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Australian Grand Prix

The Australian Grand Prix is a Formula One race that is part of the annual Formula One championship season. It is held at the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit at Albert Park in Melbourne. The event was held annually since 1928 at various venues in Australia, before it became part of the Formula One championship in 1985. The race was held at the Adelaide Street Circuit in Adelaide from 1985 to 1995, before moving to Melbourne in 1996.

The Australian Grand Prix is the first round of the Championship, having been the first race of each year, excluding 2006, since the event moved to Melbourne. During its years in Adelaide, the Australian Grand Prix was the final round of the Championship, replacing the Portuguese Grand Prix in that respect. As the final round of the season, the Grand Prix hosted a handful of memorable Grand Prix, most notably the 1986 and 1994 event which saw those respective titles decided.

In terms of Grand Prix victories, Michael Schumacher and Ferrari are the most successful driver and team respectively. David Coulthard, Rubens Barrichello and Giancarlo Fisichella are the only drivers to have started every single Melbourne race.

In November 2006 ING became the naming rights sponsor of the Australian Grand Prix in a three-year deal.

History

Origins

Australian Grands Prix, which were not part of the World Championship but did feature F1-style open-wheeler racing vehicles, were held at various circuits around Australia for many decades, dating back into the 1920s, making the race one of the oldest surviving races today. Like the French Grand Prix the race wandered from circuit to circuit for much of its life, and was for a time rotated amongst the states of Australia. The race was held at Australia's most famous racetrack, Mount Panorama Circuit four times between 1938 and 1958. Another notable venue in the 1950s was a road circuit at Albert Park in Melbourne, on two occasions. In this era Lex Davison won the race four times, a record that would last until 2004 when it was equalled by Michael Schumacher. In the 1960s the race was an integral part of the Tasman Series which attracted the leading Formula 1 teams of the day and also influenced the careers of a generation of Australian and New Zealand drivers on their way to Europe with Jack Brabham, Denny Hulme and Bruce McLaren prominent figures of the era. During the 1970s the race lost its international lustre as a Formula 5000 race. The early 1980s regained some of lost glory when leading Formula 1 drivers were hired to race in Formula Atlantic cars at Calder Park Raceway. The Atlantic era was dominated by Roberto Moreno, winning three times against star-studded fields. The last domestic Grand Prix was held in 1984.

Formula 1

Australia became part of the F1 world championship in 1985 with the last race of the season held on the street circuit in Adelaide. The circuit, whilst not as tight as Monaco, was notoriously tough on drivers and gearboxes. The Adelaide Street Circuit, which held its last Formula One race in 1995, has often been stated as being one of, if not, the greatest street circuits in the world. Whenever the teams came to Adelaide they enjoyed the party atmosphere.

In 1993 prominent Melbourne businessman Mr Ron Walker AC CBE, current Chairman of the Australian Grand Prix began working with the then Kennett government to make Melbourne the host of the event. After the government of Jeff Kennett spent an undisclosed (but speculated to be quite large) amount, it was announced in late 1993 (days after a South Australian election) that the race would be shifted to a rebuilt Albert Park street circuit in Melbourne. The race moved to Melbourne in 1996. The decision to hold the race there was controversial. A series of protests were organised by the "Save Albert Park" group, who claimed that the race turned a public park into a private playground for one week per year. Additionally, they claimed that the race cost a great deal of money that would be better spent, if it were to be spent on motor racing, on a permanent circuit elsewhere. Finally, they said that the claimed economic benefits of the race were false or exaggerated. The race organisers and the government claimed that the economic benefits to the state outweighed the costs, and highlighted that the park's public amenities have been greatly improved from the World War II vintage facilities previously located at Albert Park; the Melbourne Sports and Aquatc Centre (scene of many Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games events) being the centre piece and best known of the revitalised facilities.

The idea of a permanent racing circuit has never really been addressed, but there is much speculation that the real reason for a street circuit is to provide a distinctive backdrop for television - a permanent race circuit would be unidentifiable and, from the perspective of the Formula One organisers, may as well be held in Europe at much lesser cost and inconvenience to them. In any case, a substantial number of people do embrace (and attend) the race at the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit.

