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Nicole Kidman

Melbourne Diary: Forget about Nicole, I met Moko!

Nicole Kidman

Saturday

Quali day in Melbourne started with a prayer to the motorsport gods – both for Ferrari to erase the gap to Mercedes, and the 30% chance of rain at 5pm to actually happen.

Either the motorsport gods were too busy (I hear Giedo van der Garde won’t stop asking for a drive) or like a Kimi Raikkonen interview, they weren’t really listening, because I got half an answer.

A few sprinkles, a few tenths behind Lewis, but not quite enough to upend all the pre-season expectations. Still if you’re a Ferrari fan you’ve got to be happy Vettel is clearly on it, and beating Bottas is a huge victory.

At the other end of the grid, I’m kind of worried about Lance Stroll. Most teenagers have to worry about crashing out with the girl they like, not with a $100-million piece of machinery while 100,000 people look on. We already have “hasstrollcrashedyet.com”, and at this rate it won’t be long before he starts promoting Venezuela and espousing the values of Bolivarian socialism.

Off track things were even more interesting, as I fulfilled a lifelong dream of meeting my favourite celebrity. And while most people went mad over Nicole Kidman – including the Japanese contingent in the press room, who chased after her, presumably to see if her face still moves – my eyes were only for F1 “superfan” Moko.

If you don’t know who Moko is, well… no one does really, that’s kind of the point. A native of Senegal who lives in France, he travels to all the races on the back of the fortune he made in “fashion”, and being a super-nice dude he’s become a permanent fixture in the paddock. Forget the drivers, you know you’ve made it in F1 when you’ve got a permanent accreditation lanyard that just says “Moko”. What a legend.

The other thing walking through the paddock I noticed is you see how easy it is for rumours to start. For instance, McLaren team principal Eric Boullier was outside the Mercedes suite speaking to some bloke in a Mercedes uniform.

Given their current plight it would be easy to jump to conclusions (expect us to lead this site tomorrow with “Boullier offers first-born for Mercedes engine supply”), but the truth was much simpler – the Mercedes man was Pascal Wehrlein’s agent (who’s in denial about his charge being at Sauber apparently), and Boullier was checking up on Wehrlein following his withdrawal from the race.

Makes me think all those meetings between the Red Bull brass and Renault in 2015 might not have been so dramatic, but hey, if there’s a fuel that burns best in professional sport, it’s rampant speculation.

Melbourne Diary by Ben Stevens at Albert Park for GrandPrix247