The fight against jet lag, struggling against your body telling you to sleep, for those who are there. The alarm ringing way too early, the tip-toeing around the house, still dark, for those watching from home. The Australian Grand Prix is a race that exacts a toll - very often in the shape of sleepless nights - from all those who work in Formula One or follow our beloved sport from home.
Witnessing - whether in person or not - the start of a new Formula One season is something that takes effort. The teams embark on the longest trip of the season, spending the best part of 24 hours in the narrow confines of a plane. It's a trek that no amount of on-board movies or literature can make any lighter; it hits your body and your soul. Fans watching from home haven't got it any easier. In the blueish light of a TV screen, they brave the night, not without a hint of pride, to watch every session, every minute of action. Bags under the eyes are a mark of honour, a battle scar separating the true believers from the casuals - but has pride ever made a 4am wake-up call any easier?
There's a certain symbolism in all these efforts. The long, cross-planet trip to Australia pales in comparison with the months that led to the birth of a new car: the thousands and thousands of work hours by every team member, the countless meetings, the sweat and tears each one of these journeys entails. The fans, they too endure a long time of silent suffering as they wait for Formula One to come back: a long winter of waiting, the growing sense of expectation, the longing for the first beats of THAT opening sequence. Like the teams, they are awaiting this weekend, projecting their hopes and dreams on the new cars that will take to the track on Friday.
The Australian Grand Prix does exact a toll, but all are ready to endure whatever is asked of them to be on the grid - in the flesh or in the soul. Teams and fans alike, we do this year after year. This is what passion looks like.
Frederic Vasseur: "The season may only be starting, but the first race already feels like a milestone after all the months of work in the factory and the two weeks of winter testing. We come to Melbourne eager to find out how we compare to our rivals: whatever the outcome, we will not rest on our laurels or despair. This first round is the start of a new chapter, one in which we aim to make progress week after week: the goalposts move every new race as we, as well as our rivals, develop our car, so we will need to be delivering our best from here to Abu Dhabi."
Kimi Raikkonen: "It doesn't really matter if it is the start or the end of the season, every race is worth the same amount of points and is an occasion to do our best. It is always hard to predict our performance for the first race of the season. Even though we gave our best during the six days of winter testing in Barcelona, we will first know where we really stand after Australia. All the team worked hard to improve even more the car in comparison to last year. We all did our homework and I am confident that we can achieve good results in Melbourne.
Antonio Giovinazzi: "I am really looking forward to the start of the season. You build up the excitement throughout winter testing, every day you are in the car, but it's only when you sit in the cockpit in Melbourne for the first time that you really feel the emotion in your veins. I am no longer a rookie this year, so I feel better prepared for the weekend than twelve months ago: now we only need to get on track and see where we stand."