[F1 2019 VIDEO FEATURE] RACE PREVIEW: AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX

Melbourne is the place to be as F1 touches down for the opening round of the 2019 season, the Victorian capital a tourist’s dream, whether from the air, as the city’s nightlife is firing up… 

…or on the ground, where it’s a vibrant hub of shopping, dining and sport. Something the locals are fiercely proud of…

SOUNDBITE (English) ANDREW WESTACOTT,
CEO, AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX CORPORATION:
“Melburnians love to see international sport come to our city. We’re very proud about the mantle we have in terms of being the sporting capital of the region, if not the world in many regards. We’re the only city in the world to have a Grand Slam tennis event and a Formula 1 event and that’s why this is such a great place to start the Formula 1 season.”

And for the first time, the season begins with a special launch event with all 20 drivers and 10 team principals meeting fans, at central Melbourne’s Federation Square on the Wednesday before the race.

But the real action happens minutes from the city’s centre, at Albert Park, one of the most stunning street tracks on the calendar.

It’s a mecca for fans, who flock to the inner city park for four days of racing, music, and hospitality with a festival atmosphere.

SOUNDBITE (English) ALAN JONES,
1980 F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“They [fans] genuinely love coming here, it’s probably their favourite Grand Prix, even over Monaco. They enjoy the hospitality, they enjoy the Aussie way of life - and I’ve yet to hear a bad word said about the Australian Grand Prix.”

Melbourne’s temporary street circuit winds around Albert Park Lake with the 5.303 kilometre layout featuring 16 turns (six left, 10 right) and a top speed of 320 kilometres an hour. Michael Schumacher remains the lap record holder from 2004 with Ferrari. There are also three DRS activation zones, and two detection points.

2019 will mark the 24th time the event has been held in Melbourne, with Adelaide hosting it for a decade from 1985 to 1995.

Schumacher has the most success at Albert Park with four wins, with Sebastian Vettel able to equal that tally this year. Eight drivers have two, including current stars Kimi Räikkönen and Lewis Hamilton.

And while last year’s race had few overtakes, just five recorded across 58 laps, the Australian round has never lacked emotion, drama… 

… and huge crashes, like Martin Brundle’s 1996 shunt at Turn 3, a smash almost replicated in 2016 by Fernando Alonso.

Or 2002, when Ralf Schumacher got airborne over Rubens Barrichello at the start, the multi-million dollar carbon crunch involving eight cars.

In 2019, we find out who is where as the new cars and driver line-ups are put to the test with nothing to hide… 

… the biggest question being just how fast is Ferrari? The new car looking balanced and quick in testing, even more so than the new Mercedes W10, setting up a likely battle royale from the get-go.

But, of course, local interest will be dominated by one man in new colours.

SOUNDBITE (English) ANDREW WESTACOTT,
CEO, AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX CORPORATION:
“Lots of young Australians love their heroes. They love Lewis [Hamilton], they love Sebastian [Vettel], but I tell you what, Daniel Ricciardo is going to be the favourite.”

Warm sunshine, fresh challenges. F1’s opening round never fails to fuel excitement as the new season blasts off.