like that the F1 circus is gone, moving on to their next destination.

October 2012: It is that time of the year. I am excited. I have been excited since the time I saw the advert in a newspaper. I am ready for the traffic, the dust, mayhem and chaos. I am ready to battle it all, so that I can cheer on Jenson Button and Bruno Senna. I am more familiar with the track now. There have been several track days, and I have spent hours watching friends ride around the track on their superbikes.

But this is different. I know. I have picked the same spot as last time – the Picnic Stand. It’s the cheapest of the lot, with the best seats in the house. I climb up the long flight of stairs and walk on to the greens – a carpet of grass without the helpful umbrellas from last year. It’s perhaps the most taxing spot – exposed to the elements, the sun beating down, as dust fills the air.

I look around. It isn’t very crowded this time. 65,000 spectators, a friend tells me. I spot empty seats – lots of them. But around me are fans – a Ferrari banner flies high even as a man, draped in bed sheet – We will miss you Michael it says – runs around the green grass, the homemade banner flapping behind him. The Kimi fans are grouped together, waving the flag and jumping up and down. The empty stands cease to be a problem. For now, fans surround me. I am no longer alone in my obsession, sitting in front of the television on race day.

A growl fills the air as an F1 car makes its way towards us, emerging from the haze – an alien being that demands attention. From here, I can see the cars approach Turn 1 speeding past the start/finish line. They make the turn, as I scamper down the hill towards the fence. Sebastian Vettel leads the race, but my eyes search for Button and then Bruno. I scream, wave, cheer and jump as they swing past T2 and climb to T3. They make the sharp turn and go screaming down the long straight.

I grin at strangers who smile back, mirroring my excitement. The Vettelians are few here. Here, in India, it’s Ferrari that is the firm favourite, as is Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen. We stand there, screaming, shouting, and waving. I make the short walk up towards T3. My ears are bursting – the engines are loud, but I love that sound. It’s music. My earplugs lie forgotten in my bag, they are but an encumbrance.

They fly by. Time stands still. The only reality is the cars and the drivers. They are fighting today for Championship points. Vettel has the pace and just like last year, takes the podium in the 1st place. There have been issues with his car – when he activates the DRS, there are a few sparks from his car’s undertray. But he doesn’t let that bother him. Instead, I watch as he flies by, even as Fernando Alonso tries desperately to catch him and the Championship.

Alonso takes 2nd while Mark Webber grabs 3rd and Lewis Hamilton, 4th. My favourite, Button sets a last-minute fastest-lap and ends up at 5th.

But I am waiting for Bruno. He was brilliant during Qualifying, but lost out in Q2. Pity. His future at Williams is in doubt. Valtteri Bottas may replace him in 2013. But, that uncertainty doesn’t affect his performance. He takes the first turn towards me, the sun shining down on the Williams, and his car does a shimmy. I gulp. Just for a moment, for that one single moment, I have an uncanny feeling – Ayrton. I shrug if off, screaming Brunnoooo as he flies by. Bruno fights for position, overtaking teammate Pastor Maldonado and then races for that one final point. He grabs it from Nico Rosberg, sets the second fastest lap time in the race, and takes 10th. Maldonado ends up at 16th after a clash with Kamui Kobayashi leaves his car with a puncture.

The end is here. It’s time to battle traffic. But as I race towards the parking, I find myself laughing. People say F1 is made for television. It may be. But there is no feeling better than one, at the track on race day Sunday, surrounded by people who know – who actually know – what it is like to be an F1 fanatic. They laugh and cry, like me, with the drivers, at their wins and losses. We gasp at the gorgeous growl of the engines and stay loyal to our teams.

This is F1. And yes, no matter what the naysayers say, I will relive this moment, this race day Sunday, again, and again every year.

You can read more of Chitra’s writing on her website www.ridingfastandflyinglow.com

Japanese Grand Prix – by John Sertori

The last time I went to Suzuka was 2006. Back then BMW were still involved in F1 as well as Toyota. And of course it was because of Toyota that for the following 2 years the Japanese Grand Prix would be held at Mt Fuji (a Toyota owned circuit) instead of the mercurial Suzuka. It was never in the same league. So to get the opportunity to go back to Japan AND Suzuka in particular, put a smile on my face like a split watermelon.

You see, Japan is a country like no other. The gadgets, the people, the sights and smells are all as unique as the 130R – they can catch you by surprise but still leave you smiling and amazed.  From warmed toilet seats, cars meticulously parked to form a temporary fence around a heliport, food that takes you out of your comfort zone, to airport staff standing in a neat line on the tarmac conscientiously waving at your plane as it pushes back from the terminal. It is a feast for all the senses.

