Albert Park – Melbourne, Victoria

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The Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit is a street circuit around Albert Park Lake, only a few kilometers south of central Melbourne. It is used annually as a racetrack for the Formula One Australian Grand Prix, Supercars Challenge, and associated support races. The circuit has FIA Grade 1 license.[4] In spite of being a circuit on public roads, it has characteristics of a natural road course considering it is fast and flowing combined with extensive runoff in many corners.

The Australian Grand Prix has always been more of a promoter event than a profit-raiser in itself. The contract was prolonged until 2020, although tobacco advertising has been banned since 2007.

Design

The circuit uses everyday sections of road that circle Albert Park Lake, a small man-altered lake (originally a large lagoon formed as part of the ancient Yarra River course) just south of the Central Business District of Melbourne. The road sections that are used were rebuilt prior to the inaugural event in 1996 to ensure consistency and smoothness. As a result, compared to other circuits that are held on public roads, the Albert Park track has quite a smooth surface. Before 2007 there existed only a few other places on the Formula 1 calendar with a body of water close to the track. Many of the new tracks, such as Valencia, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi have imitated that feature.

The course is considered to be quite fast and relatively easy to drive, drivers have commented that the consistent placement of corners allows them to easily learn the circuit and achieve competitive times. However, the flat terrain around the lake, coupled with a track design that features few true straights, means that the track is not conducive to overtaking or easy spectating unless in possession of a grandstand seat.

Each year, most of the trackside fencing, pedestrian overpasses, grandstands and other motorsport infrastructure are erected approximately two months prior to the Grand Prix weekend and removed within 6 weeks after the event. Land around the circuit (including a large aquatic centre, a golf course, a Lakeside Stadium, some restaurants and rowing boathouses) has restricted access during the grand prix weekend. Dissent is still prevalent among nearby local residents and users of those others facilities, and some still maintain a silent protest against the event. Nevertheless, the event is reasonably popular in Melbourne and Australia (with a large European population and a general interest in motorsport). Middle Park, the home of South Melbourne FC was demolished in 1994 due to expansion at Albert Park.

On 4 July 2008, the official F1 site reported that more than 300,000 people attended the four-day Melbourne Grand Prix, though actual ticket sales were later disputed by the local media. The Grand Prix will continue until at least 2020 after securing a new contract with Formula One Management.[5] There has never been a night race at Albert Park, however, 2009’s event started at 5.00 p.m.

Everyday access

During the nine months of the year when the track is not required for Grand Prix preparation or the race weekend, most of the track can be driven by ordinary street-registered vehicles either clockwise or anti-clockwise.

Only the sections between turns 3, 4 and 5, then 5 and 6, differ significantly from the race track configuration. Turn 4 is replaced by a car park access road running directly from turns 3 to 5. Between turns 5 and 6, the road is blocked. It is possible to drive from turn 5 on to Albert Road and back on to the track at turn 7 though two sets of lights control the flow of this option. The only set of lights on the actual track is halfway between turns 12 and 13, where drivers using Queens Road are catered for. The chicanes at turns 11 and 12 is considerably more open than that used in the grand prix, using the escape roads. Turn 9 is also a car park and traffic is directed down another escape road.

The speed limit is generally 50 kilometres per hour (31 mph) which is slower than an F1 car under pit lane speed restrictions. Some short sections have a speed limit of 40 kilometres per hour (25 mph). The back of the track, turns 7 to 13 inclusive, is known as Lakeside Drive. Double lines separate the two-way traffic along most of Lakeside Drive with short road islands approximately every 50 metres. This means overtaking is illegal here.

Approximately 50% of the track edge is lined with short parkland-style chain-linked fencing leaving normal drivers less room for error than F1 drivers have during race weekend. There is however substantial shoulder room between the outside of each lane and the fencing.

History

Albert Park Circuit (1953 to 1958)
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1953

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1956

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Albert Park has the distinction of being the only venue to host the Australian Grand Prix in both World Championship and non-World Championship formats with an earlier configuration of the current circuit used for the race on two occasions during the 1950s. During this time racing was conducted in an anti-clockwise direction [15] as opposed to the current circuit which runs clockwise.

Known as the Albert Park Circuit,[16] the original 3.125 mile (5.03 kilometre) course hosted a total of six race meetings:[17]

  • 21 November 1953 [16] – Featuring the 1953 Australian Grand Prix, won by Doug Whiteford [17] (Talbot-Lago T26C)
  • 26 & 27 March 1955 [18] – The first Moomba meeting, which involved an alliance with the Moomba festival and The Argus newspaper [17] – featuring the Moomba TT, won by Doug Whiteford (Triumph TR2) [19] and the Argus Trophy, also won by Doug Whiteford (Talbot-Lago) [20]
  • 11 March & 18 March 1956 [21] – The second Moomba meeting [17] – featuring the 1956 Moomba TT, won by Tony Gaze (HWM Jaguar), and, on the second weekend, the 1956 Argus Trophy, won by Reg Hunt (Maserati 250F) [21]
  • 25 November & 2 December 1956 [22] – featuring the 1956 Australian Tourist Trophy, won by Stirling Moss (Maserati 300S) and, on the second weekend, the 1956 Australian Grand Prix, also won by Stirling Moss (Maserati 250F) [23]
  • 17 [24] & 24 March 1957 – The third Moomba meeting [17] – featuring the Victorian Tourist Trophy [24] won by Doug Whiteford (Maserati 300S),[25] and the Victorian Trophy,[26] won by Lex Davison (Ferrari 500).[27] The Victorian Trophy was retrospectively designated as the second round of the 1957 Australian Drivers’ Championship [28]
  • 23 & 30 November 1958 [29] – Featuring the 1958 Victorian Tourist Trophy, won by Doug Whiteford (Maserati 300S),[30] and, on the second weekend, the 1958 Melbourne Grand Prix, (a round of the 1958 Australian Drivers’ Championship), won by Stirling Moss (Cooper Coventry Climax) [30]

Lap records

As of 14 March 2015.[31]

Class Driver Vehicle Time Date
Original Circuit
Outright United Kingdom Stirling Moss Cooper Climax 1:50.0 30 November 1958
Grand Prix Circuit
Outright Germany Michael Schumacher Ferrari F2004 1:24.125 7 March 2004
Racing Cars
Formula 1 Germany Michael Schumacher Ferrari F2004 1:24.125 7 March 2004
Formula 3 Brazil Bruno Senna Dallara F304 Spiess Opel 1:50.8640 3 March 2006
Formula Ford Australia Chaz Mostert Spectrum 012 Ford 2:04.4805 27 March 2010
Historic Racing Cars
Formula 5000 New Zealand Ken Smith Lola T430 Chevrolet 1:54.6975 28 March 2010
Sports Cars
Australian GT New Zealand Craig Baird Mercedes-AMG GT 1:55.1134 17 March 2016
Carrera Cup United Kingdom Ben Barker Porsche 997 GT3 Cup 1:58.3646 26 March 2011
Nations Cup Australia Paul Stokell Lamborghini Diablo GTR 2:00.685 8 March 2003[32]
Aussie Racing Cars Australia James Small Commodore-Yamaha 2:16.0196 15 March 2008
Touring Cars
Supercars Championship New Zealand Fabian Coulthard Ford FG X Falcon 1:54.3972 23 March 2017
V8 Ute Racing Series Australia Kerry Wade Ford Falcon Ute 2:24.1712 30 March 2006
Historic Touring Cars
Group A Australia Terry Lawlor Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R 2:10.8171 13 March 2015
Group C Australia Milton Seferis Holden VH Commodore SS 2:18.9539 14 March 2015