There aren’t many events across the country that can get 419,114 people in the same place for an entire weekend. Actually, scratch that, there is one. The Australian Formula One Grand Prix is the largest single event that takes place in the country down under. And this year, I was fortunate to attend, and this was my experience.
From when I flew down on the Saturday I could tell there was a different vibe in the air from just the normal vibrant Melbourne atmosphere. From every second person wearing a Daniel Riccardo McLaren tee to the multitude of different nationalities and cultures around, this wasn’t any normal weekend in the sports capital of Australia.
The Day of the Race
You couldn’t have asked for a nicer day for the Grand Prix, sun out, blue skies and hardly a cloud in sight. As you walked into the gate you could feel the energy and excitement after a two-year hiatus of the Australian edition of the race due to the coronavirus pandemic. People were pilling into the grounds, shoulder to shoulder without a worry in the world.
There was plenty of pre-race entertainment for the attendees to enjoy, from sitting on the grass and enjoying the musical acts or watching the broadcast on the big screen outside the pavilions. And if you wanted to sit and have a drink there was plenty of tables and vans where you could get a cold beverage from, as long as you were happy to wait in the long queues.
There was plenty of photo opportunities in Albert Park of vintage cars and past formula one motor-vehicles. There was even a LEGO McLaren that was very popular for the Australian fans who were there to cheer on Aussie hero, Daniel Riccardo.
With 400,000+ fans attending over the weekend and a two-year absence since the last race, it would be no surprise if this was the first grand prix for a lot of the fans. And for those that were attending for the first time there was plenty of merchandise available from various tents, from team specific ones to more general Formula One merch (and even a legends one!). The prices ranged from $30 hats to $250 hoodies with the most popular item being the Riccardo #3 tee which went for $100.
There was no need to worry that you would miss the start of the race because the spectacular flyover told you that the grand prix was about to commence. The six jets flew over Albert Park multiple times leaving their trail in their wake for the hundreds of thousands of ticket getters to admire the experience, while they started walking to their seats to get ready for the lights to go out, and racing to begin.
It was time for the race to start and you could feel the excitement in the grounds. The pavilions were packed, flags were flying and phones were out ready to capture that moment the cars came flying past. The first lap was by far the most exciting with everyone out of their seats peering over the track. With all the cars not separating much at the start you would have a 30 second straight window of cars zooming past in spectacular fashion. There were TV screens at every point of the track so you wouldn’t miss out on the action, overtakes and crashes when the cars weren’t near your part.
Not for a moment was there ever a silence, from the crowd to the cars to the announcer on the speaker calling the race, it was a non-stop event. One in which you were afraid to take your eyes off just in case you missed something special. The 58 lap race went by as quickly as the cars do, from the whirring of the 6-cylinder turbo charged hybrid motors, to the cheers every time Riccardo’s McLaren, went by this was an experience you won’t get in any other sport in the world. And with the help of the fans Aussie Daniel Riccardo had his best finish of the season to date winding up in 6th place, one behind his teammate, and five behind eventual winner the Monacan, Charles Leclerc.
Leaving the event was slow with hundreds of thousands of people heading for the gates, but there was a buzz in the air, one that could only be created from a sport so exhilarating, heart-pounding and dramatic as the one everyone just witnessed. After attending there is no doubt that Formula One really is the most unique sporting event out there, and that’s why it brings record crowds down under.
Photos by Zachary Colwell