Japanese fans put the FAN in fanatical while the circuit layout is the truest test of a Formula 1 driver, that all to a man acknowledge. Personally I have some of my greatest F1 memories at Suzuka – particularly the days when it was the last race on the calendar. In those days on the Sunday night after the race, the drivers would book out the legendary “Log Cabin” which was a bar with about 6 (from hazy memory) kareoke cabins attached within the circuit. Drivers, mechanics, engineers, marketing types– even team principals – would congregate and celebrate the championship, the hard work, the fun and the intensity of the year. You needed an F1 FOM pass to get past security and all the people you had worked with for the past 8 months were there letting their hair down – a great night. (Sometimes too great. I nearly missed my plane one year due to wanting to belt out “one last” tune at 5am in the morning!). More on that later.

With these sorts of memories I left Heathrow on Sunday afternoon for the flight to Nagoya via Hong Kong. As per normal there were a quite number of F1 personnel on the flight – Red Bull and Renault amongst them. At Nagoya it was a bus ride down to Suzuka to the hotel where the rest of the team I was working for this weekend were staying. “Hold on a minute” I hear you say. “I thought this was an article by an F1 fan”? It is. While I’m an F1 fan I also have the absolute fortune of working in the industry of which I’m a fan. Don’t hate me. To put you in the picture a bit, we supply teams (2 in fact) with AV & production solutions in their hospitality suites. Normally I wouldn’t attend Japan as one of those teams doesn’t normally have a hospitality suite in Japan but the other does. So while my colleague was tying the knot I filled in for the team he normally looks after. Perfect timing! Right place at the right time.

Arriving at the hotel I checked in, grabbed the key and headed to my room for some much needed sleep. It was 10.45pm and while I can generally sleep for England on a plane, for some reason I didn’t get the normal amount of “40 winks” I needed. Waking up at 4am didn’t address that problem. Watching a couple of episodes of Entourage provoked the sleep in me and I got another couple of hours shut eye till I woke at 8am. A quick breakfast and into the car for the 10min drive to the track.

At the circuit entrance I’m met with the standard security operation but on a more pleasant scale than other circuits. Personnel are all tricked out in identical uniform – standard blue with white gloves. Yes, white gloves. They also have glowing red wands to direct traffic. These can be best described, as light sabres from Star Wars and the way they wield them would make a jedi proud. Twirling, swirling, slashing and flashing them about, they leave you in no doubt which direction they want you to go. And they are not afraid to jump in front of your car should you interpret the gesticulations incorrectly.

The area we set up in is above directly above the pitlane and the team garage. This is handy, as we have to run a cable to a remote camera we install in the garage, which provides updates to VIPs in the suite over the weekend. I had been advised that this was going to be quite a chore here so I was pleasantly surprised. The whole installation went smoothly and despite the jetlag that saw me get about 16 hours sleep in 3 nights, come Friday and Free Practice 1 we were ready to go!

I mentioned at the start about Japanese F1 fans being fanatical and the first demonstration of that fact was that on the Thursday, the stand opposite the pitlane was at least three quarters full! And they weren’t just opposite Kamui Kobayshi’s Sauber garage either. When something that caught their attention (or imagination) in the pitlane, there would be a cheer from the stands. This could simply be a car being pushed up the pitlane to scrutineering or some wheel guns being set up for pitstop practice. On the way out of the circuit the crowds line the exit peering into each car to see if they can see a recognizable face. And they wave. No matter who you are, if you’re in team kit, they wave. Along with Fijians, the Japanese are the friendliest people on earth.

In the Paddock, the biggest news of the week came from Mercedes once again as Michael Schumacher announced his retirement from the sport. No matter who you support, this guy has been a great of F1. Yes, there are lots of arguments still to be had over twitter and in pubs about whether he is THE greatest or whether his 5 titles with Ferrari were due to tyres designed to his driving style, a team molded around him etc. But for the moment lets give him his dues. You did good Michael. Great in fact. We know no one can go on forever and the sport will be poorer for your departure. Salute!

Friday Free Practice saw the usual suspects at the front and Kamui Kobayahi gave a brief indication of things to come with a 6th quickest time in FP1. Of course, Fridays are pretty much for testing these days and collection of data from the allocated tyres – soft and hard for this race – so it’s difficult to gauge form. Giedo Van de garde got a session behind the wheel of the Caterham in place of Heikki Kovalainen and Valetrri Bottas (or #BOTTAS as he’s become known as on Twitter) drove the Williams. In FP2 Di Resta hit the barrier at Spoon and Schumacher followed suit a little while later. Kimi had a KERS issue in the Lotus garage and Petrov had a rear wing detach into Turn 1. Webber was fastest as we saw the first use of the soft rubber on a slowly gripping track.

