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Drivers on parade in Australia 02 Mar 2005

Mark Webber (AUS) Williams waves to the crowd.
Melbourne F1 Parade, Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Preparations, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, 2 March 2005

Build-up to Sunday's race starts in style

Formula One cars took over the heart of Melbourne at lunchtime on Wednesday, as part of the celebrations marking the city’s 10th Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park this weekend.

The very special parade featuring Formula One cars lapped the central business district, with home favourite and Williams driver Mark Webber on show in an open-top car.

“It was fantastic to see everyone out there enjoying Formula One so close up, really smelling it and feeling it,” said the 28-year-old Australian. “The drivers looked like they had a ball. It was great to get close to everyone and really feel the spirit – that’s what it was all about.”

Around 150,000 spectators lined the streets as Minardi team owner Paul Stoddart got behind the wheel of one of his Formula One cars in tribute to his home town, with Dutchman Christijan Albers in the second Minardi, and Brazilian Antonio Pizzonia in a Williams.

“I think everyone is going to have fantastic memories of a spectacular event,” said Stoddart. “I was so impressed by the crowd: they were very supportive, and they should be very proud of this city. Melbourne is without a doubt the best Grand Prix in the world.”

Australian V8 Supercar drivers Marcos Ambrose and Mark Skaife added to the spectacle in their Ford and Holden machines, while string quartet Bond – ambassadors of the 2005 Australian Grand Prix – also joined the parade.

The ‘circuit’ started in Flinders Street, travelled up St Kilda Road to the Arts Centre, then took in the block of Swanston, Collins, Russell and Flinders Streets.

First practice for the Australian Grand Prix gets underway Friday morning.