This weekend sees Melbourne’s Albert Park play host to its 20th world championship race, but did you know that 18 of those races have been season-openers? Ahead of the 2015 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix, we present a compendium of the need-to-know facts, stats and trivia…
The Australian Grand Prix has been ever-present on the calendar since 1985. The first 11 races were held in Adelaide, with the event switching to Melbourne’s picturesque Albert Park in 1996. This year’s race will be the 20th at the venue.
Jenson Button has taken part in every race in Melbourne since 2000, making this year’s his 16th at the venue. Fernando Alonso can boast the second-highest number of starts in Australia (13), but the Spaniard will be absent from this year’s race as he recovers from a crash in pre-season testing.
Alonso’s absence brings to an end a run of 219 successive entries, the longest such run of any driver on the grid, dating back to the 2003 Australian Grand Prix. During that time Alonso has only failed to start one race - the 2005 United States Grand Prix when all the Michelin-shod runners qualified but opted not to race on safety grounds.
Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen is guaranteed to break an F1 record in Melbourne, regardless of where he finishes on Sunday. Aged just 17 years, 5 months and 13 days, the Dutchman will become the youngest driver to start a world championship Grand Prix, smashing Jaime Alguersuari’s previous mark of 19 years, 4 months, 3 days (set in Hungary in 2009).
If Verstappen manages to bring his STR10 home in the top ten, he will eclipse Daniil Kvyat as F1 racing’s youngest ever points scorer. Kvyat was 19 years, 10 months and 18 days old when he finished ninth at last year’s Australian race, also driving for Toro Rosso.
Like Kvyat, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen also scored points on his F1 race debut Down Under, the then-21-year-old coming home a brilliant sixth for Sauber in 2001. The Finn, now 35, goes into this year’s race as the oldest driver on the grid.
Of the current grid, Jenson Button has claimed the most victories in Australia, emerging victorious on three occasions. Kimi Raikkonen (2), Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg (all 1) are the only other current drivers to have triumphed on Australian soil.
McLaren are the most successful constructor in Australian Grand Prix history, having scored 11 wins and 26 podiums. The Woking team got both of its drivers onto the rostrum in Melbourne last year, but after a difficult pre-season the odds of them emulating the feat this season look decidedly slim…
Providing they all qualify, four drivers will make their Grand Prix debuts on Sunday: Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz Junior, Roberto Merhi and Felipe Nasr. Of the current grid, nine drivers made their F1 debuts in Australia, with four - Kevin Magnussen, Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez - scoring points first time out.
The presence of Sainz and Merhi means there will be two Spanish rookies on the grid for the first time since 1999 when Pedro de la Rosa and Marc Gene made their debuts. Verstappen, whose father Jos started five races in Melbourne, will be the 15th Dutchman to start a world championship race. Nasr will be the 31st Brazilian.
No Australian has ever finished on the podium in Australia. Daniel Ricciardo thought he’d become the first last year, but the Red Bull driver was subsequently disqualified from second place for a fuel flow issue. Mark Webber’s fourth place in 2012 remains the best result for an Australian in Australia.
Every driver will be gunning for pole position on Saturday, but traditionally starting from P1 has not been the be-all and end-all in Melbourne. In fact, only eight of the previous 19 races at Albert Park have been won from pole - that’s just 42 percent. Last year’s polesitter Lewis Hamilton lasted just two laps before retiring his Mercedes with a power unit issue.