Saturday Free Practice was one to forget for the Hulkster as he binned it at Degna 2 and that saw a compromised race for him due to gearbox issues – for which he accepted full responsibility. Meantime the Red Bulls were flying on the softs and it was looking like a “red-wash” in quali. Rumours were flying about regards a Red Bull DDRS which Adrian Newey would neither confirm nor deny.

Quali was indeed a Red Bull front row lock out but the biggest surprise was Kobayashi on the 2nd row! He gained a place after grid penalties were handed out but it was a great lap and the local crowd were in raptures! Kimi spun in the final moments and that put paid to Alonso’s flying lap, which he reckoned, would have been good enough for P4. We’ll never know. A string of penalties for gearbox changes and blocking saw plenty of changes to Sundays starting grid.

I was expecting to be bleary eyed come Sunday as I had bargained with the team that if I could have an early night Friday night I would do a karaoke night on the Saturday night. These sorts of nights don’t tend to finish early. We had decided to re-visit the Korean BBQ that we had tried a couple of nights before as the food was fantastic and we were mightily impressed with how they served the beer. The crew I was with were a lot of fun though I was glad when, after a few beers in the local Irish Bar (yep, there’s one if every city in the world!) we pulled the pin on karaoke and got an early night. (12am is early isn’t it?).

On the Sunday morning walk from the car park to the Paddock Club entrance the crowds were already thronging. Impressive. I was equally impressed with a fan that had replicated her worksite helmet to the top half of that of her favorite driver. The attention to detail was incredible. I was then asked if I would have my photo taken with them and I obliged. I’m certainly not famous. I don’t even remotely look like anyone famous. To get me into the cockpit would require a crowbar and a lot of chicken fat.

Sunday was a day that saw the title race tighten up once again as Alonso was taken out at the first corner and an incident that many drivers might think deserved another “holiday” for Grosean. I think Mark Webber handled the situation perfectly when he approached Grosean afterwards and allegedly said, “Look into my eyes Romain. You won’t be up here long if you keep doing things like that”. Considering the incident has pretty much put paid to Webbers title challenge (he’s now 60 points adrift), I think he showed great restraint.

It was a great result for Kobayashi as he equaled the best ever result for a Japanese driver at a home grand prix. Before the race he’d stopped the classic car that was taking him on the drivers parade in front of the grand stand that bore his name, ran over to the fence and waved to his fans. He didn’t let them down. The podium was equally special as Jean Alesi (looking like Sylvester Stallone) conducted the interviews and gave the crowd exactly what they wanted.

Overall it was a dominant performance by Vettel and Red Bull. Alonso must be seriously worried as there is now only 4 points difference between them, but a lot more than that in terms of current car performance. While the Ferrari (Alonso at least) has been the model of consistency across the year so far, you couldn’t say with certainty that it was ever the fastest. Fernando’s taken his chances and has been there to scoop more points when others haven’t. But at some stage during a title chase you have to expect a flat out drag to the finish line and when that happens, I know which horse (or Bull) I’d rather be on.

With the race done and dusted it was time to pack everything down. I wandered down to the garage to take out our camera and watched as the Sky Sports crew did their post race analysis in the pitlane. The car was back from the scrutineering and the smell of f1 fuel filled the garage as the mechanics started taking it apart and prepping it for shipping. Seeing a F1 car ready for shipping you would never believe it reaches the speeds it does. For every smooth flowing faring or rounded sidepod is essentially a box to protect it, making it look like it was designed by a 4 year old with lego.

By the time I left the circuit the main grandstand was still packed. The fans sit, they watch, they cheer, they take every bit of Formula 1 in that they can. I don’t think anyone gets more value for the admission price than Japanese fans.

Unfortunately the Japanese grand prix is no longer the last one on the calendar so there was no trip to the Log Cabin for me. No reminiscing about the year, belting out tunes and air guitar solo’s with an F1 Paddock with its guard down. I was even bought a beer by a world champion one year. Not that he knew who I was. I just happened to be in the right cabin at the right time.

Singapore Grand Prix – By Rita Xiume

For a great fan like me, for a person who lives loving F1 it’s a very special moment to be able to write “I was there” and to confirm that I really was in Singapore. I’ve been dreaming about that grand prix for many years. It’s a night race and it is a race that is at the same time as my birthday. And this year, I was there.

