F1 Fanatic guest writer Journeyer looks back on the history of the Australian Grand Prix.
It’s back! F1 2009 is about to get under way, and so are we! I’m back for the new season, ready to share with you the history of the sport. Let’s kick things off with the season-opener, the Australian Grand Prix.
Many F1 fans will remember this as the traditional season opener, but just as many F1 fans will also remember that the race was not always at Melbourne, and it was not always at the beginning of the season. From 1985 to 1995, the Aussie GP was held at Adelaide as the last round of the championship.
1985: The new Adelaide circuit was interesting in that it was very fast for a street circuit and had some good overtaking opportunities. Patrick Tambay takes us around the circuit in his Renault. It was the French company’s last race as a full-fledged manufacturer, after deciding to become purely an engine supplier for 1986 and beyond. It would be 17 years before they build a car of their own again.
Another driver taking advantage of Renault power that season was Ayrton Senna in the Lotus. Hailed as a future world champion, Ayrton already had the speed. But he still needed to smooth down the rough edges of his racecraft…
1986: For me, this was the year that truly sealed Adelaide’s popularity amongst the fans, as well as its spot on the calendar for the next decade. I don’t need to explain this video very much, either. Nigel Mansell. Title showdown. Punctured tyre. Enough said.
Read more: Australian Grand Prix 1986
1987: After Mansell was injured in the previous round in Japan, he was unable to compete in the last two races. Thus, this round was an anti-climax to that year’s championship. With Piquet already champion, he was oddly off the pace – not to mention troubled by mechanical woes.
The advantage shifted to Ferrari and Gerhard Berger, who won his second race on the trot. It seemed to establish them as firm contenders for 1988. That prediction proved to be way off the mark.
1988: After this race, the paddock’s mood was one of an overwhelming sense of relief. McLaren were on pole (again) and won (again). In fact, they only lost one race all year. The teams felt that they would at least be more competitive in 1989, thanks to the new engine rules.
1989: This was a fiasco of a race. The extreme wet conditions were dangerous, and the drivers knew it. They refused to race at first, but Bernie Ecclestone would hear nothing of it. He ordered the drivers to race. Alain Prost tried to lead them into a boycott by retiring after one lap. No one else followed his example.
Ayrton Senna, meanwhile, was flying – but too fast. He smacked into the rear of Martin Brundle’s car, and both went out immediately. And while Thierry Boutsen was en route to his second career win, Satoru Nakajima drove the race of his life to finish fourth and set the fastest lap.
This is the first of a series of videos covering the race in its entirety.
1990: This was a landmark race – the 500th world championship Grand Prix. It was also a race to remember for Nelson Piquet – just like Gerhard Berger three years before, he won the last two races of the season – in Japan and here. It seemed that Piquet was back on the pace – ready to contend for a record fourth title. But while Piquet would win one last time in Canada in 1991, he never looked as quick again as he did here.
1991: This was 1989 all over again, only scarier and riskier for the drivers. And as it turned out, the race was way shorter than the 1989 version. The conditions were so bad, many cars spun off left, right, and center. After Mansell shunted out and got injured, Senna called for the race to be stopped.
The rain never wavered, so the race never resumed, giving us the shortest F1 race in history: just 14 laps.
1992: There wasn’t much to this race – Mansell had clinched the championship many rounds before. However, it was going to be his last race before retirement – his first retirement, anyway. Sadly, it ended in tears as he collided with Senna and they both went out of the race.
Berger had to hold off a charging Michael Schumacher to take his last win with McLaren. Note Murray Walker and James Hunt’s views of Schumacher, which would prove to be spot-on in the years to come.
1993: This was Prost’s last Grand Prix, but he couldn’t beat Senna to the win. Senna pulled up Prost onto the top step, in a touching gesture of reconciliation. Many were hopeful of him winning that historic fourth title in a Williams.
We didn’t know it yet, but sadly, this was to be Senna’s last ever Grand Prix win.
1994: With Senna gone, Damon Hill took on the fight for Williams. And he truly took the fight to Schumacher all the way to Adelaide.
And then came one of the most controversial moments in Formula 1 history. Watch the video and judge for yourself.
1995: By now, everyone knew that this was going to be the last race in Adelaide. It had been announced that the race was moving to Melbourne for 1996. But the last F1 race here got off to a shaky start.
Mika Hakkinen went off in what was probably the scariest accident of the season. Thanks to the efforts of Professor Sid Watkins and his medical team, not only did Mika survive, he made a full recovery and won two world championships.
Sunday’s race was akin to a demolition derby, with cars tripping over each other – on a dry track! Most memorably, David Coulthard took himself out by crashing into the pit entrance. By sheer process of elimination, Hill won the race, two whole laps ahead of Olivier Panis’s visibly sickening Ligier.
Adelaide’s season-ender gave way to Melbourne’s season-opener, which we’ll cover in part two tomorrow.
Image (C) Honda