Melbourne Grand Prix

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Four days of F1 engines burning across Albert Park, racing through a narrow circuit with off-track musical entertainment and an inviting bar around every turn has Melbourne craving the Grand Prix. As the crowds pour in, jets soar overhead and Australian culture influences the event, this is the race that marks the beginning of the global competition each year.

Now moving into the second decade of its existence in this city, the Grand Prix is set to celebrate the past 20 years of the race that moved across from Adelaide in 1995. Legends such as Schumacher, Coulthard, Hakkinen and Button have held the cup aloft, while Australians Webber and Ricciardo improved their reputations on home soil. But it isn’t just about the racing.

Melbourne is the sporting capital of Australia, whether it’s the AFL Grand Final, the Melbourne Cup or a one-off event featuring the finest stars in world sport. The Grand Prix sits alongside these competitions, set in the heat of early March (12th-15th) and situated within the boundaries of calm lake and bustling city.

It is a visual and vibrant experience for formula one enthusiasts, but also boasts further entertainment. Music acts such as Flo Rida, KISS, Bernard Fanning, The Cranberries and The Hoodoo Gurus have performed once the wheels ceased spinning, and has encouraged a wider demographic to attend the four-day festival.

A common complaint is the price of entry. General admission tickets are $149 for a four day pass, but this doesn’t get holders a seat. A single day ticket is only $39 on the Thursday, which features lesser track entertainment, while race day is $79 (if booked prior to March). Adding this to drink prices, food prices and additional expenditure such as mini music festivals and tempting merchandise makes the experience an expensive choice.

Grandstand seating is best if attending all four days for on-track viewing, but the price is even more aggravating. Grandstand options range between $325 and $1250, with the prime seating usually sold out. Many stands are without shelter and as close proximity to the track increases the temperature this can be a daunting choice for all four days. There are grassy hills to sit on and watch proceedings, a favourite amongst single-day ticket holders.

The Crusty Demons, Tony Hawk’s Skateboarding and Nitro Circus are the types of entertainment that have been on offer previously, and with announcements soon to be made on what will take place there is no doubt the 20th anniversary will hold something special for thrill seekers.

What was once a haven for groups of males has turned into an experience for anyone who enjoys a vibrant environment with a varied roster of entertainment. The Sunday race is the main event, as practice and heats in the days prior leads to the fierce competition that is broadcast throughout the world, but the track is always humming beneath different forms of cars and chaos during the four days. While the tickets can be costly, the event may not be held here forever and it is worth seeing with the AFL still in pre-season and the weather at its finest.

At the very least, a day on the green with drinks in the sunshine, surrounded by popular music and cars rocketing at unrelenting speeds is enough to warrant a splurge. Who knows, it may be good enough to be pencilled in yearly on your calendar.

By Chris Sutton

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