I left my home in Sicily on Wednesday and flew from Catania to Rome to Frankfurt and finally on to Singapore, A journey that has lasted over 24 hours. I landed at Singapore Changi airport on Thursday afternoon (it was morning in Europe but Singapore is six hours ahead). My dream was taking reality, it was my birthday and I was in Singapore. What more? I was there for F1, I was there to follow and support  my driver. I can imagine no more.

I went to the track on Friday and entered gate 2 to reach my seat in my stand. It was a massive disappointment when I realized that the track has sent me the wrong tickets. I’ve always chosen the grand stand tickets in front of Michael Schumacher’s garage. My seat this time was in sector A19 in front of Pastor Maldonado’s garage…

It was 3pm, FP1 was to start in three hours and it was raining cats and dogs but I had enough time to reach the tickets shop and to try to change my seat. The answer I received was “It’s impossible”.

I remained astonished. You can’t come from Sicily to follow Schumi and sit in front of a garage very far from him.

So I simply bought another ticket in front of Michael’s garage – sector A9 and I’ve run to reach my stand in time for free practice 1.

My view now was the view I’ve dreamed about for years, I could see Michael wearing his race suit, his helmet, his gloves and entering his WO3. I was finally happy and satisfied. So I turned my fan vision TV on and I connected it with Schumi’s on-board camera. That’s another thing I love to do. I usually follow Michael’s races from inside his car, so I really “feel” his race, I drive with him, I come close to the barriers, I move my neck and I pass the finish line.

Free Practice 1 begins at 6pm local time. It’s evening in Singapore and you can realize how unique the track is, lights and colors are so special and your feelings become very special too. You feel like you’re at your first race and if you think you’ve followed many races you can realize how special Singapore is. “Nothing else comes close” I read in a leaflet – and it’s true. You can almost touch the cars.

FP1 begins with the installation lap. Twenty minutes later Mercedes are 2nd (Rosberg) and 3rd (Schumi). At the end of the session that first result won’t appear true. Vettel is the quickest, Alonso who spent FP1 working on aerodynamics finishes 4th. The two McLaren’s are 2nd and 3rd. Webber is 6th and my driver finishes 14th.

FP2 starts at 9:30pm and the track is completely dry. Fifteen minutes later Button was first, Webber second, Schumacher third. Half an hour later, Senna hit the wall and damages his car. It stays on the track between T19 and T20. It’s a red flag. We stop and begin again with Michael 4th.

FP2 finishes with the same result as FP1 – Vettel first. Now Button is second, then Alonso, Webber, Hamilton. Rosberg 8th, Massa 9th, Schumacher 11th.

The first day is over. I go to my hotel but it’s hard to go to sleep. The feeling I have is unique, I wish I could just keep staying in my seat waiting for my driver…. But I have to go to bed.

And it’s Saturday. It’s really hot and damp here in Singapore. Free practice 3 begins at 6pm with the installation laps. At 6:43pm Webber hits the wall. At 6:58pm Petrov crashes and FP3 ends two minutes earlier. Vettel is still the leader, then Hamilton, Alonso, Massa 6th, Rosberg 8th, Schumacher 10th, Button 12th.

At eight o clock the qualifying session begins. I feel very excited. The atmosphere is unique. In Q1 Schumi sets a good time and he makes it into Q2. Petrov, Kovaleinen, Glock, Pic, Karthikeyan, De La Rosa are out.

Q2 begins. My driver is out of the top ten and in three-minutes, Q2 is over. He goes out his garage and sets a 1:47:823 … Wow! He’s 9th and he’s in Q3. Hulkenberg, Raikonen, Massa, Perez, Ricardo, Vergne and Senna are out.

Q1 begins. The Mercedes chooses to stay in the garage to keep a fresh set of tires for the race. Hamilton gets the pole position, then Maldonado, Button, Alonso.

And it’s race day!

Everybody in my stand is waiting for their driver and I’m also waiting for mine, dreaming about a Singapore 2013. Schumi hasn’t signed his contract yet but I really hope he will soon.

The drivers parade begins. For me it’s always a very special moment. Michael has lots of fans in the stand and there’s a lot of photographers around him, it’s hard to take pictures. He sits in his car, he smiles, he waves to us in the stand.

And finally, the starting grid takes shape. Schumi is just in front of me, so I take a few pictures. Then I go down next to him and shout all my support to him and that of all his true fans. He smiles and enters his WO3.

One light, Two lights, Three lights, Four lights, Five… My heart is in my mouth. The race starts.

His first pit stop is on lap 12 and on lap 13 he goes purple in sectors 2 and 3… I’m dreaming!

