2019 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix
So... the Australian Grand Prix. The AusGP is an incredible motorsport weekend from the support categories of Australian Formula 4, Asia Ferrari Championship, Australian GT, Porsche Carrera Cup and the Supercars all the way to the on track entertainment (or sometimes the in air entertainment, thanks to the Royal Australian Air Force).
Being an Australian motorsport fan I’ve been to my fair share of Supercars race weekends. Formula 1 Grand Prix is so different. The atmosphere, to the sound of the cars, the smell of the Pirelli’s getting absolutely eaten up by the harsh streets of Melbourne. Everything was different.
My weekend started on Thursday afternoon. This was my first mistake. Don’t live 12 hours away from the Albert Park circuit and choose to drive after work. It will be hard. Although as a lover of road trips I packed my bags and was on the road to the streets of Melbourne.
Ten minutes after hitting Sydney (about an hour and a half into the journey) the biggest hail storm I had ever seen in all my nineteen years hit us. I flinched every time the golf ball sized hail smashed into the roof of my car.
The storm went on for half an hour and I thought this was going to be a preview of the weather for the Grand Prix. I was hoping for a wet race, unfortunately Melbourne decided to completely ditch the clouds and rain for scorching sun (if you weren’t in the shade).
Not finding shade was our second mistake. We searched for a good track viewing position and ended up settling for Turn 4. At Turn 4 you can see from the entry of Turn 3 all the way through to the exit of Turn 5 depending on where you sit. There’s also a big screen. This was the best spot for general admission viewing, we thought anyway.
If you’re not keen on GA there’s plenty of grandstands all around the circuit. At Turn 4, there’s the Ricciardo stand, (which is where I would go because of both the track view and the screen). If you’re a Daniel Ricciardo fan this is the place to be.
Or there is multiple along the main straight and at Turns 1 and 2 being the Jones, Brabham, and Fangio stands all with Superscreens which put you as close to the action as you can get. Any Turn 1-2 dramas and you’ll see them, guaranteed.
Turns 9 and 10 have the Clark Grandstand. It has both a Superscreen and a great view of two fast corners and one slow one.
Turns 11 and 12 have the Waite stand with a superscreen opposite. This stand gives panoramic views of both corners.
At Turns 15 and 16 you’ll find the Prost stand, also with a superscreen diagonally opposite. On Turn 16/Pit Entry/Pit Straight you’ll find the Senna stand with a superscreen. This stand gives you a perfect view into pit lane plus a view of Turn 16, a corner usually taken at 150km/h.
The Schumacher stand is at Turn 15 and also has a superscreen. Turn 15 is a slow left hander but gives you a perfect view into pit lane entry and of the cars accelerating up the straight. A great spot if you’re an avid m motorsport photographer as you’ll get unobstructed photos.
Friday began with Qualifying for Support Categories, the AusGT race and then Australian Formula 4 hit the circuit.
Shortly after, the Formula 1 cars hit the track for FP1. With spins from both Valtteri Bottas and Alex Albon, Hamilton topped the time sheets.
After FP1 the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship made their way onto the track for Qualifying for races 5 and 6 for the year. VASC is Australia’s biggest Touring Car Championship. The highest form of TC racing in the country. With the brand new Mustang Supercar having only raced one weekend before the GP all Supercars fans eyes were locked onto the six new ponies. Two Mustangs locked out the front row of all races.
The Porsche Carrera Cup race 2 followed the Supercars quali. With Carrera Cup being one of my personal favourite supports I was keen as a bean for this.
At 4:00pm the F1 returned to the track for FP2. FP2 was the first real opportunity to see how closely matched the cars were. Mercedes topped the time sheets again, unsurprisingly. The Albert Park circuit suits the Silver Arrows, you could visibly see them going through turns faster than other cars. Whether this was because other teams were sandbagging or genuinely slower I guess we will never know but the Mercedes seemed dominant.
Supercars race 3 followed. 2018 Champion Scott McLaughlin from Dick Johnson Racing Team Penske continued his absolute domination from the previous race in Adelaide and won from pole.
With on track entertainment rounding out the day we made our way back to the hotel.
Saturday began with the same on-track entertainment. AusGT, Asia Ferrari Championship and AusF4 kicked off the days racing. The crowds slowly built up with families having their first GP experience to seasoned veterans and everyone in between. Supercars race 4 was a continuation of Scotty Mac’s control over the field racing from pole to take the win once again. Being a Ford fan I was undeniably stoked to see the mustangs performing so well.
