Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit

Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit
Albert Lake Park Street Circuit in Melbourne, Australia.svg
LocationAlbert Park, Melbourne, Australia
Time zoneUTC+10:00 (UTC+11:00 DST)
Coordinates37°50′59″S 144°58′6″E / 37°50′59″S 144°58′6″E / -37.84972; 144.96833
Capacity80,000[1][2]
FIA Grade1
Opened20 November 1953
Re-opened: 7 March 1996
Major eventsFormula One
Australian Grand Prix
Supercars Championship
Melbourne 400
Porsche Carrera Cup Australia Championship
Australian GT Championship
Ferrari Challenge Asia-Pacific
Length5.303 km (3.296 mi)
Turns16
Race lap record1:24.125 (Germany Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, 2004)
Original circuit
Length5.027 km (3.124 mi)
Turns9
Race lap record1:50.0 (United Kingdom Stirling Moss, CooperClimax, 1958, Formula Libre)

The Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit is a street circuit around Albert Park Lake, only a few kilometres south of central Melbourne. It is used annually as a racetrack for the Formula One Australian Grand Prix, Supercars Championship Melbourne 400 and associated support races. The circuit has FIA Grade 1 licence.[3] In spite of being a circuit on public roads it has characteristics of a natural road course considering it being fast and flowing combined with extensive runoff in many corners.

The Australian Grand Prix has always been more of a promoter event than a profit-raiser in itself. The contract was prolonged until 2023, although tobacco advertising has been banned since 2007.

Design

The circuit uses everyday sections of road that circle Albert Park Lake, a small man-altered lake (originally a large lagoon formed as part of the ancient Yarra River course) just south of the Central Business District of Melbourne. The road sections that are used were rebuilt prior to the inaugural event in 1996 to ensure consistency and smoothness. As a result, compared to other circuits that are held on public roads, the Albert Park track has quite a smooth surface. Before 2007 there existed only a few other places on the Formula 1 calendar with a body of water close to the track. Many of the new tracks, such as Valencia, Singapore and Abu Dhabi have imitated that feature.

The course is considered to be quite fast and relatively easy to drive, drivers having commented that the consistent placement of corners allows them to easily learn the circuit and achieve competitive times. However, the flat terrain around the lake, coupled with a track design that features few true straights, means that the track is not conducive to overtaking or easy spectating unless in possession of a grandstand seat.

An overhead view of part of the circuit as viewed from the Eureka Tower observation deck

Each year, most of the trackside fencing, pedestrian overpasses, grandstands and other motorsport infrastructure are erected approximately two months prior to the Grand Prix weekend and removed within 6 weeks after the event. Land around the circuit (including a large aquatic centre, a golf course, a Lakeside Stadium, some restaurants and rowing boathouses) has restricted access during the Grand Prix weekend. Dissent is still prevalent among nearby local residents and users of those others facilities, and some still maintain a silent protest against the event. Nevertheless, the event is reasonably popular in Melbourne and Australia (with a large European population and a general interest in motorsport). Middle Park, the home of South Melbourne FC was demolished in 1994 due to expansion at Albert Park.

On 4 July 2008, the official F1 site (Formula1.com) reported that more than 300,000 people attended the four-day Melbourne Grand Prix, though actual ticket sales were later disputed by the local media. The Grand Prix will continue until at least 2020 after securing a new contract with Formula One Management.[4] There has never been a night race at Albert Park, however, 2009 event started at 5:00 p.m.

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