D ie the 69th season of the formula 1 World Cup begins in Australia. In beautiful Melbourne. I know the second largest city in Australia from a vacation trip at the end of 2014. Melbourne is actually worth a trip every year, I think. A lively, pulsating metropolis on the water, open to all cultures, with a beautiful skyline - if it weren't for the distance to Germany. I'm going with the ICE on the Monday before the first Grand Prix 2018 at 10:41 am from Stuttgart to Frankfurt. I reach the hotel in Melbourne St. Kilda at around 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday night. Over 24 hours on the move: I'm exhausted.
The wrong apartment
Michael Schmidt is sleeping at this point. He's been in Australia since Friday. His way led him via Sydney to Melbourne. It is his 600th GP, which we will celebrate in a cozy restaurant after the race. For me, it's number 24 in a young career. Will I ever get to the 600? I do not believe that. But it would be nice.
After my trip from Frankfurt via Dubai, a surprise awaits in the hotel - an unpleasant one. I get the room key for apartment 7 at the reception desk. It is located in an annex that I can reach from the backyard. There are several empty wine bottles in front of my apartment. It gives me a bad feeling. I unlock the door, look around, and find a room heaped with clothes and alcohol. A bearded man looks at me from the bathroom. 'Hey mate, how is it going?' - Hello friend, how are you?
I was given the wrong key. I'm supposed to be in for the next six nightsApartment 7A sleep. After all: I live here alone. A bed, two bedside tables, a chest of drawers, a closet, a mini table, a dark carpet, a Spartan bathroom: not great, but you can take it. Jet lag plagues me for the first two nights. I sleep maybe two hours on the first night, maybe five hours in the second.
On Wednesday I meet with colleague Schmidt and Jens Nagler from the Bild newspaper in the lobby at 10 o'clock. We walk about half an hour to get accreditation. For the first time, I am allowed to collect my red paddock pass, which I share with my colleague Bianca Leppert, myself. The accreditation is located in the Australian Automobile Club on the fifth floor. It takes less than five minutes and I have my passport in my hands. I had to wait a month for my entry visa. I only received the document a few days before departure.
Mercedes is scary
We run for 20 minutes to reserve our seats in the press center and put the first photos online . On the remaining days we take the tram. It leaves in front of our hotel and takes us to the race track in Albert Park. You could say: Average hotel with a top location. On the Monday after the race I watch the big show of the little dwarf penguins at St. Kilda Peer. It only takes ten minutes to walk there from our hotel.
The show on the race track is on Lewis Hamilton. First. In the qualification, the world champion removes all opponents and hums the next best for seven tenths of a second. Teammate Valtteri Bottas fires his W09 into the lane. An impact of 27 g. The competition, especially Red Bull, speaks of a demonstration. Mercedes is vastly superior, and finally everyone has seen it. And after this show of force, Ferrari must finally wake up. Red Bull is calling for the engines to be aligned - otherwise Mercedes will never be stopped.
Like most of the people in the paddock, I had expected it. Mercedes was not only fast in the winter tests, the engineers were also extremely confident. I got the feeling that therea team knows for sure that it will be unbeatable this year. Some even joke that Hamilton and Mercedes will win all 21 races. How to be wrong.
One day later, Sebastian Vettel is beaming. A day later, Hamilton's mood has turned 180 degrees. Ferrari is missing a few tenths of a second per lap on Mercedes in the race, but the discrepancy is not nearly as dramatic as it was in qualifying. And a VSC phase gives Vettel the top position, which he will not give up after his only pit stop to the finish line.
In Melbourne, overtaking is practically impossible. You have to be 1.8 seconds faster for that. Hamilton desperate in the rear of the Ferrari. Kimi Räikkönen finished third in front of Daniel Ricciardo, Fernando Alonso and Max Verstappen, who spun in the early stages of the race and damaged his diffuser.
Hard bread, race Sunday
We only leave the press center towards 23 o'clock. Racing Sundays are tough bread. You underestimate that if you haven't even experienced one yourself. But hey, there's no reason to complain. I used to go to every Grand Prix when I wasn't prevented from doing it. And now I can be there myself eight times a year. Great.
At least a decent restaurant was open after the race. In St. Kilda, the curbs don't come up until late at night - if at all. The days before we were spoiled with food. Especially on Wednesday and Thursday evenings. On the Wednesday before the race, we are drawn to a steak house. The Vlados: There Sebastian Vettel gives his cars nicknames. A visit there is tradition, as Schmidt and Roger Benoit from Schweizer Blick keep telling me.
$ 120 for an outstanding menu. I still have to swallow. This does not cover an expense schedule. However, I think you should treat yourself to this luxury once a year. Grilled sausage as a starter, different types of meat such as lamb, beef, pork as an intermediate course and a beef fillet as the main course: brutally delicious. The next tradition and the next excellent dinner await on Thursday: We go to a Chinese restaurant in downtown Melbourne: there are lamb spring rolls and duck.
What else do I remember? My foray through Melbourne on the Monday after the Grand Prix, after I had written a few background stories at the hotel. The supercars show as part of the Formula 1 supporting program. My long background discussion with Jörg Zander, the Sauber technical manager at the time, on Sunday morning. My interview with Red Bulls Christian Horner on Thursday. HaasF1's double failed pit stop, which cost Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen their place behind the top teams. The deposit of the fighter planes on the Saturday before qualifying, when practically the entire paddock looked at the sky. What a hell of a noise.Many a fan would wish that the Formula 1 engines would make the same noise - even four years after the introduction of the hybrid engines ...
In our photo show we give you impressions from our GP week in Melbourne.