Allan McNish diary 2003-03-12 Excitement Down Under From Silverstone it was straight to Melbourne. I was able to stopover in Hong Kong and see if it had changed since my last trip in 1989 when I raced in the Macau F3 Grand Prix. Apart from a...
Allan McNish diary 2003-03-12
Excitement Down Under
From Silverstone it was straight to Melbourne. I was able to stopover in Hong Kong and see if it had changed since my last trip in 1989 when I raced in the Macau F3 Grand Prix. Apart from a new airport and more buildings on newly reclaimed land it hadn't changed too much and still had the buzz of excitement that I loved the first time.
Now we're at the race itself it is time to put everything into practice. Renault have opted for the Heathrow agreement which means three cars testing on Friday and limited test days through the season so we really have to maximize our time on the track and make sure everything we do is 100% specific. Hopefully all the work we have done over the past few months will give us a good grounding for the season ahead.
My first day at the track was Thursday, it was good to be back after a long winter, glad anticipation is over, with it being the first race there was a burst of press interviews just before going through the programme with the engineers for Friday morning.
Friday used be a leisurely start to the weekend with a 10.00 am meeting, on track at 11.00 and then on from there. Now I'm up at 6.00 am, with a 7.30 meeting, 8.30 on the track and after two hours, my weekends' driving is over, it felt very odd and very, very early, (all the journalists agreed).
We had a good start to our Friday testing, my main job was the tyre test, as last year Michelin brings a couple of different types of tyre that we have the choice of, and as before, having made the decision you cannot change. Therefore it is important to get it right, so I concentrated on longer runs and completed 46 laps, which is nearly a race distance. Jarno and Fernando did more chassis work and started to look at the new Friday one lap qualifying.
The circuit was a bit slippery as it is a street track through Albert Park that is used by normal traffic for most of the year, but it soon came up to speed and actually felt better than last year by the end. I think the day went well from a team and personal point of view with us all completing everything we wanted and getting a good idea of how we would perform in all conditions.
After the session was over we had our technical meeting and then I watched the rest of the weekend, listening to how the team worked and giving input if I could be useful. As reserve driver I have to be 100% up to speed in all aspects as it is possible I could be called upon to race even as late as Saturday.
This weekend obviously had the new regulations and it was very interesting to see how everyone would cope with the relative uncertainty. I particularly enjoyed qualifying on Friday where they were into the new one lap format, it was very easy to see the drivers with experience, the ones that were not really comfortable with the car and the ones who were out to perform. Michael was very conservative and keeping off most of the kerbs, Rubens was going for it (and was quickest) as were both BAR's but many others made a mistake at the first corner ruining their lap immediately. Again on Saturday the same things came out, however, now it was more difficult to tell their real speed due to the possible differences in fuel amounts for the start of the race. The main losers due to errors were David Coulthard, Kimi Raikkonen and both Renaults (having been first and third in the morning).
To throw more drama into the mix it rained just before the race making tyre choice hard, some people were on wets, some on grooves. After two laps grooves were definitely the right choice with the Renaults up to second and third, the Toyota of Panis just behind after dropping from fifth on the grid to tenth in one lap and eventual winner David Coulthard last after a pit stop for grooves on lap three. The race then moved back and forth with people recovering from early stops, fuel strategy and tyre choice and was eventually decide in favour of David. It was the first time Ferrari hadn't been on the podium since 1999!!!
I think the rain spiced the race up as much as the new regulations but whichever way you look at it there was lots of overtaking and an exciting race until the end. A good friend Graeme Cross from Dumfries, who was visiting a Grand Prix for the first time summed it up perfectly between sips of champagne, "a great race and a Scotsman won, Scotland won at Rugby and Celtic beat Rangers in the Old Firm Match at football. Not a bad day."
I'm off to Thailand for some warm weather training before heading to Malaysia for next weekend's Grand Prix.