After two years of last-minute cancellations, rug pulls, and COVID-related tomfoolery, Formula 1 returns to Melbourne’s Albert Park this weekend with the 2022 Australian Grand Prix.
While it isn’t exactly the most challenging race scheduled on the Formula 1 calendar, tensions are still likely to run high as teams iron out the kinks vis-a-vis strategy and technology. Safety cars have also been deployed in the past – for over half of the races, in fact – with accidents most common at the track’s two prime DRS zones (Turns 1 & 3), where drivers come to grips with their new machines.
But what’s often forgotten is that the Australian Grand Prix and Melbourne’s Albert Park haven’t always been exclusive to one another. Prior to the garden city officially taking the reins circa 1996, the streets of Adelaide were initially where the event was hosted.
Below, we’ve recapped some of the most dramatic snapshots from what used to be the Formula 1 season opener, listed in chronological order (ranking proved way too tough).
Australian Grand Prix: The Top 5 Craziest Moments
Nigel Mansell’s Exploding Tyre, Adelaide (1986)
The 1986 Adelaide Grand Prix was a three-way battle for the championship between Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, and Nelson Piquet. On lap 65, after some hectic spins and bins from the trio, Mansell looked set to claim his first world title. That was until his tyre blew out at 320km/h down the main straight. 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, Adelaide (1991)
It lasted for just 24 minutes. Despite a blistering qualifying the day prior, race day in 1991 took a turn for the worse thanks to some 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 who were still able to navigate the mess. Ayrton 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, Melbourne (2002)
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. Hence the feature image.
Giancarlo Fisichella Gets Face Full Of Flames, Melbourne (2006)
Turn 16 is the final turn at Albert Park and in 2006, Giancarlo Fisichella got a fiery surprise that he could not have possibly expected 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. Button didn’t score any points from this Grand Prix.
Fernando Alonso’s Horrific Crash, Melbourne (2016)
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 an impact 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.
Honourable Mention: The Australian Grand Prix That Never Happened, Melbourne (2020)
The eleventh-hour scrapping of the 2020 Melbourne Grand Prix was insane for multiple reasons. Not only were thousands who made the pilgrimage left high + dry with virtually no consolation prize – it also marked one of the first major international events impacted by COVID-19. The entire country would be introduced to lockdowns the following week. In other words, everything leading up to that fateful race weekend represents the last time many of us lived normally. RIP precedented times.
The Australian Grand Prix kicks off this Sunday at the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit (Albert Park) – lights go out at 3:00 PM.