At lap 32, Hamilton is leading far ahead and suddenly he stops as his engine drops, later on we will know it’s been a gearbox issue. Now Vettel is the leader.

The safety car comes out on lap 33 after Karthikeyan crashes his car. On lap 34, Michael pits again. Maldonado stops on lap 37 for a hydraulic problem. Vettel is still the leader. Schumi is eleventh. The safety car comes in on lap 38..

On lap 39… The disaster.

Michael has a problem in decelerating his car and he crashes into Vergne. I look at the crash from my fan vision broadcasting from inside his car. He goes out. Both drivers are fine. Schumi apologizes.

My race is over!

What has happened? Can this crash influence Michael’s contract? Is there a chance for Michael in 2013? I hope so.

Vettel wins the race, Button is second, Alonso third. Then the podium celebration under fireworks …. I can’t celebrate. I simply go.

Three hours later I hear about the penalty that has been given to Michael … Ten grid positions in Suzuka.

The stewards do their job, I can understand. But I’m a ‘die hard’ fan and I’ll support Michael forever, whatever happens.

The newspapers have written a lot against my driver, however this is my dream, the last one that I’ve shared with my dad before his recent death.

Simply thanks Michael, thanks to you my dream is true. I really hope I can go to Singapore to support you next year.

But whatever happens, Nothing can change the fact that you will never leave our hearts. You love the ‘Tifosi’ like the ‘Tifosi’ love you.

Italian Grand Prix – By Rita Xiumé

The Italian Grand Prix at Monza, is always a very special moment for a true F1 fan. If the fan is Italian, it is even more special. But if this fan is ME, It’s unbelievable!

I have followed F1 since I was a little girl and I have seen countless Grand Prix in person. In this year alone, I have been to the pre-season test, Spanish, Monaco, British, German, Hungarian and now, the Monza Grand Prix. I will also be going to Singapore and Abu Dhabi.

The Italian Grand Prix is amongst my favorite. The atmosphere is unbelievable, second only to Silverstone. I can’t imagine life without knowing I’m going to Monza in 2013.

But this year has been more special than ever.

My weekend began from home. We made it to Monza in time for the Autograph session. This was crazy! My friends and I all share love for the same driver, the one and only Michael Schumacher. And despite the Ferrari drivers been in attendance, the biggest crowd was around Schumacher. I’ve been to several autograph sessions this year, but the Italian’s are different and if you go to Monza you can immediately see what I mean. It is even dangerous! People are behind some crowd control barriers and there is the true chance to fall upon them. But people go, they want to be there … there favorite driver is there so they go.

And the atmosphere becomes … unbelievable, but the day after you remember only a very nice feeling, the feeling to be “a part of a dream”.

I arrived on Friday morning and entered through the “Vedano” gate. I made my way to my stand, “Laterale Destra”. It’s always the same stand in every Grand Prix; my place is always in front of Schumi’s garage, next to his other fans.

And the show begins.

Practice one was an absolute dream. Everything went well for Schumacher and at the end of it all, he was top of the time sheets! I was delighted! I would follow Michael everywhere, even to the moon if he needed it. And this year, he needs the moon. I already mentioned that this weekend was very special to me, but the reason is because Michael still hasn’t announced if he will be with us in 2013, so after 21 years of loyal following, I may be obliged to stop. This could be my last Monza Grand Prix with Schumi. In 2006 I thought the same, but luckily, I was wrong.

Both Mercedes have shown good qualities in Monza, Schumi leading, Rosberg 3rd and Button in the middle.

We stop for two and a half hours. And I go down my stand and take pictures of the banners I can see. There are really some masterpieces. The once regarding Schumi and his future in F1 has a piece of my heart. I really cry reading them. How much we love him … and how much he loves us.

Practice two begins showing a different moment. The McLaren are the quickest, the Ferrari are third and fourth, Rosberg is fifth and my Schumi has DRS problems in his cars and he ends tenth.

Can go to the hotel now? No! Not at all! In Monza you can’t go if you haven’t waited for your favorite driver to pass. So people wait for one, two, three and even (like on Friday) five hours, but finally the driver appears. He stops in front of his fans who are shouting his name, he signs autographs, and he speaks with them. Michael’s fans shout “Schumi, Schumi”, he smiles looking at them and he realizes that even people with red hats are shouting. Everybody together is saying  “Please stay! Please don’t go! Please don’t leave us again!”

