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Aussie watch ahead of the FORMULA 1 ROLEX AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX 2024

Matt Clayton
Tuesday, 19 March 2024

Australia becomes the centre of the F1® universe this weekend with the 27th running of the race in Melbourne – and there’s a host of Aussies in the Albert Park spotlight we’ll be watching for myriad reasons.

Finally, it’s here – the FORMULA 1 ROLEX AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX 2024 (Mar 21-24), and the annual visit of the world’s highest-profile motorsport series to our shores – and there’s all sorts of storylines in store for stop three of the 24-round season.

For local fans, the chance to see not one but two Aussies in action – Melbourne’s own Oscar Piastri with McLaren and the returning Daniel Ricciardo with RB – is the first time we’ve had a pair of locals on the Albert Park grid since Ricciardo and Mark Webber 11 years ago, and both will be feeling the love from a partisan crowd.

TICKETS: Check out our ticket selector for the very last tickets to the Grand Prix™

Christian Mansell and Tommy Smith will hope home is equally sweet for them in FIA Formula 3®, while former FIA Formula 2® race-winner and Alpine F1® reserve driver Jack Doohan will be on track too, driving the 2000 Benetton B200 in demonstration runs alongside his legendary dad Mick, who’ll be riding a MotoGP™ Honda RC213V some 30 years since the first of his five straight motorcycle world championship titles.

At the pointier end of F1®, Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen comes to Australia off the back of dominant wins in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to open the season with a repeat of last year’s Melbourne success on his mind; should the Dutchman do the double, it’ll be his 10th straight victory, matching the sport’s all-time winning streak he set just last year.

We could list 33 talking points for our favourite weekend of the year, but we’ll restrain ourselves to three …

One small step for Piastri?

Eighth in the Bahrain season-opener, fourth in Jeddah last time out … form suggests McLaren and Piastri could be in the running for a podium finish in Melbourne this weekend, potentially snapping a drought that has seen Australian drivers frustratingly finish fourth three times (Webber in 2012, Ricciardo in 2016 and 2018).

Logic, though, paints a slightly different picture for the 22-year-old, with Piastri himself admitting that the Albert Park layout has a “bit more low-speed content, which is probably not the best for us” after his Saudi surge to fourth.

McLaren’s MCL38 devours high-speed corners, but tends to struggle relative to its rivals with slow turns and outright top speed, which could pose problems into Albert Park’s primary passing place, the end of the start-finish straight using DRS into Turn 1. Piastri, though, will be giving it everything at the circuit a stone’s throw from where he grew up; his first F1® points came here 12 months ago, and snapping the local driver podium hoodoo is a goal that’s in play.

Ricciardo, RB ready to flip the script

Ricciardo was keen to get out of Jeddah as soon as possible after a weekend that spiraled last time out; he hit a performance ceiling in qualifying and started just 14th before a early-race pit stop error by the team – his tyres were lined up to be fitted to the wrong side of his car before the team belatedly spotted the mistake – saw him stranded in pit lane for over a minute, seeing him rejoin in last place.

Some simulator time in the UK and a quick trip home to Perth to see family later, the 34-year-old is back for his 10th tilt at his home GP, but – strangely – this is just his second race since 2019, after sitting out last year. Remarkably, his famous podium that wasn’t – second on debut for Red Bull – is 10 years ago.

RB surprised onlookers with their pace in pre-season testing – remember, the team spent much of 2023 in last place when it was called AlphaTauri – but so far, Ricciardo and teammate Yuki Tsunoda haven’t managed a clean race weekend, and neither have scored points. RB will be keen to distance itself from the scoreless quartet at the foot of the standings, so the battle within the battle with Williams, Sauber and Alpine will be one to watch.

Albert Park form guide cheat sheet

Whether you’re looking to spend your hard-earned to make a dollar or just want to impress your mates with your pre-race predictions, we’re here to help. Because there’s reasons – small, admittedly – to suggest Verstappen’s winning run isn’t an absolute certainty to continue Down Under.

One is that we’ve had just one repeat winner – Sebastian Vettel for Ferrari in 2017-18 – from the past 10 Australian Grands Prix, and until last year, Albert Park had been Red Bull’s kryptonite – before Verstappen was victorious 12 months ago, only Vettel (2011) had won here for the team that celebrates its 20th season this year.

Lewis Hamilton, in his final Australian outing for Mercedes before he heads to Ferrari in 2025, has an incredible Albert Park record; the seven-time world champion has two wins, 10 podiums, eight poles and a circuit-record 194 points from 15 previous visits.

Looking for another potential front-runner? Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc is one to watch; the Monegasque dominated here in 2022 to win from pole, and has qualified on the front row at the past seven Grands Prix dating back to Austin last year. Why that’s important? In all but three of the 26 previous races at Albert Park, the winner has started no lower than fourth on the grid.

Australia fast facts
Circuit name/location: Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne
Length/laps: 5.278km, 58 laps
Grands Prix held/debut: 26, 1996
Most successful driver: Michael Schumacher (four wins)
Most successful team: Ferrari (nine wins)
2023 podium: 1st: Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing), 2nd: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), 3rd: Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin)

The FORMULA 1 ROLEX AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX 2024 will be available to watch live on Foxtel and Kayo. See our article What time does the FORMULA 1 ROLEX AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX 2024 start? for your local timings.

For free-to-air viewers, 10, 10 BOLD, and 10 Play will broadcast the FORMULA 1 ROLEX AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX 2024.