A long winter of testing and development will be on show this weekend as the 2018 Formula One season kicks off in Melbourne.

After not seeing the paddock since December when the season wrapped up under the lights of Abu Dhabi, the circus returns to Albert Park as the traditional season curtain raiser.

In the Grand Prix’s 22-year history as a World Championship event, there have been some spectacular moments over its time in Adelaide and then Melbourne.

Here are our top five moments in the history of the Australian Grand Prix:

1986: Adelaide – Williams loses the unlosable championship

Back when Adelaide hosted the Grand Prix and it served as the last race of the season, the Williams drivers of Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell entered the race as favourites to win the title.

Despite securing pole position, Mansell’s title hopes evaporated in the second half of the race when his tyre exploded, taking him out of the race.

The team brought in Piquet to change his tyres as a precaution, giving the lead to McLaren’s Alain Prost who remained there until the chequered flag, winning his second championship in succession despite having a fuel gauge telling him he was running on empty for the last few laps.

Nigel Mansell, Williams Honda FW11 - 1986 Australian Grand Prix

Nigel Mansell was on course to claim his maiden World Championship title until his tyre blew with a few laps to go. (ESPN)

1991: Adelaide – The Shortest Race Ever

The 1991 season was well and truly wrapped up before the final round with Ayrton Senna winning his third and final World Championship title in Japan.

At the final race in Adelaide, a downpour saw the track become water-logged, leaving officials no choice but to declare the finish after only 16 laps of racing (although the red flag countback rules meant the standings at the end of Lap 14 were final). It stands as the shortest race in history after only running for 24 minutes.

Ayrton Senna, McLaren Honda MP4/6 - 1991 Australian Grand Prix

Ayrton Senna won the 1991 race in appalling conditions, which was stopped after just 16 laps. (McLaren)

1996: Melbourne – Fresh Faces, New Places

For 1996 the Australian Grand Prix was not only moved from being the last race of the season to the first, but also to Melbourne from Adelaide. Rookie Jacques Villeneuve starred in qualifying, putting his Williams on pole in his first Formula One race after making the move from the American CART championship (which he had won in 1995).

His teammate Damon Hill went on to win the race after Villeneuve’s gearbox developed an oil leak which would make the Exxon Valdez blush. Hill became the first and only driver to win two races in a row to be held in the same country.

The race was also marred by a spectacular accident for Martin Brundle at Turn 3, from which the British driver was famously able to walk away unhurt.

Jacques Villeneuve and Damon Hill, Williams Renault FW18 - 1996 Australian Grand Prix

Villeneuve sensationally led teammate Hill on his F1 debut, but as evidenced by Hill’s oil-soaked car, the Canadian had to drop back to second place to conserve his FW18’s reliability. (Williams / LAT)

2002: Melbourne – The Local Hero and Ralf the pilot

After success in sports cars, Australian Mark Webber made his F1 debut in the 2002 Australian Grand Prix for Minardi. The start of the race was marred by a crash which took out eight cars, triggered by Ralf Schumacher making a blistering start only to make contact with Rubens Barrichello, launching over the Brazilian’s Ferrari.

The large number of retirements created one of the greatest fairytale stories in F1 history as Webber finished fifth on debut, becoming the first Australian to score points in a Grand Prix since Alan Jones.

Paul Stoddart & Mark Webber, Minardi - 2002 Australian Grand Prix

Minardi team principal Paul Stoddart and local hero Mark Webber were given their own podium ceremony after the Aussie finished in fifth place in his debut race in 2002. (Mark Webber)

2009: Melbourne – Brawn Show Their Brains

In the off-season between 2008 and 2009, Honda announced their withdrawal from Formula One, leaving the team to be bought out by former Ferrari whiz Ross Brawn. With a good chassis and a last-minute deal to run Mercedes engines, Brawn GP came to Melbourne with no yardstick of what was achievable.

They stunned the paddock when Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello not only locked out the front row but took the first two steps on the podium. The result was unexpected but was a sign of the year to come as Button and Brawn won the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships respectively.

Jenson Button, Brawn Mercedes BGP001 - 2009 Australian Grand Prix

Jenson Button won the 2009 Australian Grand Prix for the new Brawn GP team, borne at the last minute from the ashes of Honda’s sudden F1 exit from the sport. (Red Bull)

Will there be another magic moment in Melbourne this weekend? If this year’s event has been anything to go by, it’ll be a tight race at the top of the pecking order to get the best possible start to the season.

Images via Daily Motion, Mark Webber, McLaren, Red Bull, Williams

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Jordan Mulach

Journalist at MotorsportM8
Canberra born and raised journalist, living in Brisbane. Sports Media graduate from the University of Canberra. iRacing addict