A history of the Australian Grand Prix
Despite not appearing on the modern day F1 calendar until 1985, the Australian Grand Prix has been a feature in Australian motorsport since 1928. The first race, held at the Phillip Island circuit, was won by Arthur Waite driving a modified Austin 7. The event was the centrepiece of the Tasman Series from 1964 to 1969 and was a round of the Australian drivers' championship for numerous years between 1957 and 1983. Since its introduction to the F1 calendar in 1985, the Australian Grand Prix has only had two venues; a road circuit in Adelaide and the Albert Park venue in Melbourne.
The road circuit in Adelaide played host to the highly popular final round of the season, the twisty tight circuit - often compared to Monaco - was as challenging on gear boxes as it was on the drivers. The venue played host to two exciting championship deciders in 1986 and 1994.
When the teams arrived in Adelaide in 1986 the title was a three-way battle between Williams drivers Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet and McLaren's Alain Prost. Mansell took pole but made a poor start, after the dust settled Piquet lead with Mansell in second - enough for the Brit to secure the championship. But disaster struck with 19 laps remaining when Mansell's tyre spectacularly exploded on the main straight- Prost went on to win the second of his four world championships.
In 1994 the F1 world was talking about British hero Damon Hill and his battle for the championship with Michael Schumacher. Schumacher took an early lead until lap 36 when he careered off the track and hit the wall. In a much-criticised move he re-joined the circuit colliding with Hill - Schumacher was instantly eliminated but Hill continued. Soon it became clear that the damage to Hill's front suspension was too severe and he also retired - with neither driver scoring points Schumacher won the first of his seven titles.
In 1993 prominent Melbourne businessman Ron Walker began work with the state's government to move the race to Albert Park and later that year the move was confirmed. A massive protest was launched by a group called "Save Albert Park", who claimed the public park was being turned into a private playground for one week of the year.
The race move meant that Australia made F1 history - it became the only country to host back to back F1 rounds - the final round of the 1995 season and the opener in 1996. The first race took place in 1996 under the banner of "Melbourne - What a great place for a race" - and 401,000 spectators agreed. On the first lap Jordan's Martin Brundle was involved in a massive crash which launched the car into the air and split in half. The accident, and Brundle's subsequent sprint back to the pits to take the spare car in time for the re-start, hit the headlines worldwide.
The race continued to make the headlines - in 1998 McLaren faced widespread condemnation when David Coulthard who had lead the race backed off on the last lap to honour an agreement with team mate Mika Hakkinen. The two drivers had agreed that whoever reached the first corner in the lead should win the race. The move lead to the eventual banning of team orders in F1.
2001 was a year of tragedy; marshal Graham Beveridge was killed by a stray wheel after Ralf Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve crashed on lap five. His death lead to the introduction of wheel tethers. The following year 11 of the 22 runners were eliminated on the first lap by a series of accidents, and home favourite Mark Webber finished fifth on his debut.
2006 saw Melbourne give up its traditional place at the head of the calendar as the city was hosting the Commonwealth Games, but it returned to the top of the list in 2007. The start time has always been an issue for the Australian race and organisers have so far rejected moves by Bernie Ecclestone to move the race to a more European-friendly night race. In 2008 the organisers compromised moving the race start to 5pm - a move that has seemingly secured the event's future.