Australian Grand Prix 2018: Halos, Vegemite & F1's season return

Media playback is not supported on this device

Dear F1: Please, please, PLEASE be more unpredictable

Melbourne is the sporting capital of the world... say the people of Melbourne, at least.

The award-winning city has everything a sports enthusiast could want; a bit of Grand Slam tennis here, a Boxing Day Ashes Test there.

For the Formula 1 nut, however, it signals the beginning of a rollercoaster calendar of simmering rivalry, high drama and fast racing.

And this year the stakes are higher than usual, as Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel go head-to-head to become the most successful driver of their generation and claim a fifth world title ahead of the other.

The Australian Grand Prix also brings with it a new dawn in car design, with the controversial Halo device having its first competitive run out in Albert Park.

With new owners Liberty Media also in charge, F1's hierarchy will be hoping the Aussies can serve up plenty of razzmatazz and audience engagement.

Thousands of fans and a buzzing atmosphere is something Australia has never struggled with. Tumbleweed blowing through an empty grandstand could come later in the season.

A lack of mental sharpness mixed with unpredictable weather also brings together a challenging experience for the drivers, and excitement for the crowds.

The locals here have a saying: "you're only a true Melbournian when you've used an umbrella, scarf, sunglasses, sunscreen and thongs (or flip flops to us Brits) - on the same day."

Australian Grand Prix 2002
Up up and away: The first grand prix of the season can expose a driver's rustiness...

Rewind to 2017 and Sebastian Vettel took first blood with an opening race victory against rival Lewis Hamilton. Both drivers are now level in the all-time winners list with four drivers' championships.

The stage is set and the countdown nearly complete. In the words of the most recent world champion: "Let's get to racing."

Previously in Formula 1

Lewis Hamilton wins the 2017 drivers' championship
October 2017: Vettel and Hamilton were wheel-to-wheel in the early stages of the season but after a summer break revival the Mercedes man clinched the title in Mexico with time to spare
Fernando Alonso during pre-season testing in Barcelona
March 2018: Testing... testing... McLaren suffered car troubles, Mercedes were strong enough to give Hamilton and Bottas a spilt shift and Toro Rosso proved a Honda engine could run trouble-free

Back pocket facts

  • Until 1966, all pubs in Melbourne closed at 6pm
  • Vegemite was invented in Melbourne in 1922 after months of laboratory tests by food technologist Dr Cyril P Callister
  • Before Melbourne was called Melbourne, it was named Batmania after John Batman, a colonist farmer from Tasmania who landed in Port Philip Bay in May 1835
  • The Black Box flight recorder was invented in 1958 by Dr David Warren at the Aeronautical Research Laboratories in Melbourne. Warren's father had died in a plane crash over the Bass Strait in 1934.

The track

Australian GP track graphic

Flashback vote

What is your most memorable Australian Grand Prix moment? Don't keep it to yourself - share it with the rest of us.

Below you can vote on six highlights from previous races. Will it be the first-corner carnage of 2002 that gets the nod?

Or how about the Michael Schumacher v Damon Hill showdown of 1994?

Pick your favourite and we'll reveal the results online and during 5 live F1's Australian GP preview.

If you are viewing this page on the BBC News app please click here to vote.

Drivers' social

Lewis Hamilton Instagram
As an F1 driver it's not enough these days to just drive a car around a track really fast - you need to offer the fans that little something extra. Enter the creatively titled 'Hamojis'. Instead of using a winkey, thumbs up or cry laughing emoji to sign off a message, you could send your loved one an animated version of Lewis Hamilton: pumping iron with his tattoos on display or smiling with a halo around his head... among other things
Brendon Hartley
Flying high. Brendon Hartley got to scope out the Albert Park circuit from above on Wednesday
Force India
The season hasn't even started but the Force India drivers have been trading shots already... on the tennis court

How to follow on BBC Sport

BBC Sport has live coverage of all the season's races on BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, plus live online commentary on the BBC Sport website and mobile app - including audience interaction, expert analysis, debate, voting, features, interviews and video content.

All times GMT until Sunday 25 March when BST begins. Times are subject to change at short notice.

Australian Grand Prix coverage details
DateSessionTimeRadio coverageOnline text commentary
Thursday, 22 March Preview20:30-21:30 BBC Radio 5 live
Friday, 23 March First practice00:55-02:35 BBC Sport online From 00:30
Second practice04:55-06:35BBC Sport online From 04:30
Saturday, 24 March Third practice02:55-04:04 BBC Sport online From 02:30
Qualifying05:55-07:05BBC Radio 5 liveFrom 05:00
Sunday, 25 March Race 06:10 BSTBBC Radio 5 liveFrom 04:30
Monday, 26 March Review 04:30-05:00 & podcastBBC Radio 5 live

Top Stories