The Australian Grand Prix is a celebrated circuit on the F1 calendar; an intense build-up of hype that kicks off the season at Albert Park each year.
The famed street/track circuit in central Melbourne isn’t the most challenging, though tensions run high as each team iron out the kinks in their new strategy and technology. Safety cars have been deployed in over half of the races in Melbourne and accidents are common at the track’s two prime DRS zones, turns 1 & 3, as drivers come to grips with their new machines.
What’s often forgotten is that the Australian Grand Prix and Melbourne’s Albert Park are not exclusively synonymous. The streets of Adelaide initially hosted the race, though Melbourne has taken the reigns for the last 22 years with the 2020 Aus GP the track’s 25th occasion as host.
Below we’ve recapped some of our favourite snapshots of drama from the F1 calendar opener, listed in chronological order (ranking the best was just way too tough).
Nigel Mansell’s Exploding Tyre, 1986, Adelaide
The 1986 Adelaide GP was a three-way fight for the championship between Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost and Nelson Piquet. On lap 65 after some hectic spins and bins between the trio, Mansell looked set to take his first world title when at 320km/h down the main straight his tyre blew out. Miraculously, Mansell managed to stay in control, though perhaps if he’d crashed beyond the finish line and caused a red flag – he would have been champion.
Shortest Race in F1 History, 1991, Adelaide
It lasted for just 24 minutes. Despite a blistering qualifying, the day prior, race day in 1991 took a turn for the worst with torrential rain. As soon as the lights went out, the cars were slipping and sliding all over the place. Nelson Piquet spun out in his last race before F1 retirement, and a huge crash right in the centre of the main straight caused carnage for those still able to navigate the mess. Senna himself even called for the race to be stopped by aggressively waving at race officials. It was eventually canned after just 16 laps.
Ralf Schumacher’s Airborne Start, 2002, Melbourne
Very little explanation is necessary for this debacle. It’s probably one of the most memorable Formula 1 starts of all-time. Ralf Schumacher turns his vehicle into an airborne missile after being propelled forward from the spin of a wheel on the car in front.
Giancarlo Fisichella Gets Face Full Of Flames, 2006, Melbourne
Turn 16 is the final turn at Albert Park and in 2006 Giancarlo Fisichella got a fiery surprise that he did could not have expected at all from Jenson Button’s engine. To add to the drama, this was the final turn of the whole race, with Jenson stopping short of the checkered flag by about 10 metres. “Get out and push Jenson!” the commentators yelled. Jenson didn’t score any points at all from this Grand Prix.
Fernando Alonso’s Horrific Crash, 2016, Melbourne
When you see a shocked Fernando Alonso standing with his hands on his knees next to a small bundle of metal, there’s no way to explain how a man could have survived such a horrific crash from inside it. Haas driver Esteban Gutierrez also copped a nudge from the rear of Alonso’s McLaren coming into Turn 3, spinning out onto the gravel.
The Australian GP kicks off next Sunday – lights go out at 4:10 pm.