It’s difficult to be unbiased, but, biased or not, everybody on Friday was asking him to stay. I’ve done what I’ve been able to. My friends and I gave him a cup with a special inscription “Only Michael forever” Placed first in our hearts”, a T-shirt of our fans group and a special book with 300+ messages from his fans begging him not to leave again!

On Saturday morning I arrived early at the circuit like everybody. Here in Monza you can see the drivers when they arrive in their private cars or on their motorcycles (like Schumi). They stop with their fans and sign autographs for them.

Hamilton, again, leads practice, during the second session. He’s followed by Alonso, Di Resta and Massa. Schumi has a problem with KERS and can only reach 14th.

Finally, Qualifying arrives. During Q1 and Q2, Everybody is happy. Alonso is top of both sessions and looks likely to take pole position for Ferrari. But then Q3 turns everything on its head and Alonso can only make 10th place. Hamilton gets pole position, followed by Button and then Massa. Happily, Schumi is 4th place!

And finally Race Day arrives…

Schumi arrived on his motorbike. It’s possible to see him arriving under the tunnel that drives to the paddock. People see him, there’s a huge crowd around. It’s even dangerous for him as he arrives alone without “defense” and only at the end of the road his team helps him to reach the entrance.

Everybody begins to shout “Schumi, Schumi”. He looks around and smiles.

I follow him since 1991, since his first race.

I’ve never seen him smiling so much, as he was on Sunday morning. It was a true smile, a bright smile, I could even feel his heart thudding (mine was thudding more). He arrives at the crowd control barriers, security officers open them and close them after him.

People keep on shouting “Schumi, Schumi”.

He stops…

He looks at the crowd and finally he decides.

He turns around and he goes to his fans, because Italian people (and everybody there) are still his fans. He goes to a boy on a wheel chair, he takes a picture with him, his signs an autograph for him and he turns to the crowd, signing more autographs.

The other drivers arrive, everybody is cheering and they sign autographs for the fans.

It’s half past noon. I’m in my seat and the Drivers parade begins.

My stand is full of Schumi’s banners and I’m behind one of them with my camera. When he’s next to me, we all shout “Schumi! Here” asking him to look towards us and he moves his head, he notices us and the banners and he sends us a kiss. Was it his last kiss to us in Monza? No, it can’t have been the last one. The race that I’ve seen doesn’t me allow to think that.

The race starts at two o’clock without incident. Much to the delight of the tifosi, Massa makes it past Button and into 2nd. He nearly reaches 1st but Hamilton keeps him back. Alonso also has a great start, while Webber and Rosberg don’t start that well. Schumi tries to defend his position but he has to leave it and Vettel and Alonso overtake him using DRS just in front of my eyes. So Hamilton leads, Massa is 2nd, then Button, Vettel, Alonso, Schumi. The fight between Alonso and Vettel begins; it will end with a drive through given to the German driver.

On Lap 37, we hear Felipe Massa’s engineer saying “Take care of your tires, Alonso is behind you”. And Alonso overtakes Massa. The tifosi are ecstatic. They’re not as pleased when Perez overtakes both of them.

And my driver? Well, he finishes sixth and after the race he says that Monza has been a fun, even if it was a letdown after his performance on Friday, He was hoping to move further up the field. His battle with Kimi Raikonen ends with Kimi 5th and Michael 6th but a few meters after the finish line they’re one next to the other waving at each other. Good pals.

Then the podium ceremony, the champagne and interviews. My driver isn’t there as I’d wished he would be, but according to my heart he is there and he is the winner.

Once he told me that “Memories have to be kept in our hearts”. Well, I have many memories in my heart and most of them belong to Schumi! His motto has been “passion, perseverance, patience” and I hope in 2013 we can keep on fighting together. His fight from his car and mine from the stand in front of his box.

Will there be a Monza 2013? Will I write “I was there” next year? Is my dream sadly over? I don’t know, I hope not, F1 has to hope not too. But I’m sure that I’ll follow my King everywhere, even where the wheels have never rolled before.

BELGIUM GRAND PRIX – By Richard McGaw

Where do I start? Maybe from the beginning would help! My name is Richard and I’ve been a massive fan of F1 for over 20 years and I finally got the opportunity to go to my first Grand Prix and it was to the legendary Spa Francorchamps. At the time there was so much uncertainty over Spa staying on the calendar so I just had to go! To top it off it was going to my birthday so I was hoping for a great weekend for my favourite driver Jenson Button who I’ve followed for over 12 years and is my life, so you could say I was very excited!

I drove to Belgium from my hometown of Redhill, where we left just after lunch on Wednesday. It was my first time driving abroad so this was another experience for me.

