The Australian Grand Prix is a motor race held every year in Australia. It is the second oldest serving motor racing event in Australia, after the Alpine rally. The naming rights are owned by Swiss watchmaking behemoth Rolex.
Prior to its inclusion in the Formula One World Championship, it was held at multiple venues in every state. The race has been moved frequently, with 23 different venues having been used to host it over its rich history.
In 1985, it became part of the World Championship with Adelaide Street Circuit hosting the race from then until 1995. Since then, it has been moved to Melbourne, with Albert Park hosting every race until 2018. The winner of the race receives a shield, (named the Jack Brabham Trophy, designed based on a steering wheel of one of Brabham's cars) and the Lex Davison Trophy. Both trophies date back to the '60s.
The race has been the season opener since 1996, except in 2006 and 2010. From 1985 to 1995, it was the season finale, and the street circuit saw breathtaking finishes to the Championship showdown, most notably in 1986 and 1994.
The most successful drivers in the Australian Grand Prix are Michael Schumacher and Lex Davison, each with 4 triumphs. Mclaren and Ferrari have 12 wins each, making them the most successful constructors.
The Adelaide Street Circuit hosted some of the most famous names in Formula One history. The 3.78 km circuit had Ayrton Senna as its first ever pole position winner. After an intriguing contest under testing heat, Keke Rosberg won the race, finishing on top after 82 gruelling laps. Three-time World Champion Niki Lauda drove his last race at this event. Starting at 16th, he raced his way to take the lead by lap 57, but a brake failure saw him crash into a wall, ending his Formula One career.
In 1990, it became the 500th World Championship Grand Prix ever held. In 1991, the race was stopped after only 14 laps, as the conditions were considered too wet to be safe and Ayrton Senna was announced winner of the truncated race. The 1994 race saw Schumacher and Hill clash, retiring the German and injuring the Williams driver. Schumacher won the Championship that year.
In 1993, businessman Ron Walker began working with the Kennett government to wrest the Australian Grand Prix from Adelaide. It was a bid to make Melbourne happy again after being unceremoniously turned down to host the 1996 Olympics. It is said that Sydney winning its bid to host the 2000 Olympics drove those involved into making it happen. Bernie Ecclestone, President of Formula One Management famously said "It took 10 minutes to do the deal with Melbourne".
In 1996, Damon Hill stood atop the podium in a race that saw a horrific crash for Jordan's Martin Brundle.
In 1997, David Coulthard broke his 50-race win drought by racing his Mclaren to victory. Ferrari won its first ever race in Melbourne in 1999, with Northern Irishman Eddie Irvine recording his maiden victory in a race that saw both Mclarens retire half-way. Schumacher broke his Melbourne drought in 2000, leading a Ferrari 1-2 with Rubens Barrichello.
The 2002 race is widely remembered for the spectacular turn of events, when Barrichello and Ralf Schumacher came together at Turn One, causing 11 of the 22 drivers to be eliminated in the opening lap. Michael Schumacher escaped the carnage unscathed to make it a hat-trick of victories at Melbourne. Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton are some prominent names who debuted at Albert Park.
In 2006 and 2010, it was made the 3rd race in the season calendar to accommodate the Commonwealth Games, which were also taking place in the city.