The Melbourne era

Bernie Ecclestone, the president of Formula One Management, the group that runs modern-day Formula One in conjunction with the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), once famously said that it took 10 minutes to do the deal with Melbourne that would see the Victorian capital host the Australian Grand Prix from 1996. It is thought that Melbourne’s unsuccessful quest to stage the 1996 Olympic Games, and the subsequently successful bid by northern rival city Sydney to host the 2000 Olympics, was a driving force behind Melbourne’s motivation to wrest the Australian Grand Prix away from Adelaide.

Albert Park, within easy reach of the Melbourne central business district, became home to the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. A 16-turn circuit, which measures 5.3 kilometres in its current guise, was built utilising a combination of public roads within the park. The circuit is renowned as being a smooth and high-speed test for Formula One teams and drivers, and its characteristics are similar to the only other street circuit set in a public park currently used for a race in the Formula One World Championship, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Canada.

The promotional theme for the first race in Melbourne was “Melbourne – What a Great Place for the Race”. Some 401,000 people turned out for the first race in 1996, which remains a record for the event. The logistics of creating a temporary circuit and hosting an event of the magnitude of a Formula One Grand Prix from scratch weren’t lost on the international visitors, with Melbourne winning the F1 Constructors’ Association Award for the best organised Grand Prix of the year in its first two years of 1996 and 1997.

The move of the Australian Grand Prix to Melbourne saw a change in the time of year that the F1 teams and personnel made their annual voyage Down Under. Adelaide, for each of its 11 years, was the final race of the F1 season, usually in October or November, while Melbourne has been the first race of the season in every year since 1996 with the exception of 2006, when it was the third race of the year to allow for the Commonwealth Games to take place in the city. As such, the Albert Park circuit has seen the Formula One debuts of every prominent driver in the last decade. 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve made his race debut in Melbourne’s first year of 1996, and became one of three men to secure pole position in his maiden Grand Prix. Other prominent names to debut in Melbourne are two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Räikkönen in 2001, and Australia’s current F1 driver, Mark Webber, in 2002.

As part of celebrations for the 10th running of the event at Albert Park in 2005, Webber drove his Williams F1 car over the Sydney Harbour Bridge in a promotional event, and the Melbourne city streets hosted a parade of F1 machinery and V8 Supercars, Australia’s highest-profile domestic motor sport category.

Races in Melbourne

It took just three corners for the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park to gain worldwide attention. On the first lap of the first race in 1996, Jordan’s Martin Brundle was launched into the air in an enormous accident. Footage of the crash, and Brundle’s subsequent rush back to the pits to take the spare car for the re-start, ensured the first race in Melbourne gained widespread coverage. The race was won by Williams’ Damon Hill. The 1997 race saw McLaren, through David Coulthard, break a drought of 50 races without a victory. The next year was a McLaren benefit, with Mika Häkkinen and Coulthard lapping the entire field en route to a dominant 1-2 finish. The result was clouded by controversy when Coulthard pulled over with two laps remaining to allow Häkkinen to win, honouring a pre-race agreement between the pair that whoever made it to the first corner in the lead on lap one would be allowed to win. Ferrari won its first Grand Prix in Melbourne in 1999, but it wasn’t with team number one Michael Schumacher. Irishman Eddie Irvine took his maiden victory after the all-conquering McLarens of Häkkinen and Coulthard retired before half-distance. Schumacher broke his Melbourne drought the following year when he headed a dominant Ferrari 1-2 with new teammate Rubens Barrichello.

The 2001 event, won by Michael Schumacher, was marked by tragedy when volunteer marshal Graham Beveridge was killed after a high-speed accident involving Ralf Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve on lap five. Villeneuve’s B.A.R rode up across the back of Schumacher’s Williams and crashed into the fence, behind which Beveridge was standing.

The start of the 2002 race saw pole-sitter Barrichello and Williams’ Schumacher come together at Turn One in a spectacular accident that saw 11 of the 22 cars eliminated before the end of the opening lap. Michael Schumacher dominated thereafter to post a third straight Melbourne win, but his achievements were overshadowed by the fifth place of Australian Mark Webber on his Formula One debut. Webber, in an underpowered and underfunded Minardi, had to recover from a botched late pit stop and resist the challenges of Toyota’s Mika Salo in the closing stages, and took to the podium after the race with Australian team owner Paul Stoddart in one of Melbourne’s more memorable Grand Prix moments.

