In 2009, I was doing a six-month internship in Sydney, Australia, at Marketing Mechanics. Since Melbourne was really close, I bought tickets to the Australian Grand Prix.
I arrived in a dirty and cheap hostel, and had a roommate from France, who was a huge Lewis Hamilton fan. I was reading a book from 2001 by Dutch commentator Olav Mol, and read that Mclaren had an annual lunch on St. Kilda beach, on the Wednesday afternoon before the Australian Grand Prix. I told my roommate, but he didn’t believe me, so come Wednesday I went alone.
When I arrived on St. Kilda Beach, I saw the team of Force India, instead of McLaren. Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella on roller skates! There were only a handful of journalists, and suddenly I saw Olav Mol! I had a great chat with him, I mentioned that I had read about the beach in his book. I also chatted with Sutil and Fisichella, and wished them luck for the race. A journalist told me McLaren would be there the next day…
So I got back at the hostel and told my roommate. He still didn’t believe me, until I showed him the photos. When we arrived on Thursday, Ron Dennis and Martin Whitmarsh parked their car and we were somewhat starstruck. They went into the restaurant, in which obviously we weren’t allowed, so we waited for the drivers to finish their interviews and lunch. Lewis Hamilton came walking out and we both got autographs. I quickly said ‘Goodluck Lewis!’, and he smiled: ‘Thank you’. Kovalainen didn’t wait and rushed to his car, but Pedro de la Rosa was nice and waited for us and gave his signature too.
My hostel-roommate was the happiest McLaren fan in the world, he couldn’t believe he just met Lewis Hamilton. Back at the hostel we made the bet (me wearing a Ferrari jumper) that if Mclaren would finish ahead of Ferrari, I’d give him a bottle of rum (and vice versa).
The race was a big shock and won by Jenson Button in the new BrawnGP. Hamilton finished third, ahead of any Ferrari driver, so I bought him a bottle of rum which we both enjoyed. After that we parted ways. He went on a roadtrip in Australia, I went back to Sydney to complete the internship. We didn’t exchange Facebook or email or anything.
When I was back in Sydney, Hamilton was disqualified in which was called ‘Lie-gate’, putting Ferrari ahead of McLaren. It meant the Parisian guy should have paid the bottle of rum, yet I didn’t mind; I had an awesome weekend.