Formula 1 gets the green light this weekend and we’re back at Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, a state on the lower south-eastern corner of Australia. Melbourne is Australia’s second-largest city by population with around 5 million and sees itself as the cultural capital of Australia, with a laid back attitude, city alleyways with coffee shops that spring out from hidden doors in late afternoons, and a vibrant local entertainment industry. Can you think of a better place to spend the 2020 Australian Grand Prix week?
The city is located on the very northern part and stretches down the eastern side of Port Phillip Bay, a body of water covering over 1,900 square kilometers or 733 square miles. To the east are the roads that lead to the Australian Alps, to the west the tourist drive that is the world-famous Great Ocean Road. The site of the Formula 1 2020 Australian Grand Prix is Albert Park, with the suburban roads transformed into the track and encircling the Albert Park Lake. It’s just four kilometers or two and a half miles south-east of the central business district. Accessible via bus, car, or the excellent tram service found in Melbourne, Albert Park played host to two Australian Grand Prix events in the mid-1950s.
It became the home of the Australian leg for Formula 1 in 1996. It was a contentious decision as Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, had successfully held the Australian rounds from 1985. Melbourne is currently contracted to be the location for the F1’s visit “down under” until 2025.
In the modern era of Formula 1, Michael Schumacher is the most winning driver, with four checkered flags to his name. He’s also contributed to the 12 wins held by Ferrari, tied with 12 overall for McLaren. The Albert Park layout sees 58 laps of the 5.303km (3.295 miles) worth of tarmac completed, for a total race distance of 307.5km or 191 miles. In 2019, it was Lewis Hamilton that took pole position, with a time of 1:20.486. Hamilton would go on to place second in last year’s race, behind teammate Valterri Bottas and ahead of Max Verstappen from Red Bull. It’s regarded as a quick circuit, with Hamilton averaging 235kph or 146mph.
The race itself runs in a clockwise direction. There are 16 corners and it’s not a layout that places undue pressure on the brakes. Most of the track lends itself to an easy and flowing driving style, with the final four corners perhaps the ones to trouble the brake pedal the most. Having said that, the right-hander at Turn 1 has proven to be a corner renowned for crashes in the first lap. perhaps the most spectacular crash in the first lap was Ralf Schumacher’s launch into the air back in 2002 after being shunted into the rear of the Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello.
Support categories include the Australian Supercars, Porsche Carrera Cup, and a homegrown 5.0L V8 open-wheel category, the S5000, with Barrichello returning to Albert Park as one of the contestants. Practice for the F1 starts at noon local time on Friday, March 13, with qualifying on Saturday starting at 17:00 local. The race itself is scheduled for 16:10 on Sunday, March 15 and ends at 18:10 local.
The 2020 Australian Grand Prix kicks off March 15th in Melbourne.