It was my first visit to the circuit, and as is the case with many things in Melbourne, I was impressed.
The park encompasses 2.25 square kilometres of parkland – an area greater than the whole of Monaco – and contained within are numerous ovals, sporting facilities, a golf course, a 5km walking track around the Albert Park Lake and, of course, the Grand Prix circuit.
The set-up for each Australian Grand Prix starts about 1 month before the actual race weekend itself, where the trackside fencing, pedestrian overpasses and grandstands are erected, in addition to the removal of all unrelated temporary structures, such as the current bollard chain-link fencing that lies either side of the perimeter road that is the 5.3km circuit.
Indeed, the only true reminder that a major race happens here each year it the pit building, which stands as its own structure on the main straight. One of the garage doors was open, and within the garages are spacious and accommodating. Once the advertising walls are erected by the teams during a proper Grand Prix, extra space is no doubt a much-desired commodity!
We climbed the stairs to the podium platform (pictured below) – the gate to which was luckily open! – and surveyed the view up and down the pit lane. In a side room, we found the entire podium structure, including the QANTAS-emblazoned advertising boards used as part of the structure.
The pit lane itself gave little indication that a race had occurred just over 6 weeks’ ago, aside from the worn grass where the pit lane gantries were sited and the occasional paint and tyre burn out marking on the pit lane concrete. At the Sauber garage, the national flags for Kamui Kobayashi and Pedro de la Rosa were still visible (pictured left).
Despite this being a venue used once a year for motorsport, Albert Park certainly doesn’t slow down for the other 51 weekends a year, and this chilly autumn morning was no exception. A cycling race was occurring on the main straight and through the final sequence of corners, and there were football games aplenty happening on the surrounding ovals.
We ventured from the pit lane towards Turn 1 and 2, scene of many a start line accident. The gravel had only just been lifted up and the soil replanted with grass seeds, many of which were just starting to sprout.
What was amazing was the amount of temporary fencing structures, concrete lumps on the road surface, street lamps and the like that had to be removed in the lead- up to each Grand Prix (pictured right). For such a logistical exercise, it is no doubt expensive and it’s hardly surprising that the Australian Grand Prix – like the majority of Grands Prix around the world – operates at a considerable loss.
We continued on to Turn 3, where the road narrows and the run-off is not particularly accommodating in the event of an almighty accident – just ask Martin Brundle!
Despite this area being the site of the death of a track marshal in 2001 – when Jacques Villeneuve and Ralf Schumacher collided – there was no evidence or anything to indicate the passing of Graham Beveridge, not even a plaque in his honour. Strange and disappointing…
I picked up some spare gravel at Turn 3 and put it in my pocket…
For all of the pictures from our trip to Albert Park, please click here.
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