The Australian Grand Prix marks the start of the 2018 Formula One season and if previous editions of the race are anything to go by, there should be plenty of action to sink our teeth into.
Here’s a look at some of the most memorable F1 moments from Down Under.
Up, up and away – 2002
Ralf Schumacher will always be remembered for this spectacular crash, producing some of the sport’s most iconic images.
At the very first corner of the 2002 Australian GP, he drove his Williams BMW up the back of Rubens Barrichello’s Ferrari and – if only for a second – F1 took to the skies. A total of eight cars suffered in the melee.
Brawn powers through – 2009
Brawn were facing extinction after Honda’s decision to pull out but equipped with a Mercedes engine, they secured a memorable one-two in Melbourne.
Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello dominated in qualifying and made no mistake on race day to cap an emotional few months for their team. They went on to win the Championship.
Fifth place makes the podium – 2002
It was a debut to remember for Mark Webber as he stunned on home soil. Having survived the first corner melee, he battled Mika Salo through the end in a struggling Minardi to take fifth place after starting 18th on the grid.
He was invited to the podium once the top three vacated it to receive the plaudits of the Melbourne crowd.
End of an era – 1993
The chequered flag at Adelaide in 1993 marked the end of an era. Alain Prost took second place to secure his fourth championship as he and Riccardo Patrese followed Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet into retirement.
Ayrton Senna secured what was to be his last win before his tragic accident the following season.
Controversy strikes – 1994
With the Championship on the line, an enthralling duel between Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill was brought to an abrupt end.
The German slid off the track before reappearing ahead of his counterpart, resulting in a clash at the following turn. Both cars suffered damage and retired, controversially handing Schumacher his first title.
With the Formula One season about to get under way, we preview the ten teams competing in the championship.
Who are you backing to win the title this year?
Drivers: Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas
Verdict: Winners. Strong in testing, Mercedes are reliable, the drivers believe in the car and team is considerable favourites to clinch a fifth consecutive championship. With Lewis Hamilton at the helm, they are once again the team to beat.
Drivers: Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen
Verdict: 3rd. The Italian marquee have not moved on as far as Mercedes over the winter but retain strong balance. Have the potential to cause an upset but will be on the backfoot in Australia.
Drivers: Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen
Verdict: 2nd. Showed they have a competitive car during testing and can expect to kick-start their season on a positive note in Melbourne. Although they are curtailed by the Renault engine, they look closer to Mercedes than Ferrari.
Drivers: Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon
Verdict: 4th. With the improvements of Renault and McLaren, it could be a tougher battle in the midfield this season. New upgrades will dictate their competitive level in Melbourne.
Drivers: Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin
Verdict: 7th. The youngest and most inexperienced team on the grid, but Paddy Lowe’s ambitious plan has the potential to push his team to the max with development driver Robert Kubica gunning for a chance to shine.
Drivers: Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz
Verdict: 6th. It’s unlikely we will see signs of their improvements until the second half of the season as the team focus on reliability first with power expected in latter races. It’ll be interesting to see how far they are off the top three.
Drivers: Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly
Verdict: 9th. If Honda can deliver expectations, it could be a big step forward for the duo who are the only F1 pair without a point. Expect them to throw in a surprise or two.
Drivers: Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen
Verdict: 8th. Showed consistent single lap times in testing and have serious potential to threaten their midfield rivals. With a car boasting pace and balance, they could be the surprise package of 2018.
Drivers: Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne
Verdict: 5th. With a strong engine and the promise of challenging for podiums, this should a rewarding year for both drivers. Failure to achieve formidable results will be a major negative for what is meant to be an improving side.
Drivers: Marcus Ericsson and Charles Leclerc
Verdict: 10th. Although the car lacked grip and pace in Barcelona, the team is still optimistic about their season, especially with the new Ferrari engine. It’ll be exciting to see how Charles Leclerc fares on the grand stage.
With the new Formula One season upon us our team of writers have put their necks on the line and made their predictions for the new campaign.
Do you agree with their views?
Winning driver: It’s difficult to see any driver other than Lewis Hamilton lifting the title this season. Although Sebastian Vettel may offer an early challenge, expect the Briton to romp to his fifth world crown.