I arrived in France without a problem and set upon my four hour drive to Hotel Du Casque in Maastricht where I was going to stay for the weekend. I rang my friend Anna whom I was meeting in the pit lane tomorrow, to let her know that I had arrived safely. Then I caught up with my twitter friends who were all wishing me well. I have to thank them.

Thursday came and I got up early, mainly because I couldn’t sleep that well with all the excitement. I was dressed in my Jenson & McLaren gear of course! Anna arrived at my hotel at 1pm wearing the same gear as me so everyone would be able to tell who our allegiance was with.

We arrived at the circuit for our paddock walk and the weather was glorious. The first thing we saw was Eau Rouge and it completely took my breath away and nothing can prepare you for seeing it in real life. The telly just doesn’t do it justice and I started to get all tingly inside! We took a walk down the pit lane and it was just incredible! Seeing my favourite sport in front of my very eyes. The first team we saw was Marussia and we went further down seeing all the team pits. The place was packed with all different fans and all were very friendly. We arrived at the McLaren garage and seeing Jenson’s name above his pits was so outstanding. When we arrived, they were doing practice pit stops and even though it was hard to see because of the crowds, it was a fantastic experience. To say I was happy was a bit of an understatement! All too soon it was over and we headed back to our hotel in preparation for tomorrows Practice session when I’d get to hear my first F1 car go for it. I couldn’t wait.

Friday arrived and it was my birthday! We were warned that the weather was going to be a bit dodgy so we came prepared… Or so we hoped! When we arrived at the circuit the weather was alright but the clouds above me were suggesting rain was coming.  But I didn’t mind, its Spa! We were sat opposite the McLaren & Red bull pits with the Podium directly above them, perfect seats! Hearing my first F1 car going for it was just incredible, such a raw animalistic sound but my joy was heightened when Jenson made his way out onto the track. I was finally seeing my hero on track, on my birthday at my first F1 race! It couldn’t get any better than this I thought.

FP2 was a bit of a washout because the rain was really coming down. Most teams only did installation laps apart a few which included Marussia who were celebrating their 50th Grand Prix. Their work paid off and they led the practice session! One thing that helped make the cold, wind & rain more bearable was that we were sat next some Ferrari fans that were incredibly friendly to us and really helped make my first race more fun. When it ended we went back to my car and I have never been so relieved to see it & to get into the dry! Still the weather hadn’t dampened my spirits. Bring on FP3 & Qualifying tomorrow!

Saturday morning came and the sun was shining bright. The drive to the circuit was fun but the queues were horrific so I was a bit crafty and jumped a lot of traffic by going in a different lane and saved myself about an hour. The Belgian police were very friendly and I appreciated them allowing me to get away with it!

We arrived at our seats and met our Ferrari friends who were happy to see us which I loved!

FP3 started and it was like I was expecting… Mental! All the cars were out on track making up for the lack of running yesterday. It was hard to keep track on what was going on as so much was happening. Luckily Anna had a fan vision monitor so we could keep track on the times. Jenson was well up there in FP3. I know only too well that practice is one thing and qualifying another so I wasn’t going to get my hopes up but I was still very excited! I tried to tweet pictures through the session to keep my friends up to date and let them know how it was going.

We went for a wander in between sessions and got some food and drink to keep our energy levels up. I treated myself to a new McLaren wallet to replace the one I’d had for years and then it was time for qualifying.

Sitting in our seats feeling the atmosphere build was better than I ever thought possible. Everyone around us was so excited for what we were about to see.

Q1 started and my driver Jenson was 2nd behind Pastor Maldonado but was on different tyres which I hoped would bode well for the next 2 sessions. Then it was over. 24 started the session, 17 made it out.

Q2 was very exciting as it’s when you expect one or two of the big boys to falter and we weren’t let down as Sebastian Vettel was 11th, Michael Schumacher was 13th & Felipe Massa was 14th. I was very happy as Jenson topped the session. Could it be possible that at my first qualifying session my favourite driver might get his first Pole Position for McLaren? No, that’s the stuff of dreams…

Q3 began and I was so full of nervous excitement! Jenson went out and put a fantastic lap down which was good enough for Pole but it was too early to be comfortable as it seemed most drivers were going to take one shot at it. Then everyone went out. Jenson’s lap was the one to beat and as each driver completed their final lap, Jenson was still in the lead. Then Jenson beat his own lap time and no one else had to finish a lap! Wow! Jenson got his first Pole Position for McLaren and he did it right in front of me! The place erupted around me! Anna and I were absolutely ecstatic, we started waving our flags like the mental fans we are! Such a great feeling of joy and pride being there!

