HURSDAY was the last real day of hope and optimism ahead of the long grind of the Formula 1 season ahead.
Opening practice on Friday sees everyone finally show their hand, crushing the dreams fostered by many in the off-season. But with no on-track action for F1’s stars today there was plenty of time to spend talking trackside.
And some did it a little better than others.
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8 YEAR OLD GIRL UPSTAGES MERCEDES CHIEF
Thursday saw the public launch of the Dare to be Different programme in Australia, an initiative set up by former F1 test driver Susie Wolff to increase female participation in motorsport.
Australia is the second country the program has rolled out to, with D2BD partnering with the governing body for motorsport in Australia, CAMS, who says it has received a lot interest from a number of schools to be involved, while 2016 Australian Rally Champion Molly Taylor has joined the program as an ambassador.
“I think everybody knows that this is a very equal-opportunities industry that we work in, moreso than a lot of sports,” Claire Williams, team principal of the Williams F1 team, said at the launch.
“Women can compete alongside the men, but we need more females coming into our sport. Sport is a meritocracy; we need the best talent that we can find to keep producing great and competitive racing teams, and to make sure that this sport survives into the future.”
Wolff was unable to be at the launch in person, with husband Toto Wolff, motorsports boss at Mercedes, attending in her place.
Although he may have wished he hadn’t, Williams throwing him under the bus with the world’s media.
As part of its rollout, D2BD brought a group of schoolgirls into the paddock for a special tour of the F1 garages – one of whom proved she knew a bit more about cars than the title-winning F1 team chief.
“One of the girls, Ella, came to me when I asked her what she knew about motorsport,” Williams explained. “She said ‘I know what a dipstick is, I know what it does.’
“On the walk here, I asked Toto if he knew what a dipstick was – and he didn’t!
“So the fact that little Ella, who’s only 8 years old, and Toto doesn’t, I think is great progress that we are promoting engineering into our young females of the future.”
To find out more about the new, Australian Dare To Be Different program, simply head to http://www.cams.com.au/DareToBeDifferent or visit the global site at daretobedifferent.org.
WAIT, I THOUGHT I WAS FOLLOWING YOU ON TWITTER?
In terms of social media presence, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are polar opposites.
Hamilton reguarly gives fans insights into his life both at and away from the circuit on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Vettel, on the other hand, has precisely zero social media presence.
Unbeknownst to the Mercedes man, it turns out, who thought he was one of Seb’s followers on Twitter.
“I thought you were on social media!” he asked his rival during the Thursday presser, to the laughs of everyone in the room.
“I think I’m following … someone.”
Vettel responded with: “Well, to whoever it is, congratulations! It’s not me.”
The moment came about after Vettel was asked if he would follow the lead of teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who started his own Instagram account late last year after years of holding out.
A Finnish journalist asked him: “Were you surprised that Kimi started an Instagram – and are you planning to follow the example?”
The reply was concise.
“‘Yes’, and ‘no’ are my answers,” he said, before adding with a smile, “Finnish answers. Short.”
‘ASK ME IN SIX MONTHS TIME’
It’s always a busy week for Daniel Ricciardo who, as the sole Australian on the F1 grid, always has a hectic schedule of media and public appearances in the lead up to his home grand prix.
A recurring theme amid all the questions thrown at him during the past few days has been his future.
Ricciardo is off-contract with Red Bull at the end of the season, leading to no shortage of poking and prodding to get a glimpse into whether he is likely to stay at Red Bull, or his potential destination should he decide not to.
“I feel like I’ve answered already so many like contract talks and we haven’t even got the first race of this year done so yeah, I’m just going to put all those talks on hold for a while,” Ricciardo said.
Adopting his trademark smile, he added: “Ask me in six months’ time.”
… AND VETTEL’S GONE THE UNDERCUT!
Look, it’s no Aaron Woods, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Vettel’s new haircut.
We’re not sure if he likes it, but at least he can joke about it.
“What is your hairdresser by profession?” he was asked by German outlet Bild.
“Vettel answered, smiling with his typically dry humor: ‘Butcher.’”
In any case, there’s got to be minor performance gain through weight saving there.
Haircut aside, Vettel has continued his tradition of naming his race cars.
The German’s SF71H has been christened ‘Gloria’ – a nod to his hopes for a successful season ahead?