The next year, 2003, saw Coulthard again win for McLaren in a race held in variable conditions. Normal service was resumed in 2004 with the Ferraris of Schumacher and Barrichello running rampant – within two laps of Friday practice, Schumacher had obliterated the Albert Park lap record, and sailed to a crushing win.

In 2005, the race was won by Renault’s Giancarlo Fisichella after a storm during Saturday qualifying produced a topsy-turvy grid. Barrichello and Fisichella’s teammate Fernando Alonso came through the field from 11th and 13th on the grid respectively to join pole-sitter Fisichella on the podium. In 2006, Alonso took his first Australian win in an accident-marred race that featured four safety car periods.

Notable Australian Grands Prix

1986: Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet in a Williams-Honda and Alain Prost, in a comparatively underpowered McLaren, were competing for the drivers' title. Mansell needed only third to guarantee the title, whilst Prost and Piquet needed to win and for Mansell to finish lower than third to take the title. Whilst comfortably in the top three with a few laps to go, Mansell's Williams suffered a spectacular mechanical failure, with a rear tyre puncture at very high speed near the end of the main straight creating a huge shower of sparks as the floor of the vehicle dragged along the bitumen surface. Mansell fought to control the violently veering car and steered it to a safe stop. Prost took the lead, as Mansell's teammate Piquet had pitted as a pre-cautionary measure, and won the race and the championship. Prost himself came incredibly close to failure, as his vehicle coasted to a halt on his warm-down lap, out of fuel. 1991: The race was notable for being held in extremely wet and tricky conditions and the race was eventually stopped on lap 14 of the scheduled 82 and Ayrton Senna was declared the winner. This race has the record of the shortest ever Formula One race as it only lasted 52 kilometres/24 minutes. 1994: Following his win at the Japanese Grand Prix, Damon Hill was now one point behind championship leader Michael Schumacher. Nigel Mansell was on pole but a poor start resulted in the two championship rivals Hill and Schumacher battling for the lead. But on lap 36, Schumacher went off the track, a result of oversteer, and this allowed Hill to catch up with Schumacher and the Brit took the inside line for the next corner. But the German turned on Hill's Williams, whether it was on purpose or accidentally is unknown, which sent the Benetton on two wheels and into the tyre barrier, Schumacher retiring on the spot. Hill came out of the incident with a broken wishbone on his front-left suspension and the Brit pitted and retired from the race, handing the title to Schumacher. The sister Williams of Nigel Mansell went onto win the race, becoming the oldest Grand Prix winner since Jack Brabham in 1970. 2001 : The 2001 race saw Michael Schumacher take pole position and win the race and three drivers, Fernando Alonso; Kimi Räikkönen and Juan Pablo Montoya, all made their Formula One debuts during this race. The race, however, was struck by tragedy in when a flying tyre from a crash between Williams' Ralf Schumacher and BAR's Jacques Villeneuve flew through a gap in the barrier fence and killed a volunteer track marshal, Graham Beveridge, who was 52 years old. 2002 : The 2002 event saw the best performance by an Australian driver when Mark Webber, in the perennially uncompetitive Minardi, took advantage of the misfortune of other competitors ,after an first lap pile up eliminated 9 cars, to finish an unlikely fifth, holding off a fast-closing Mika Salo in a much faster Toyota. He and the Australian-born team owner Paul Stoddart became instant national celebrities well beyond the motor racing world, the minor placing receiving far more attention in Australia than Michael Schumacher's win. 2006 : Traditionally, Melbourne hosted the opening round of the championship. In 2006, Melbourne hosted the 3rd round because it was hosting the Commonwealth Games when it would normally host the Grand Prix. Spain's Fernando Alonso won the event from third on the grid. 2007 : Lewis Hamilton led his first F1 race and eventually finished in third place. Kimi Räikkönen was in 1st place for the whole of the race except for when he pitted. Räikkönen became the first Ferrari driver to win on debut since Nigel Mansell in 1989. Kimi Räikkönen also achieved a triple, a win, pole and fastest lap. 2008 : Lewis Hamilton won from pole in a chaotic race that featured 3 safety car periods and was notable for none of the Ferrari powered cars making the finish in the blistering heat. It was also notable for the least number of finishers in a Formula One race since the 1996 Spanish Grand Prix.