Winning constructor: Based on their form during testing, Mercedes should clinch a fifth consecutive constructors’ crown. Ferrari and Red Bull have made strides but have not moved on as far as their rivals.
Best rookie: Williams may be lacking experience in their line-up this season, but in Sergey Sirotkin, they possess a driver of real quality who has the chance to establish himself as the team’s leading star.
Biggest flop: It’s frustrating to see a driver in one of the best cars not pushing himself, and this further reinstates why Kimi Raikkonen does not warrant a seat at Ferrari. At 37, the Finn’s best days are behind him and this will be the year he’s finally found out.
Suprise storyline: With a potential vacant Ferrari seat up for grabs at the end of the season, Sauber’s Charles Leclerc will not be short of motivation as he bids to back-up his stunning GP3 and F2 form in recent years.
Winning driver: Lewis Hamilton is undoubtedly the favourite, but it’s worth remembering just how strong of a season Sebastian Vettel was having last year until it all came undone. The German will need a little bit of luck for sure, but the sport will have a new champion.
Winning constructor: Regardless of whether or not they’re knocked off their perch for the driver’s title, Mercedes aren’t bending the knee to anyone in the constructors’ championship. They’ve once again looked like the ones to beat in testing.
Best rookie: While he won’t be in the best car, Sauber’s Charles Leclerc oozes talent and has proven on the lower levels that he’s a star in the making. He should be fun to watch all season, even if it means he isn’t winning races.
Biggest flop: There’s a lot of hype around Max Verstappen coming into the season and it’s almost assumed he’ll overtake teammate Daniel Ricciardo, if he hasn’t already. But as much talent as the 20-year-old has, he’s not ready to make the massive leap many are expecting.
Surprise storyline: I’ll go out on a limb here and say Fernando Alonso is going to rise back to prominence. Yes, he’s not shown much interest in winning races recently, but his passion for competing may return this year and with it, the chance to be fairly competitive in the championship.
Winning driver: Lewis Hamilton. Very tough to look beyond him. The car at his disposal this season is said to be even more reliable than the one that won him the last championship. A fifth world championship is very much attainable.
Winning constructor: Mercedes. Super strong during testing. Reliability is their strongest suit and the W09 looks capable of lasting the distance. Red Bull and Ferrari will pose a threat, no doubt, but the Silver Arrows retain their edge.
Best rookie: Charles Leclerc. The Sauber driver is the youngest rookie on the grid. The Monaco man was GP3 champion in 2016 and F2 champion in 2017. Has been with Ferrari academy since 2016. Top pedigree.
Biggest flop: Fernando Alonso. Seems to have lost that spark. His interest in endurance racing coupled with the reliability issues of McLaren might just make it another forgettable season for the Spaniard.
Surprise storyline: Halo becomes a hazard. The cockpit head protection system is supposed to protect drivers from flying debris. But drivers are complaining about restricted vision. Expect numerous issues once the season starts.
Winning driver: Sebastian Vettel. Do I sound like I’m just being a contrarian? The German had two very unlucky retirements last year whereas Hamilton escaped without any. If Ferrari have closed the gap to Mercedes even just a smidgen, it’s game on.
Winning constructor: Mercedes and there’s no other argument to be made here. As long as an uninterested Kimi Raikkonen remains Vettel’s No2 for the Scuderia, this is a sure thing. A consistent Red Bull may even fancy second.
Best rookie: Brendon Hartley. He may not score the points that LeClerc does for Sauber, but he can certainly beat out fellow greenhorn Pierre Gasly as the top dog at Toro Rosso. At 28, and after being cut as a Red Bull reserve driver eight years ago, the Kiwi has a chip on his shoulder he can use to good effect.
Biggest flop: Esteban Ocon. The Mexican is in the hunt for a Silver Arrows drive in 2019, alongside Daniel Ricciardo and his Force India team-mate Sergio Perez. There’s just a feeling though that Ocon, at 21, is being built up a little too much too soon.
Surprise storyline: Honda actually supply a Formula One engine that is fit for purpose to Toro Rosso, leaving McLaren – now taking a punt on Renault – fuming after being supplied with years of misery by the Japanese manufacturer.