My Top 5 Australian Grand Prixs

Daniel ChalmersSenior Analyst IMarch 25, 2009

13 Nov 1994:  Benetton Ford driver Michael Schumacher of Germany leads from Williams Renault driver Damon Hill of Great Britain during the Australian Grand Prix at the Adelaide circuit in Australia. Hill and Schumacher both retired from the race after colliding with each other. \ Mandatory Credit: Pascal  Rondeau/Allsport

There have been some very memorable Australian GPs in the past.  In this article, I guide you through my personal top 5 Australian GPs of all time.

5. 2002—Melbourne

2002 had a very nasty first lap incident where Ralf Schumacher took off the back of Rubens Barrichello’s Ferrari. Ralf was very lucky his car didn’t flip over, and he escaped the crash unharmed.

Schumacher got away badly from pole position, and Barrichello and Ralf got by. Barrichello moved across twice to stop Ralf from getting by him. Barrichello also braked earlier than Ralf was expecting, initiating the big accident.

This accident caused the midfield to trip over each other, meaning 11 cars were eliminated after the first lap.

Coulthard then led as Schumacher hounded Trulli. Trulli was holding on well, but he spun out and hit the wall. This brought out another Safety Car. As it came in, Coulthard mysteriously went off before turn 13. Montoya then had a great scrap with Michael Schumacher and managed to overtake him. However, as Schumacher’s tyres got up to temperature, he managed to re-pass Montoya for the lead. Schumacher then ran away into the distance, and won the race.

Due to the high level of attrition, debutant Mark Webber scored two points for Minardi at his home GP.

4. 2003—Melbourne

A little bit of rain at the beginning of the 2003 race saw a lot of great overtaking. The Michelin runners could run on a damp track with dry tyres, whereas the Bridgestone runners couldn’t. This led to a lot of excitement and changing of positions in the opening laps.

The Ferraris surged away on intermediate tyres, but Barrichello crashed heavily, followed by Ralph Firman the lap after, which brought out the safety sar. Montoya then built up a lead from Trulli, but a rear suspension failure from Webber brought out another safety car. Montoya had pitted before this period, so he was looking good. Raikkonen (who benefited from changing to dry tyres on the end of the formation lap) was in the lead, and had a great scrap with Schumacher. He was very resistant, and ruined Schumacher’s aggressive short stint strategy.

The two Mclarens were now leading on a one stop strategy. They then both pitted, and Montoya was back into the lead. Raikkonen and Schumacher had another aggressive battle, with Kimi coming out on top again, and Schumacher fell back. After this, Raikkonen incurred a penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Schumacher then had a bargeboard that started to come loose, and he had to have it removed.

Montoya looked set for victory, but a silly error allowed David Coulthard to come away with a somewhat fortunate victory. Raikkonen finished third and Schumacher fourth.

3. 1996—Melbourne

In the first race at Melbourne in 1996, Jacques Villeneuve, in his first ever F1 race for Williams, stuck it on pole ahead of teammate Damon Hill.

At the start, Jacques got away brilliantly, but Damon Hill didn’t, and he lost out to the two Ferraris. Further back heading towards turn three, Martin Brundle had a horrific accident, as he took off another car in a dramatic barrel roll, and landed upside down in the run-off area. The race was then stopped. Brundle got out of the car unscathed.

At the restart, Villeneuve and Hill both got a great start, and spent most of the race having a fierce private battle. The gap remained very small for long periods of the race. Jacque Villeneuve was leading all the way, and doing extremely well to withstand the intense pressure on his debut.

However, disaster struck for Villeneuve on lap 53. A reliability gremlin problem allowed Hill to pass him; Hill went onto win the race. However, Villeneuve was still able to limp home in second place.

2. 1994—Adelaide

This title decider was between two bitter rivals. Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill were both vying to win their first F1 title. As the F1 circus arrived to Adelaide to contest the finale, Schumacher held the championship lead by a single point. Hill had driven the race of his life in the previous round at a wet Suzuka. Nigel Mansell took pole position, with Schumacher and Hill right behind. Schumacher and Hill both passed Mansell at the start. It was looking good for Schumacher, but Hill was staying in very close company with him, but unable to get close enough to overtake him.

Lap 35 was the lap where it got really dramatic. Schumacher made an error, and his Benetton clipped the wall with Hill right behind him. Hill then saw an opportunity and dove in on the inside. Schumacher turned in on Hill, forcing the two to collide, sending Schumacher on a spectacular half barrel roll, and out of the race. Hill had damaged his wishbone, and had to pit to mend the damage. The Williams team tried to get Hill going again, with Hill praying and hoping in the cockpit that he would be able to get back out.

Schumacher, on the other hand, was still standing at the corner where he retired, waiting to see if Hill would come back around past where he was standing. It didn’t happen. Hill was out of the race. With Schumacher’s one-point lead going into the race, he won the championship. Half the race was still remaining. Mansell went on to win the race after passing Alesi for the lead. In the end, that wasn’t important, nor the main talking point after the race...

It was the controversial circumstances, in which Michael Schumacher became Germany’s first ever Formula 1 world champion, that was on everyone’s minds.

Was his move to take Hill out of the race deliberate? Did Schumacher just crack under pressure and make a mistake? If Hill had known Schumacher’s car was damaged, he could easily have overtaken him in the next corner. The events of this Grand Prix still cause huge debates amongst F1 fans 14 years after the race.

1. 1986—Adelaide

Three drivers went into the final race of the season with a chance of winning the title, Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell in the Williams, and Alain Prost in the Mclaren. Mansell was the man with the points advantage. Third place would be enough to seal his championship victory. After qualifying, all was well, as Mansell sealed pole position.

The start didn’t go well for Nigel, as Senna went on to lead in the first lap, with Piquet and Prost also passing Mansell. Piquet quickly passed Senna for the lead—not long after Rosberg took the lead—and went on to build a big margin.

Piquet spun out on lap 23 after being put under pressure by Prost and lost positions. He later got back past Mansell, after which Prost suffered a puncture. Rosberg then endured the same fate whilst comfortably leading, and was out of the race. Only 25 laps were remaining, and the title could still end up in either of the three contender’s hands.

Mansell was currently in championship winning position. All he had to do was keep position and not do anything stupid. Unfortunately, this message wasn’t passed to his left-rear tyre, when it blew up at 180mph on the straightaway in spectacular fashion. It was the third high profile tyre failure of the afternoon. It was heartbreak for the British fans, and Mansell’s title challenge was over.

It was left to Prost and Piquet to battle it out for the title in the remaining laps. After witnessing Mansell and Rosberg’s tyre failures, Williams brought Piquet in to change his tyres as a precaution.

Prost stayed out and risked it, and took the lead the race. Piquet pushed as hard as he possibly could to reel him back in, but he could only get within four seconds of Alain Prost.  After probably the most eventful finale in F1 history, the title went to Prost.

With huge rule changes for 2009, and what looks like a big shake-up of the F1 pecking order, this weekend’s race may have a great chance to enter this top 5 list. My new web blog is now open (although very rough around the edges at the moment).

You can now also follow me on my new F1 Twitter updates service. I may consider doing live F1 race text commentaries if I get enough followers, and people interested.


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