Recent Attendance

An area of recent debate regarding the move of the Australian Grand Prix to Melbourne is the dwindling crowd attendances. Crowd numbers have not peaked since the Melbourne record of 401,000 in 1996. This has resulted in many questioning whether the event is bringing the economic benefits first promised when it was announced Melbourne would host the race in 1993. A possible reason for the drop in attendance is that since the Grand Prix has moved to Melbourne, the race organisers have significantly decreased the number of support events at the Grand Prix. Instead of using the event to showcase Australian motor sport, many classes featured in the past have been replaced by celebrity and corporate sponsored events. For instance, while the Grand Prix Corporation has used the presence of Australian driver, Mark Webber, as an advertising draw card for the event, the class in which Mark first started coming to attention, Formula Ford, was dropped from the 2006 programme. Another factor possibly influencing the crowds in 2007 was the withdrawal of Australia's most popular domestic racing series, V8 Supercar, from the support program, although the size of the attendance drop from 2006 to 2007 does not support the assertion.

  • 2008 - 303,000
  • 2007 - 301,000
  • 2006 - 301,500
  • 2005 - 359,000
  • 1996 - 401,000

Future

Beyond 2010, the Victorian Government announced that Melbourne would retain the Australian Grand Prix until at least 2015. The race starting time will be moved to 5pm in order to satisfy Bernie Ecclestone's ultimatum earlier this year, stating to the Sunday Mail that the only way Melbourne would retain the race is a move to a night race in order to increase European television audiences. However the later start will not result in a 'night race' as Geoscience Australia has forecast dusk for 29th of March 2009 at 7:45pm

Sponsors

Mitsubishi Australian Grand Prix 1985
Fosters Australian Grand Prix 1986-1993, 2002-2006
EDS Australian Grand Prix 1995
Transurban Australian Grand Prix 1996
Qantas Australian Grand Prix 1997-2001
ING Australian Grand Prix 2007-
There was no naming rights sponsor in 1994.

Winners

Multiple winners (drivers)

Wins which did not count towards the Formula One World Championship are indicated by a pink background.
Number of wins Driver Years Won
4 Lex Davison 1954, 1957, 1958, 1961
Michael Schumacher 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004
3 Bill Thompson 1930, 1932, 1933
Doug Whiteford 1950, 1952, 1953
Jack Brabham 1955, 1963, 1964
Graham McRae 1972, 1973, 1978
Roberto Moreno 1981, 1983, 1984
Alain Prost 1982, 1986, 1988
2 Les Murphy 1935, 1937
Bruce McLaren 1962, 1965
Frank Matich 1970, 1971
Max Stewart 1974, 1975
Gerhard Berger 1987, 1992
Ayrton Senna 1991, 1993
Damon Hill 1995, 1996
David Coulthard 1997, 2003

Multiple winners (constructors)

Embolded teams are still competing in the Formula One championship

Number of wins Constructor Years Won
10 Ferrari 1957, 1958, 1969, 1987, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2007
McLaren 1970, 1986, 1988, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1997, 1998, 2003, 2008
6 Williams 1980, 1985, 1989, 1994, 1995, 1996
5 Cooper 1955, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1965
4 Bugatti 1929, 1930, 1931, 1932
MG 1935, 1937, 1939, 1947
Lola 1974, 1975, 1977, 1979
Ralt 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984
2 Talbot-Lago 1952, 1953
Maserati 1956, 1959
Brabham 1963, 1964
BRM 1966, 1967
Matich 1971, 1976
McRae 1973, 1978
Renault 2005, 2006

By year

Events which were not part of the Formula One World Championship are indicated by a pink background.

