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Spins, wins and first-corner chaos - 6 memorable Melbourne moments

15 Mar 2016

Having staged its first Australian Grand Prix in 1996, Melbourne has been providing unforgettable memories ever since. From McLaren’s famous case of ‘after you Claude’ to Jacques Villeneuve's dazzling debut, we look back on six of the best Albert Park moments…

Schumacher and Barrichello spark first-lap mayhem, 2002

The 2002 season was barely eight seconds old when Ralf Schumacher found his Williams hurtling skywards towards the Albert Park gravel, triggering a pile-up that knocked eight cars out of the race - including the Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello which had provided the initial launch pad. "It felt frightening, I can tell you," said Schumacher, who laid the blame for the incident squarely at Barrichello’s door. "Going airborne in an aircraft is nicer than in any Formula One car…"

Irvine breaks his duck Down Under, 1999

Having qualified sixth, 1.8s back of polesitter Mika Hakkinen, Eddie Irvine was an unlikely candidate for victory at Albert Park in 1999 - but luck was on the effervescent Ulsterman's side. Having made the most of good fortune to jump up to third at the first corner, Irvine then inherited second when David Coulthard retired his McLaren with gearbox trouble. He then jumped Mika Hakkinen’s ailing MP4-14 at a safety car re-start before holding off Heinz-Harald Frentzen’s Jordan for a fairy-tale maiden triumph. 

Coulthard gifts Hakkinen victory, 1998

When a communication problem spuriously sent race leader Mika Hakkinen into the pits, it looked like the Finn had gifted victory to team mate David Coulthard. Then something remarkable happened. As the dominant duo came down the main straight with three laps to go, Coulthard eased off the throttle and ceded first place back to Hakkinen, who duly went on to collect his second career win. It later emerged that the gentlemanly Scot had chosen to honour a pre-race agreement that whoever got to the first corner first would be allowed to win.

Debut delight for Button and Brawn, 2009

It remains one of the greatest fairy tales in F1 history – threatened with extinction when Honda pulled the plug at the end of 2008, the newly-renamed Brawn squad picked themselves off the canvas, bagged themselves a Mercedes engine deal and became race winners barely three months later when Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello completed a remarkable one-two in Melbourne. "I've had some great experiences but that was quite moving,” team principal Ross Brawn cooed afterwards. “The emotions of the last three or four months… To be here was great, to be quick was great and to win the race was just sensational!”

Montoya spins away victory, 2003

Victories had been hard to come by for Williams heading into 2003 season opener – in fact they’d bagged just one in the previous 12 months. But in Melbourne Juan Pablo Montoya seemed nailed-on to break the drought – that was until he made an uncharacteristic error with just over ten laps to go.  Having already been robbed, twice, of a healthy leading margin by the appearance of the safety car, the Colombian was in the process of extending his advantage over McLaren’s David Coulthard when he lost the rear of his FW25 at Turn 1. He’d eventually finish a thoroughly disappointed second.

Villeneuve dazzles on F1 debut, 1996

Gilles Villeneuve was famed for creating fireworks on the race track, so it seemed appropriate that his precociously-talented son Jacques would create some of his own during a remarkable debut at Albert Park in 1996. Not content with beating Williams team mate Damon Hill to pole position in qualifying - becoming the first driver since Carlos Reutemann in 1972 to start from P1 on his debut - Villeneuve then led confidently in the race until he was forced to slow in the closing stages because of an oil leak. He eventually finished a fine second behind a relieved Hill.