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LAST WEEK’S 2024 ROLEX AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX was nothing short of spectacular. Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton were forced to retire within the first 18 laps. Controversy surrounded Williams when Logan Sargent’s chassis was given to Alex Albon after the Thai driver crashed and the team didn’t pack a spare. George Russell spun out in a scarily dramatic event on the final lap. Points for both Haas cars. A post-race penalty for Fernando Alonso. And of course, a historic one-two for Ferrari, with Sainz shattering Verstappen’s streak and holding on to his record of being the only other driver to have won any of the last 21 F1 races.  

Ferrari is the most successful team at Albert Park, and it just so happens that Melbourne is home to the biggest and most passionate Tifosi (Ferrari) fandom outside of Italy. However, this year was the first race in two decades that resulted in a first and second place from the Scuderia, so you can imagine the scenes of red and ‘Forza Ferrari’ chants that ensued, both at the race itself and later that night at Melbourne’s Italian dining precinct, Lygon St, Carlton. 

In 2021, after two consecutive races were cancelled due to COVID-19 precautions, Melbourne officially lost its place on the calendar as the opening race of the season – a brag it has held since Albert Park’s debut as the Grand Prix track in 1996. Melbourne was replaced with Bahrain and became race number three after Saudi Arabia was slotted in the middle. While the official 2025 F1 schedule is yet to be released, rumours have been circulating for some months now that next year, Melbourne will be back to launch the season, and if there ever was a race to prove why it should be, it was the one that just took place.  

2024 Australian Grand Prix
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Australia is one of the F1 community’s favourite races on the calendar, not only because it’s one of the faster street circuits on the calendar, with a few tricky spots that will test an F1 chassis’ stability, but mostly, because of the high-energy vibes that take over the city. Not to mention, the fever, hunger and excitement of the fans. This year’s race weekend drew a record number of fans to Albert Park—452,055 to be exact—with an above-average gender split of 39 per cent female-identifying, proving our love of F1 is becoming more diverse and the race itself, inclusive. For the record, this places the Australian Grand Prix third for the largest attendance of all, behind last year’s British Grand Prix (480,000) and funnily enough, the final Australian F1 Grand Prix held in Adelaide in 1995 (520,000). Even with all the hype in the world, the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix only attracted 315,000 spectators. Now, compare that with the opening 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix, which claimed a total of 100,000 fans (also a record, by the way), and tell me which you think should open the season.  

As Australians love to do with sporting events – see also: The Australian Open and Cricket’s Big Bash League – we bring the festival vibes. At the Melbourne Grand Prix, there’s a main stage where musical acts like Jet, Empire of the Sun, The Presets, Amy Shark and more perform during the day and into the night, stacks of food options, satellite bar pop-ups (like this year’s mini Espy Pop Up Bar, a recreation of the famed Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda), an ‘innovation hub’ hosting tech talks which explain a lot of the science and technology that goes into motorsport and plenty of opportunities for fans to catch their favourite drivers making an appearance to chat about their weekend, maybe even do a shoey or be subjected to some other Aussie cultural gag, on stage in front of the fans. Ahead of the race, during the grid walk, Peking Duck wheeled out a DJ deck to play to the grid as they were lining up to get ready to race, but not before a crew of dancers performed the Nutbush en masse and in Akubras – which hilariously confused a great number of foreign journalists in the media centre at the time. Classic.   

Besides the energy and the attendance, what you may not be aware of, its some of the behind-the-scenes reasons why drivers and their teams love Australia. For one, Melbourne is the only race to host what we call, ‘Melbourne Walk’. This long stretch of road leads into the paddock and allows fans the opportunity to see their favourite drivers, racing team members and A-list attendees in the flesh, ask for selfies, autographs, or, as was popular this year, give them a handmade friendship bracelet (yes, in the same vein as seen at Taylor Swift concerts). According to the teams, it pumps up a lot of the drivers ahead of their race, who enjoy the energy, effort and support from seeing their fans on the ground level.  

Our paddock, according to several team members we spoke to on the ground, also just happens to be the prettiest (and one of the smallest) of all. The paddock, you see, is above all else, a workplace. Teams spend their entire days here, having meetings, catching up, meeting VIPs, walking back and forth from their garages, conducting media interviews, and so on. Melbourne’s paddock is a cool leafy oasis and a contrast to the concrete jungles of other tracks. “It’s just a nice place to work for once”, one of the team members (who asked not to be named) told me. “We travel everywhere and this is just a pleasant place to come to work after travelling so far. Plus, it’s so nice to get a day off to go to the beach after the European winter.” So while here atEsquire Australia, we admit our bias, know that it’s not only Australians calling this one of the best ways to start the season.  

As it stands, we’re still waiting on the official announcement from F1, but Australia returning as the opener was one of the hottest talking points in the paddock outside of the racing itself. Well, that and whispers that the all-female feeder series, F1 Academy might come here too. The swap could also just be a natural necessity, as in 2025, the holy month of Ramadan will begin on February 28, so this could open the door for the other Asia-Pacific races in China and Japan to slide in after Australia before heading to the Middle East. Logistically, it just makes sense. Something to consider too, if Melbourne does regain its pole position for 2025, it’ll be Lewis Hamilton’s historic debut at Ferrari. Should he bring the trophy home, as he has done twice in the past, there’s no doubt that the Tifosi of Lygon Street will be ready to party.    

Getty Images | Clay Cross


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