Year Driver Constructor Location Report
2008 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes Melbourne Report
2007 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari Melbourne Report
2006 Fernando Alonso Renault Melbourne Report
2005 Giancarlo Fisichella Renault Melbourne Report
2004 Michael Schumacher Ferrari Melbourne Report
2003 David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes Melbourne Report
2002 Michael Schumacher Ferrari Melbourne Report
2001 Michael Schumacher Ferrari Melbourne Report
2000 Michael Schumacher Ferrari Melbourne Report
1999 Eddie Irvine Ferrari Melbourne Report
1998 Mika Häkkinen McLaren-Mercedes Melbourne Report
1997 David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes Melbourne Report
1996 Damon Hill Williams-Renault Melbourne Report
1995 Damon Hill Williams-Renault Adelaide Report
1994 Nigel Mansell Williams-Renault Adelaide Report
1993 Ayrton Senna McLaren-Ford Adelaide Report
1992 Gerhard Berger McLaren-Honda Adelaide Report
1991 Ayrton Senna McLaren-Honda Adelaide Report
1990 Nelson Piquet Benetton-Ford Adelaide Report
1989 Thierry Boutsen Williams-Renault Adelaide Report
1988 Alain Prost McLaren-Honda Adelaide Report
1987 Gerhard Berger Ferrari Adelaide Report
1986 Alain Prost McLaren-TAG Adelaide Report
1985 Keke Rosberg Williams-Honda Adelaide Report
1984 Roberto Moreno Ralt-Cosworth Calder Report
1983 Roberto Moreno Ralt-Cosworth Calder Report
1982 Alain Prost Ralt-Cosworth Calder Report
1981 Roberto Moreno Ralt-Cosworth Calder Report
1980 Alan Jones Williams-Cosworth Calder Report
1979 Johnnie Walker Lola-Chevrolet Wanneroo Report
1978 Graham McRae McRae-Chevrolet Sandown Raceway Report
1977 Warwick Brown Lola-Chevrolet Oran Park Raceway Report
1976 John Goss Matich-Repco Sandown Raceway Report
1975 Max Stewart Lola-Chevrolet Surfers Paradise Report
1974 Max Stewart Lola-Chevrolet Oran Park Raceway Report
1973 Graham McRae McRae-Chevrolet Sandown Raceway Report
1972 Graham McRae Leda-Chevrolet Sandown Raceway Report
1971 Frank Matich Matich-Repco Warwick Farm Report
1970 Frank Matich McLaren-Repco Warwick Farm Report
1969 Chris Amon Ferrari Lakeside Report
1968 Jim Clark Lotus-Cosworth Sandown Raceway Report
1967 Jackie Stewart BRM Warwick Farm Report
1966 Graham Hill BRM Lakeside Report
1965 Bruce McLaren Cooper-Climax Longford Report
1964 Jack Brabham Brabham-Climax Sandown Raceway Report
1963 Jack Brabham Brabham-Climax Warwick Farm Report
1962 Bruce McLaren Cooper-Climax Caversham Report
1961 Lex Davison Cooper-Climax Mallala Report
1960 Alec Mildren Cooper-Maserati Lowood Report
1959 Stan Jones Maserati Longford Report
1958 Lex Davison Ferrari Bathurst Report
1957 Lex Davison
Bill Patterson
Ferrari Caversham Report
1956 Stirling Moss Maserati Albert Park Report
1955 Jack Brabham Cooper-Bristol Port Wakefield Report
1954 Lex Davison HWM-Jaguar Southport Report
1953 Doug Whiteford Talbot-Lago Albert Park Report
1952 Doug Whiteford Talbot-Lago Bathurst Report
1951 Warwick Pratley George Reed Special Narrogin Report
1950 Doug Whiteford Ford Nuriootpa Report
1949 John Crouch Delahaye Leyburn Report
1948 Frank Pratt BMW Point Cook Report
1947 Bill Murray MG Bathurst Report
1940
-46
Not held
1939 Alan Tomlinson MG Lobethal Report
1938 Peter Whitehead ERA Bathurst Report
1937 Les Murphy MG Victor Harbor Report
1936 Not held
1935 Les Murphy MG Phillip Island Report
1934 Bob Lea-Wright Singer Phillip Island Report
1933 Bill Thompson Riley Phillip Island Report
1932 Bill Thompson Bugatti Phillip Island Report
1931 Carl Junker Bugatti Phillip Island Report
1930 Bill Thompson Bugatti Phillip Island Report
1929 Arthur Terdich Bugatti Phillip Island Report
1928 Arthur Waite Austin Phillip Island Report

Footnote

External links

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