2012 Australian GP Diary: Days One and Two

Formula One is back! Oh, how good is this?
At last, our beloved sport returns for another season, and it’s all kicking off at Albert Park in Melbourne – the city in which Box Of Neutrals rather fortuitously lives. And, in what can probably be described more as ‘administrative error’ than fortune, our team has once again been accredited as bona fide members of the media! That entire industry really is taking a bit of a beating…
Administrative error really was the most applicable phrase to use here – despite Rob, Peter, and myself all being accredited as media, only Rob received the confirmation letter. Mine didn’t arrive, but my press card was waiting for me at the collection point – albeit desperately misspelt. As for Peter, his card simply no longer exist – as he would put it – and had to have one made up on Thursday morning. And apparently he works for ‘FYN Radio’. Go figure…
But these little glitches are bound to happen when an event of such scale gets underway. We can hardly get through a ninety minutes radio programme without some piece of equipment catching fire – so we applaud the people of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation for their work – and for laughing appropriately at Peter McGinley’s name.
But let us move on. As I did last year, I thought I’d keep a diary detailing some of the things Box Of Neutrals gets up to over the course of the Australian Grand Prix weekend – which lasts five days, as it happens. What a glorious weekend it is. And since there’s no Formula One action until Friday, I’ll start with Wednesday and Thursday, condensed into a single super-entry, as to which this post shall now be referred.
My alarm should’ve gone off, alerting me to the fact that I must wake up to produce the breakfast radio programme Get Cereal on SYN.
I wake up and realise I need to leave as quickly as possible. I fall down some stairs on my way to the car. I make it to the studio on time and do a mediocre fantastic job at producing the show.
Rob and I head down to a media event at Princes Park in Carlton. Daniel Ricciardo is set to partake in the cliche but inevitable ‘Formula One driver learns to kick football with footballers on a football ground’ type things – which does strike me as somewhat redundant as Ricciardo grew up in Western Australia, where football is taken fairly seriously.
The afternoon starts with Ricciardo kicking a football with two Carlton players (whose names escape me) for around ten minutes, after which the standard doorstop interview takes place, and the media is invited to ask questions of Ricciardo and our two anonymous footballers. Surely I needn’t remind you, dear reader, of the fact that Ricciardo is one of just twenty-four Formula One drivers in the world, and will stay put in Melbourne for only a handful of days.
After three or four expected football-based questions are asked of Ricciardo – did you grow up playing football (yes), what’s your favourite team (West Coast), do you have a favourite Coldplay song (The Scientist), the Melbourne media then proceeds to speak only to the Carlton players flanking our young driver about topics including the (totally pointless and, at times, comical) AFL preseason. And then the doorstop is over. No more questions.
While this is immensely frustrating, we do have some excellent footage and audio of Rob and I becoming completely fed up with the fact that Formula One isn’t so much as being acknowledged, then by a cameraman standing on our microphone leads. I imagine all that will appear online next week sometime.
To make matters worse, the somewhat more professional press conference – during which only four or five of the fifteen present journalists asked Formula One-based questions – was also punctured by the occasional vapid football question, including the completely air-headed and unforgivable ‘what’s the difference between football and motorsport’.
Though Rob and I left feeling rather unfulfilled, it must be said that Ricciardo seems like a top-notch guy. But that’s about all the insight we got.
Lunch. We try to figure out how to download video from the camera to the computer. We collect our media passes, then spend the remainder of the afternoon watching penguin webcams until…
…we see Joe Saward! An Audience With Joe – the annual event during which Joe Saward fields questions from the audience with a microphone that fails every ten or so minutes. As expected, thoroughly entertaining. We spoke to Joe a week or so ago about the upcoming season, and it was good to be able to expand on some of those points over a night that lasted four or so hours. Plus he recognised us at the end, which went some way to inflating our egos, more so. It’s probably also worth mentioning that Rob left his credit card at the bar. Not because he’s a raging alcoholic, though, I’ve been told.
My alarm goes off as expected, thus waking me up to prepare for our interview with Olav Mol at the painful hour of 6AM. However, as expected, it was all worth it to catch up with good ol’ Olav.
We had originally planned to have dinner with the world’s favourite Dutchman this year, but the financial crisis currently biting Europe means that RTL Netherlands opted to save its pennies and keep Olav at home for the opening flyaway races. It’s a shame, really – I’d love to give him a mini-tour of the areas surrounding our studio, including the bit of footpath where Peter stepped in dog faeces on the way to the studio, or where the stripper we hired McGinley hid and waited for his moment to strike.
You’ll be able to hear Olav Mol on this week’s episode of Box Of Neutrals, or you can wait around til early next week for the full, unedited, and somewhat explicit full interview. I’ll be upfront with you: there is a significant number of dick jokes featuring in the hour-long edition. What a guy.
Rob and I embark on a journey to Albert Park for the first official event day. Breakfast was complimentary for us, but we were mortified to hear that it included a bottle of orange juice, a muffin, and a sausage sizzle. After some deep breaths, I called Peter immediately to warn him – and boy did he sound displeased. He took a lot of his anger out on me – but I know it’s just his way of dealing with the closure of Sizzler in the state of Victoria. Vale.
Visit what was first billed as a FOTA Fans’ Forum. Soon learnt that it was not run by FOTA, and questions were not open to the attending fans. We were also originally promised Martin Whitmarsh – though I’m willing to forgive him for not turning up, as I assume his jet pack was incompatible with the rain falling at the time.
I begin to fall asleep inside the media centre courtesy of two almost sleepless nights in a row. I open up a penguin webcam, which keeps me company until I regained my energy. They were so cute.
We meet up with Ben Edwards for a casual chat. Ben scored the role of lead commentator for the BBC this year after Martin Brundle switched to Sky F1. We spoke to Ben earlier in the year about the art of commentating. He seemed like a nice guy then, and appeared roughly doubly as nice in person. Top notch guy. Shame Network Ten will be carrying the Sky commentary – though I’ve no doubt this will also be excellent.
We it down in the studio to record various bits and pieces for the upcoming episodes. Peter McGinley briefly turns into Allen Jones as he complains about the dust in the studio.
Now I’m writing this.
So I hope that gave you a small glimpse into the exciting life we lead through Box Of Neutrals.
Formula One fires up for 2012 this weekend, and we’ll be covering it all over the place:
If you’re in Melbourne, 3PM on SYN Radio this afternoon is the place to listen.
If you are, for whatever reason, in Phuket, you can catch us at 9AM this Saturday morning.
If you’re relying on iTunes, you may have to wait until Monday – at which poitn significant parts of the episode will be out of date. But at least you’ll have fun poitning out all the predictions we got wrong.

 You can follow me on Twitter, if you have nothing better to do: @MichaelLamonato


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