Seeing my hero Jenson get Pole at my first race is a feeling I’ll never forget & I’d never want to forget.

My lovely twitter friends sent me so many congratulatory messages and a common theme was that I was Jenson’s good luck charm!

Could we dare believe that a Jenson win was on the cards? It only happens in fairy tales not in real life but Jenson has a habit of producing them. The Brawn season comes immediately to mind! Bring on the race tomorrow!

Sunday morning… Race day! We were up nice and early so we could see the driver’s parade before the race. The sun was shining which was a good sign! On the way to the circuit the traffic was even worse so I did the same trick I did yesterday & cut my car into the front of the queue & saved myself hours. Yet again the police were friendly and let us get away with it. I love the police there! We opened up the sunroof and had our Jenson & British flags waving which was such a great feeling as we were still buzzing from yesterday!

We arrived at our seats just in time for the Porsche Super cup race and as usual our lovely Ferrari friends were there & gave a big cheer when they saw us!

We settled down in our seats in preparation of the main event…my first F1 race!! Right in front of us they were preparing for the drivers parade lap and then all the drivers came out to sit in open top sports cars. It was such a fanfare of colour & noises which was very cool but also a lot to take in! Then it was over. The teams started to get the machinery onto the grid and the drivers did their one installation lap except I did notice Ferrari did a couple before they were pushed onto the grid.

If I thought it was noisy before, it was nothing compared to the build-up before the race which was fantastic. The tension was building and you could really feel the excitement in the air. My wish was granted as time flew by in a blur and eventually race time arrived.

The drivers completed their warm up lap and we were all on our feet waiting as the cars formed on the grid. If I thought the start was nerve wrecking at home its nothing compared to being there in a crowd, hearing and seeing 24 Formula One cars building up to start right in front of me! The noise was incredible.

Then the lights went out and they were off apart from Pastor Maldonado who jumped the start! My initial reaction was YES! YES! As Jenson got a great start but then my joy turned to concern as there was a horrific crash at the first corner taking out Hamilton, Grosjean, Perez and Alonso. Fernando didn’t get out of his car for a bit and we were all so worried for him. When he did get out of his car there was such an outpouring of relief that we all cheered! So glad he was ok! Obviously the safety car came out for a few laps while the wreckage was cleared. Lewis walked back to his pits and waved to us in the stands which we all appreciated.

The safety car went in and they were off again. I have to admit I was concerned for Jenson as I feared Raikkonen more than anyone else left on the grid but I needn’t have worried as Hulkenberg soon overtook him & I instantly relaxed a little. We were using the fan vision monitor to keep tabs on the gap that Jenson had to 2nd place and he was consistently increasing the gap. There were a lot of battles going on throughout the field and we were in a prime spot for cars exiting the bus stop chicane. Now it was time for Jenson’s one and only pit stop. We were hoping that they would have a good stop and they did with a fantastic 2.6 second pit stop!

The last laps were so nerve wracking especially when Vettel got up to 2nd but Jenson had it under control. Jenson kept a nice 14.3 second gap to Vettel which suited me fine! 4 laps from the end, Anna wanted to put on her rocket red top to celebrate the victory but I wouldn’t let her, in case we jinxed it! The last lap came and the monitors were focusing on Jenson. We were beginning to get more and more excited! Then he exited the bus stop chicane for the final time to win the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix and I’ll admit that I lost it a little. Quite a few tears flowed with me shouting his name out loads! I can’t fully describe how I felt other than I was one of the proudest, happiest people there! It was beyond all expectations and my dreams to see Jenson Button win at my first Grand Prix came to fruition. I know I’ve banged on about it but just to be there and to see my favourite driver dominate one of the greatest race tracks in the world right in front of me, is something I’ll hold dear for the rest of my life!

I came up with the hash tag #AlwaysBelieveInJenson on twitter, and I’ve never believed in him more. The man is a Legend in my eyes.

Anna and I were proudly draped in our rocket red flags. I think our whole stand thought we were nuts but every single one of them smiled when I caught their eye.

After it all calmed down, the four of us took a walk into Spa village and it was just one big party! Loads of music with so many happy fans and I loved being a part of it. I bought a fantastic framed pic of Jenson to go with my Spa T-shirt & Cap which I bought earlier.

It then dawned on me that my first F1 weekend was at an end but I was on such a high I never let it get me down. I just wanted to live off the feeling of pure joy forever!

I also have to thank my friend Anna who made the whole weekend possible. I owe her the world!

Jenson Button was the winner of the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix and I was there to see it!

Doesn’t get any better than that!

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