Written by SFCMelbourne Member, Michele Terminello
Grand Prix racing around a great lake? You guessed it, for four days of the year the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne plays host to the opening round of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship at the historic Albert Park Street Circuit in Melbourne.
The Albert Park circuit is only a short walk from the centre of Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city and is one of the most vibrant and cosmopolitan on the planet. The people are friendly and there are lots of things to do and see in Melbourne, both day and night and the city is famous for its excellent restaurants and nightlife.
The city itself is also known as the “Sporting Capital of the World” with plenty of sports on offer to enjoy as well as a variety of international festivals during the year. It is the capital city of Victoria and is located in the south-eastern corner of Australia. Although the climate in early autumn is great coming off of a warm summer, you can experience the typical ‘four seasons in a day’ where it can be hot one minute, cold, wet or windy the next.
Between 1953 and 1958, the Albert Park circuit played host to six race meetings in both World Championship and non-World Championship formats with an earlier configuration of the current circuit used on two occasions during the 1950’s. During this time racing was run in an anti-clockwise direction.
In 1996, it appeared for the first time as part of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship. Until 2005 the race was always the season-opener, but that changed for 2006 due to the Commonwealth Games being held in Melbourne during mid-March. It also was second round of the championship in 2010.
Where to go?
There’s always something for everyone in Melbourne, as you’d expect from the great metropolis. A few daytime attractions include: The Aquarium, the old Gaol, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Etihad Stadium, AAMI Park, the Great Ocean Road and beaches, the Docklands, Yarra River, the Ian Potter Centre and Chinatown.
Where to stay?
Since the Grand Prix came to Albert Park, the south Melbourne area has benefited greatly from a lot of regeneration and there are now plenty of places to stay within walking distance of the circuit. St Kilda is a popular destination for the F1 media due to the mix of restaurants, clubs and amazing views of Port Phillip Bay. Drivers and team members tend to stay more in the city particularly at the Crown.
Flights arrive at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport approximately 22 kilometres out of the city. A taxi from there to the city is inexpensive; alternatively there is a regular bus service.
Melbourne’s parks, beaches and open spaces make it pleasurable to walk around. Everything is spread out but the city’s tram system makes travel to your destinations a lot easier. There are several stops near the Albert Park circuit just two kilometres out of the city centre.
If hiring a car, don’t forget to pay the motorway toll and have plenty of coins handy as most parking in the city is metered.
On Track Events
Apart from the main event Formula 1, there are many supporting categories and on-track action at Albert Park which includes: Coates Hire V8 Supercars Challenge (non-Championship round), Penrite Oil Australian GT Championship, Porsche Carrera Cup Australia, MSS Security Ultimate Speed Comparison, Shannons Historic Demonstration, Ferrari Parade and Stunt Show.
Things to do Off Track
There are lots of activities to do off track including the F1 Fan Zone where you can buy F1 team merchandise at the stalls or if you’re after a driver’s autograph and insights from Team Principals at the Autograph Stand. Visit the Melbourne Walk near the paddock area if you want selfies or autographs with your favourite drivers and team members.
Other activities to do include simulators, Pirelli’s Pit Stop Challenge, 2016 Australian FMX Grand Prix, segway races, concerts, car displays etc. Food and drink stands are everywhere with a lot of seating including shaded areas if you need a break.
Tickets can be purchased via Ticketek, available at the gate or the Australian Grand Prix Corporation website.
Hints and Tips
At the track be sure to keep hydrated, put on plenty of sunscreen, wear sunglasses, bring a cap and raincoat as you can experience four seasons in a day in Melbourne. If you want an autograph or photo with a driver, head down to the track as early as possible and make your way to the autograph area as fast as you can.
The Australian Grand Prix is a must go to event for any Formula One fan to visit as it’s the first round of the championship and it fills you with an adrenaline rush to go to Melbourne and experience the action for yourself.
The first race of the season is generally unpredictable as the teams arrive with their cars unproven in race form meaning anything can happen. Drivers are a little bit rusty after the winter break and there is usually madness at the first corner. For 21 years running with a stunning backdrop, a fast-flowing street circuit, awesome action and a vibrant city come to Melbourne and you’ll see why: “It’s a great place for the race.”