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2019 AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX PRE-RACE BLOG

I do like Baku. In fact, I wasn’t planning on doing this race but the attraction of the place got to me and here I am!

I like the really glitzy new parts of the city and the very scrappy old stuff.  I like the people, they are genuinely interesting and happy and it’s not expensive to stay here; e.g. my 15 minute Uber trip to the track this morning was US$2, albeit in this rather weathered vehicle.So what happened today? Well Charles Leclerc was the first driver into the paddock. He walked over the bridge from the Marriot Hotel (the tall building in the background here where almost all of the drivers stay) along with his manager Morgan Caron and his brand new press officer, Mia Djacic (left) who previously worked with Charles at Sauber last year (she’s a smart cookie). Sebastian Vettel was also relaxed as he entered the paddock with his two most important F1 people Britta Roeske (middle) and Antti Kontsas (right), giving me a smile and a V for victory or “peace” when he spotted me.  There’s a lot to be said for being out early and being the only photographer around. One of Australia’s greatest exports, Daniel Ricciardo, was all smiles as he went about his business in the paddock today, no doubt aware it was ANZAC Day back home. He was in the company of his trainer Michael Italiano, a fine young man with a pretty impressive physique and surname that would make Dan and his parents happy.  Daniel went for a seat fitting in the garage towards the end of the day.And after that, was all smiles as he exited the garage, and shortly after, exited the track.Sightings of Lewis were few and far between.   Seb will often stop numerous times as he enters the paddock to talk to a variety of people like he did here with Beat Zehnder from Sauber. Lewis on the other hand is totally focused on getting into the hospitality suite in the quickest time. Nico Hulkenberg has a new pair of racing boots for the weekend and they look like this.But what is going on with that look on his face as he returned from a lap around the track on foot? He’s just a lad!  Anyway, I did give him a copy of my wildlife book, Africa on Safari, so he’s probably poring through that in awe of the stunning photography right now as we speak…. or perhaps he’s put it straight up on eBay.

I found Elena Vasileva wandering the paddock.  I was first drawn to her interesting headware.  Then I saw her matryoshka doll (I know them as babooshka dolls) and suggested we display them on a table out the front of Mercedes’ suite.She hand painted them all and hats off to her, they are remarkable!  The Baku paddock is certainly unique with the ornate governmental building (which I gather is the same as our Australian parliament house) right behind it.And here is Pierre Gasly descending the stairs with that very building in the background. Finally, how about this guy, doing a somersault from a standing start rehearsing for the drivers’ parade presentation on Sunday.Right…. that’s enough ok! I have to  head off to the Baku F1 welcome party at the Buddha Bar in downtown Baku and will report back in my post-race blog.  More on Instagram over the next 3 days so make sure you’re following me @kymillman.


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