The Tension Behind the Scenes at the 2018 Australian Grand Prix
The 2018 Australian Grand Prix was hyped up to be one of the greatest on-track seasons to date, following an exciting 2017 Formula One season.
While the on-track action was the focus of the weekend back in April, there was plenty of off-track action going on that the regular punters may have missed or otherwise been unaware of.
For the Supercars Championship, it was the first time Australia’s premier motorsport category was racing for points at the Grand Prix, previously only racing for round points, which didn’t go towards the championship total.
Despite still occupying the garages at the entry of the pit lane, the Supercars paddock promised to increase the level of competition and professionalism over the weekend, something it didn’t fail to deliver.
On-track, it was action aplenty as the year’s championship fight resumed after the last races in Adelaide, this time it was four different drivers who won the four races in Melbourne, showing just how close the racing is amongst the 26 drivers.
Off-track there was escalating drama and tension surrounding the freshly formed composite panel debate after the domination of Holden’s new Commodore in round one ruffled some feathers.
The main drama was due to the new car’s body panels being made of composite materials as opposed to the traditional mild steel or aluminium, making it lighter while teams running the Ford or Nissan were stuck with their old panels.
Coming in to Melbourne, all manufacturers were allowed to run the lightweight panels but only a handful were made, forcing teams to ration them out to their drivers with the typically heavier pilots being given the advantage.
There was tension with the media in Thursday’s post-practice press conference when Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard, team mates at DJR Team Penske, refused to tell the journalists at the time who was running what parts, acting like it was the biggest secret since Watergate.
David Reynolds, the winner of the last race of the weekend on Sunday, shared laughter when he and the other podium finishers finally made their appearance to the press conference an hour late, due to commitments with Foxtel who were broadcasting the weekend.
Reynolds is the class clown of the series, drinking champagne out of his race boot every time he wins (the shoey). His elation carried over to the press conference where he could hardly get through a sentence without adding in expletives, making it hard to publish his comments.
In the Formula One world, the paddock was full of familiar faces, drivers past and present socialising, preparing and generally enjoying the first race of the year.
Past drivers like 2016 champion Nico Rosberg, multiple race winner Mark Webber and crowd favourite Robert Kubica were seen hanging around the garages, actively engaging with those around them.
Kubica seemed to be the most reserved in the paddock, missing out on a full-time drive this year with the Williams team after nearly severing his hand in a rally crash back in 2011, all but ending his Formula One career.
The Pole tentatively listened to conversations between journalists and Sergey Sirotkin, the driver who effectively took his place in the team for 2018, thanks to bags full of money courtesy of the Russian SMP Bank. This is a story in itself given the international sanctions on the monetary institution.
An upside for fans is the sheer number of cameras around the track, which focus on the cars, drivers and teams. Very little can go unnoticed or unseen which can be a positive but can also hold the stars we pay to see to a higher level of scrutiny.