F1 Fanatic guest writer Journeyer concludes his look at the history of the Australian Grand Prix.
Albert Park in Melbourne is a very different place from Adelaide’s streets.
Where Adelaide had long straights and mostly 90-degree turns, Albert Park has more varied corners. But it still provided plenty of action, as we shall see in the second part of the Australian Grand Prix’s history.
1996: The young rookie was rather lucky; he was about to drive his first F1 race in a front-running team. Just to make things better, he passes his much-touted team mate at the start – to the shock and delight of the crowd!
Yes, Jacques Villeneuve’s debut had much in common with another driver’s 11 years later. Villeneuve nearly won his first race – if it hadn’t been for some typical Villenueve over-exuberance. Even so, Villeneuve would trouble his team mate all year long.
1997: It was a new era for F1 and British TV – BBC was out, and ITV was in. The first race with Murray and Martin in the booth was quite a thriller – with Villeneuve and Eddie Irvine out early, and Michael Schumacher challenging David Coulthard all the way to the flag. Coulthard took the win – McLaren’s first since Senna in Adelaide four years earlier. McLaren’s new silver livery won first time out.
This is the first of a series of videos covering the race in its entirety.
1998: This race had McLaren stamped all over it. It was a race of utter domination for the team.
But what’s this – Coulthard letting Mika Hakkinen through? Yes, it did happen. Inevitably speculation followed that team orders had played a role, but it later emerged the pair had a agreement they had that whoever who got to the first corner first would be the race winner. That was scuppered when Hakkinen came into the pits when he didn’t need to because of a radio fault. To fulfill their agreement, Coulthard let Hakkinen through.
It was the second race in succession where he had let Hakkinen past (the first being Jerez at the end of 1997). Since then, Coulthard never really got to beat Hakkinen consistently until 2001.
1999: This was a race of multiple twists. Hakkinen’s car stalled, which startled Schumacher, causing his car to stall. Hakkinen managed to keep pole, but Schumacher lost his P3 on the grid. Both kept running into problems – Hakkinen with the throttle, Schumacher with his electronics and a puncture. Coulthard too had a hydraulics problem, causing him to drop out.
Enter Eddie Irvine, who duly picked up his first career win, in what would turn out to be the best year of his career.
2000: Here’s Hakkinen’s pole lap from that year. Again, Hakkinen and McLaren were dominant on Saturday. But their cars didn’t last the distance when it mattered. By the end of the weekend, it was Ferrari 16, McLaren 0; Schumacher 10, Hakkinen 0. At long last, there was light at the end of Ferrari’s 21-year tunnel.
2001: This was a sad race. Ralf Schumacher and Villeneuve had a heavy collision, sending debris flying. Tragically, marshal Graham Beveridge was struck by a flying tyre and died from his injuries. The wheel managed to pass through an aperture in the catch fencing which was scarcely any bigger than a tyre, designed to make it easier for marshals to get to the track in an emergency.
It overshadowed a strong win by Michael Schumacher, who, along with second placed man Coulthard and the other directors of the GPDA, pushed hard for increased safety. Fortunately, as of this writing, this has been the last fatality at an F1 race weekend.
WARNING: This video shows a fatal incident; viewer discretion is advised.
2002: This was easily the craziest race of the year. Everyone has a favourite moment – it could be the opening pile-up, or the restart that saw Coulthard go off and Juan Pablo Montoya pass a surprised Michael Schumacher. It could also be Schumacher’s pass to retake the lead, or Montoya’s battle for second against Kimi Raikkonen.
My personal favorite was local hero Mark Webber in the Minardi, finishing fifth in his first Grand Prix by holding back the Toyota of Mika Salo.
2003: This was the first race where we saw a raft of new rules, seen by many as an attempt by the FIA to curb Ferrari’s dominance. But it was the Michelin tyres on the McLarens and Williams cars that stopped Ferrari – as well as a dangling barge board…
2004: Just when everyone thought they had Ferrari where they wanted them, Ferrari trounced them again. The red team won by a mile, and there was nothing anyone could do about it all season long.
2005: Just like 2003, the FIA instituted another round of rule changes to curb Ferrari’s dominance. And just like 2003, it was the Michelin tyres (this time on the Renaults and McLarens) that ended Ferrari’s dominance. Schumacher collided with countryman Nick Heidfeld, putting both out of the race.
2006: For once, Australia didn’t host the season opener – they gave that honor to Bahrain after hosting the Commonwealth Games that year.
Not that it made the race any less exciting. With Schumi and Montoya both falling foul of the final turn, it was left to Fernando Alonso to take the win. The last corner also saw something rather more spectacular – a Honda engine failure.
2007: Kimi Raikkonen and Ferrari – how would it work? The first race without Michael Schumacher, the first race with Lewis Hamilton. There were so many storylines in this race. As it turned out, Kimi won easily, with Lewis an excellent third. But then, the other teams had issues with Ferrari’s floor. The controversial part was gone before the next race.
2008: Last year’s race was a brilliant start to what was to become a brilliant season. Everyone seemed to have some problem or other as the weekend progressed.
Amidst the chaos, though, Hamilton reigned supreme to take his first win of the year. But as we found out, it wasn’t always going to be that easy for him.
So here we are, just days away from the beginning of the season. The new rules will surely shake up the running order, but who will step up and challenge for the title? This season is set to be an absolutely brilliant one.
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