Australian Grand Prix 2018: Halos, Vegemite & F1’s season return

Formula 1

Ready to go for five? Who will become the joint second most successful F1 driver of all time?

Melbourne is the sporting capital of the world… say the people of Melbourne, at least.

The award-winning city has everything a sports enthusiast could want; a bit of Grand Slam tennis here, a Boxing Day Ashes Test there.

For the Formula 1 nut, however, it signals the beginning of a rollercoaster calendar of simmering rivalry, high drama and fast racing.

And this year the stakes are higher than usual, as Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel go head-to-head to become the most successful driver of their generation and claim a fifth world title ahead of the other.

The Australian Grand Prix also brings with it a new dawn in car design, with the controversial Halo device having its first competitive run out in Albert Park.

With new owners Liberty Media also in charge, F1’s hierarchy will be hoping the Aussies can serve up plenty of razzmatazz and audience engagement.

Thousands of fans and a buzzing atmosphere is something Australia has never struggled with. Tumbleweed blowing through an empty grandstand could come later in the season.

A lack of mental sharpness mixed with unpredictable weather also brings together a challenging experience for the drivers, and excitement for the crowds.

The locals here have a saying: “you’re only a true Melbournian when you’ve used an umbrella, scarf, sunglasses, sunscreen and thongs (or flip flops to us Brits) – on the same day.”

Up up and away: The first grand prix of the season can expose a driver’s rustiness…

Rewind to 2017 and Sebastian Vettel took first blood with an opening race victory against rival Lewis Hamilton. Both drivers are now level in the all-time winners list with four drivers’ championships.

The stage is set and the countdown nearly complete. In the words of the most recent world champion: “Let’s get to racing.”

Previously in Formula 1

October 2017: Vettel and Hamilton were wheel-to-wheel in the early stages of the season but after a summer break revival the Mercedes man clinched the title in Mexico with time to spare
March 2018: Testing… testing… McLaren suffered car troubles, Mercedes were strong enough to give Hamilton and Bottas a spilt shift and Toro Rosso proved a Honda engine could run trouble-free

Back pocket facts

  • Until 1966, all pubs in Melbourne closed at 6pm
  • Vegemite was invented in Melbourne in 1922 after months of laboratory tests by food technologist Dr Cyril P Callister
  • Before Melbourne was called Melbourne, it was named Batmania after John Batman, a colonist farmer from Tasmania who landed in Port Philip Bay in May 1835
  • The Black Box flight recorder was invented in 1958 by Dr David Warren at the Aeronautical Research Laboratories in Melbourne. Warren’s father had died in a plane crash over the Bass Strait in 1934.

The track

Flashback vote

What is your most memorable Australian Grand Prix moment? Don’t keep it to yourself – share it with the rest of us.

Below you can vote on six highlights from previous races. Will it be the first-corner carnage of 2002 that gets the nod?

Or how about the Michael Schumacher v Damon Hill showdown of 1994?

Pick your favourite and we’ll reveal the results online and during 5 live F1’s Australian GP preview.

Drivers’ social

As an F1 driver it’s not enough these days to just drive a car around a track really fast – you need to offer the fans that little something extra. Enter the creatively titled ‘Hamojis’. Instead of using a winkey, thumbs up or cry laughing emoji to sign off a message, you could send your loved one an animated version of Lewis Hamilton: pumping iron with his tattoos on display or smiling with a halo around his head… among other things
Grid kids: Haas’ Romain Grosjean is the first one out of the blocks to reminisce about his carting days as a youngster
Who needs a gym for pre-season training when you can push yourself to the limit up the stunning Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur? Bringing new meaning to the term “leg day” – Valtteri Bottas is pushing hard for 2018

How to follow on BBC Sport

BBC Sport has live coverage of all the season’s races on BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, plus live online commentary on the BBC Sport website and mobile app – including audience interaction, expert analysis, debate, voting, features, interviews and video content.

All times GMT until Sunday 25 March when BST begins. Times are subject to change at short notice.

Australian Grand Prix coverage details
Date Session Time Radio coverage Online text commentary
Thursday, 22 March Preview 20:00-21:00 BBC Radio 5 live
Friday, 23 March First practice 00:55-02:35 BBC Sport online From 00:30
Second practice 04:55-06:35 BBC Sport online From 04:30
Saturday, 24 March Third practice 02:55-04:04 BBC Sport online From 02:30
Qualifying 05:55-07:05 BBC Sport online From 05:00
Sunday, 25 March Race 06:10 BST BBC Radio 5 live From 04:30
Monday, 26 March Review 04:30-05:00 & podcast BBC Radio 5 live

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