F1 Free Practise 3 was up next. The first sub 1:23 laps were finally set by Ferrari but were quickly knocked off by Mercedes. Every time Danny Ric passed the crowds insane cheers literally enveloped you. The home pride was clear. We all loved him. Everywhere you looked there was flocks of Renault support. Even people in Mercedes or Ferrari apparel (myself included) were loving seeing Danny Ric complete his laps.
Carrera Cup followed FP3. A support that never fails to impress. With the cars being spec it was all up to the drivers to make moves and improve their grid position. That’s why it is one of my favourite categories.
With a speed comparison between a Road Spec Hyundai i30, a TCR race spec i30N and a Minardi Formula One car the crowds filled the gaps on the fences trying to catch a glimpse.
The time for F1 Qualifying had finally fallen upon us. The buzz of people surrounding us was deafening with people all saying who they thought was going to get pole. Luckily for me I had already joined the Back Of The Grid Prediction League. Unluckily for me, Vettel failed to knock the Silver Arrows off. Hamilton and Bottas locked out the front row with a time of 1:22.043. The Mercedes fans were quite obviously pleased with the result.
With the crowds slowing disappearing Supercars Race 5 began. With only Supercars fans left hanging around it was easy to see which team people supported. Fortunately for me I had the sickest bloke next to me who also supported Chaz Mostert, my favourite Supercars driver. Chaz went from 7th on the grid to take the win. The first race not won by Scott McLaughlin all year, but still dominated by the Mustang.
With a massive smile of my face and most of the surrounding crowds faces we made our way out of the track. I’d originally planned to go to Federation Square to see the Netflix F1 Drive to Survive documentary but knew I’d miss it due to staying for the Supercars.
Game day. Race day. Gates opened. It was like a thousand Usain Bolts were running for gold. Everyone literally sprinted to their favourite spots.
I made my way to the Supercars Paddock. With drivers and fans hanging around it’s one of the most entertaining areas on the whole track. Standing in the pits, looking at the cars up close, the data, seeing team owners, principals and drivers with their breakfast, just chilling. Seriously, I caught up with Cam Waters from Monster Energy Racing and he literally had a banana in his hand.
Support categories started the morning off with some pretty sick races. The crowds were physically hard to get through depending on where you were going. Sunday obviously was the most packed day. You definitely need to find your spot over the other days and then make your way quickly there on Sunday. I was lucky being able to get to my favourite spot before the Supercars and F1 races started.
I was so keen for this race. I had butterflies in my stomach. I had literally never been so excited for a race. Everyone around me was nervous, no one could sit or stand still.
The cars lined up on the grid. One by one. They set off for the formation lap. Cheers for everyone’s favourite drivers and teams were thunderous. Cars lined up in their grid boxes once again. The crowd fell silent…
Lights lit up.
1 then 2 then 3, 4 & 5.
We were racing.
Danny Ric decided he truly didn’t need wings and ditched his before the first corner. An audible “ugh” was the only reaction given by anyone there. Every Australian was disappointed before they’d even gone through the first corner.
The race kicked on.
Sainz’ Mclaren had an explosive start to the year. Literally. Actual flames. Danny Ric had officially retired and Romain Grosjean’s pit crew had flashbacks to 2018 and forgot how to put a wheel on properly.
With fastest laps being thrown about between Verstappen and Bottas the race was close to the chequered flag.
The crowd was watching intently, with Bottas lightyears ahead of the rest of the field the fights were between Hamilton/Verstappen and Vettel/Leclerc. With the finishing positions ultimately remaining the same the 2019 Australian Grand Prix has been completed for another year.
For me, the 4 days all rolled into one massive day. It was definitely up there with the best Motorsport weekends of my life. If you’re ever in Australia you absolutely need to try and get to the GP or a Supercars weekend. Touring Cars are some of the most entertaining categories to watch and they sound so damn good, especially if you’re a fan of backfires (which everyone should be). The phrase “rubbing’s racing” is not a thing in F1, but it’s almost a necessity in Supercars.
So as Back Of The Grid’s Official AusGP Trackside Reporter it’s time to sign off until next year.
All photos are property of Arrow Productions, Copyright 2019 Arrow Productions.
All photos taken and edited by Arrow Productions, Copyright 2019 Arrow Productions.
This article is property of Arrow Productions, Copyright 2019 Arrow Productions.
With thanks to Tom King, Stu Greenwood and Chris Evans.