The Australian Grand Prix as a motor race dates back nearly 100 years and has rotated around more than 20 different venues across the first six decades of its history. But since the Formula 1 world championship finally landed on Australian soil for the first time in 1985, it’s been hosted right in the heart of two of the country’s largest cities. Adelaide was home to the first 11 editions, always the final race of the season, and so the scene of several dramatic championship-deciding moments. Then it moved to Melbourne, and to the very start of the season, in 1996.
Now, Melbourne is the third stop on an expanding calendar but remains as popular as ever: the 2022 race weekend was the best-attended weekend of sport ever held in a city known as Australia’s sporting capital, which now has an agreement to host the race until 2035. The 419,114 spectators were treated to the fastest laps ever of the Albert Park circuit, with Charles Leclerc wiping nearly four seconds off Michael Schumacher’s 2004 benchmark in the race. This came thanks to modifications to the track layout, which is open to the public the rest of the year, to make it faster and more flowing with the aim of improving racing.
The race is expected to be even faster in 2023, and not just because the latest generation of cars have undergone a year of development. There are plans to add a fourth Drag Reduction System (DRS) zone, which would be a record for any F1 circuit. Such plans were put on hold last year but the organiser is confident the extra zone will be there this time, situated on the flat-out blast towards Turn 9 created by the removal of a chicane as part of the recent renovations. As well as lowering lap times, the extra DRS zone will provide an added opportunity for drivers to race closely and line up overtaking moves.
Australian fans attending the grand prix this century have always had a driver to cheer for, whether it was Mark Webber or his replacement at Red Bull, Daniel Ricciardo. Now, the local crowds will be able to root for a true hometown hero in the form of Oscar Piastri – who happened to take Ricciardo’s place at McLaren for this season. Born in Melbourne, Piastri will be the first driver from the city to take part in his home race. After winning back-to-back titles in Formula 3 and Formula 2, he has been tipped as a future world champion, and nobody will be watching his progress closer than his fellow Melburnians.
Another first in Melbourne this year will be the debut of the Formula 2 and Formula 3 championships in Australia: the furthest either series has ventured from Europe in the modern era. There will be plenty of local interest here too. The F2 contenders include Alpine reserve driver Jack Doohan, whose father Mick is an Australian motorsport legend as a five-time motorcycle world champion. There are also three Australians in the F3 field: Hugh Barter, Christian Mansell and Tommy Smith. All of them are hoping to follow in Piastri’s footsteps and join him on the Australian GP grid in the future.
A race to remember
Sometimes, the raw...