Cars Motorsport Previews

TRT PREVIEW: AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX

WORDS & IMAGES: Mark Walker

Trivia Time

1:20.486sec: Lewis Hamilton (2019, Mercedes), qualifying lap record.

1:24.125sec: Michael Schumacher (2004, Ferrari), race lap record, new layout.

1:50.0sec: Stirling Moss (1950, Cooper Climax), lap record, original layout.

1:54.6016sec: Scott McLaughlin (2019, Ford Mustang), Supercars lap record.

2: Times there have been zero passes for the lead in the AGP at Albert Park.

5.027km: Original, anti-clockwise track length.

5.303km: Current, clockwise track length.

19th: The best hole of the Albert Park Golf Course, which runs alongside the back straight.

25th: World Driver’s Championship event at Albert Park in 2020.

200: Different bird species live in the park, including the Cape Barren Goose. Unlike at Phillip Island, this breed does not make a regular goose of itself at Albert Park.

225ha: Albert Park size, 49ha being the lake.

248.5m: Distance from pole to turn one apex.

2025: The AGP’s current contract concludes.

3,190: Gear changes in the F1 race.

121,500: Highest single day crowd, Sunday 2004.

Albert Park is the only track to host the Australian Grand Prix in World Championship, and non-World Championship form.

The original Albert Park track, from 1953 to 1958 hosted a total of six events, although five of these were contested over two consecutive weekends, resulting in 11 race weekends.

At the very south-east corner of Albert Park sits the Bunurong Corroboree Tree, or ‘Ngargee’ Tree, thought to be one of the oldest living things in Melbourne, which is estimated to be 300 to 500 years old. The local Indigenous tribe, the Wurundjeri people, frequented the area for around 40,000 years prior to European settlement.

While the artificial Gunn Island currently sits in the lake, a second island used to exist at the southern end. It was “removed by the military as a training exercise in the early 1950s”. Bloody hell!

Bring your rod and reel- the Department of Primary Industries stock the lake with golden perch. If you are unlucky, you will almost definitely catch a carp instead.

Other facilities within the venue include the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre (Commonwealth Games swimming), Lakeside Stadium (athletics and local soccer), the Junction Oval (established 1856, original home ground of St Kilda who played 564 VFL matches there, as well as Fitzroy and South Melbourne, now the home of Victorian Cricket), as well as a host of other sporting clubs and facilities. The F1 pit buildings are permanent, and host weekly Futsal fixtures.

The History

1840s – The Albert Park area was swampland as a part of the Yarra River delta, which was progressively drained by European settlers, with the area used for agriculture, military training and hunting. Originally named South Park, local bureaucrats had the foresight to change the name prior to the 1997 hit animated program of the same name.

1864 – The new park is named after Queen Victoria’s very close personal friend and husband, Prince Albert. Fun fact, Victoria and Albert were first cousins, and it was Victoria who asked Albert to marry her. Wild times.

1890 – The Yarra River was diverted to fill the lake. Would be difficult to do today.

1953- First race meeting at Albert Park, the AGP, won by Doug Whiteford in a Talbot-Lago. It was the first AGP to be contested in a major city, with the five-lap margin of victory the biggest in the history of the event.

1956 – Stirling Moss wins the Australian TT and the AGP aboard Maseratis in late 1956, with the event running during the Olympic Games to piggyback of the sporting fever taking the city over.

1993 – With the announcement that the AGP would be returning to Albert Park, the lake was drained, and several discarded shopping trollies were retrieved.

1996 – The return of the AGP to Albert Park was marred after 19 seconds when Martin Brundle turned his Jordan into a cube at turn three. The event was the second straight Australian Grand Prix for the F1 circus, after Adelaide rounded out the 1995 season.

1998 – David Coulthard took driving slow for fun to new heights, when he pulled over to let Mika Hakkinen win.

2002 – Mark Webber made his F1 debut and became the first fifth place finisher to get his own podium ceremony. Paul Stoddart had kittens.

2009 – Brawn debuted, won, never came back.

2016: Fenando Alonso and Esteban Guiterrez were involved in a massive potato at turn three that red flagged the race.

2018: Supercars race for points for the first time, with Scott McLaughlin winning the first race, before adding three further wins to his tally last year.

Insider Trading

Best Local Feed

One thing that can almost be held against Albert Park, is that the crowd easily disperses in every direction post-race, whereas at a lot of other street tracks, punters tend to be cornered in one end of town. Being Melbourne, you are deadest spoiled for choice, pick any genre of food, and there will be something quality close by. If you are looking for a late-night pizza, you can’t go past Fitzroy Street St Kilda – an area which has really upped its game since ‘The Block’ tarted up a hotel there a couple years ago.

Best Local Beer

No limit to the options, but the walk over to the College Lawn Hotel on Greville Street in Prahran is worth it. Quality parmy (or parma, if you are chickenly challenged) as well.

Best Local Things to Do After Racing

There are so many options – so here’s one – take the short stroll down to the St Kilda Pier, where a rather massive colony of Fairy Penguins live. These are the same little tackers that live at Phillip Island, but in St Kilda they are:

– Much closer to where you are, and not a two-hour drive away

– Free of charge

– You don’t have to sit in a concrete bunker, these things will run in to you if you aren’t careful

– Did I mention that they are free?

Best Traffic Tip

The tram stop down behind the hockey and tennis centre is handy if you are heading into town, but so too is the Uber stand at the south end of the facility leading on to Fitzroy Street. Or just walk. Definitely don’t drive, unless you inherited a car pass.

Best Spectating

I am genuinely giving the game away here – stand down the way after turn 12 near the Queens Road Slip Road. You can see the cars whip through the ultra-fast 11-12 chicane, then down the bending “straight” to turn 13, where there is a real chance of overtaking thanks to DRS. You won’t see the cars for a longer period of time, or corner faster anywhere on the track… something very few spectators have figured out over the last 25 years.

Best Photography from Punterville

Formula 1 spec catch fencing is bloody high, so you are no chance getting over it. You can sometimes get down low and shoot back through some of the breaks in the fence. Otherwise crank the shutter speed right down and give it a big pan.