Home  //  Circuit Guides Formula 1 Australia (Melbourne)
Written by @Damien_Marquez   
Friday, 17 March 2017 01:28

The Formula 1 season usually kicks off with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. It is a popular event which generally draws over 100,000 spectators on race day and feels incredibly well organised. Its support program includes, amongst others, a V8 Supercars round and the local Porsche Carrera Cup, as well as a variety of other events such as stunts bikers or jet fighter planes joining the party.



Main straight / Prost and Senna grandstands at the back - Image: Red Bull Media House


Being so close to the Central Business District (CBD), you can feel the vibe of the race weekend both in and outside the track. Australia is a sports-mad nation and the support for their drivers is phenomenal. Expect Daniel Ricciardo to be cheered on as well as the usual strong support for Ferrari.

The race itself is generally action packed, with a high probability of restart behind the safety car at some point during the 58 laps. The weekend also provides an opportunity to assess the true competitiveness of the new cars and driver line-ups after a couple of winter tests.

Melbourne has plenty to offer besides the grand prix. Its much talked about restaurant, shopping and culture scenes make it worth considering for an extended stay. Melbourne airport is also well linked and the city can be a good base to explore this part of the world.

 

CONTENTS

1 // Location and accommodation
2 // Money matters
3 // Ticket prices
4 // Which grandstand
5 // Tips and recommendations
6 // Useful links to prepare your trip to Melbourne



1 // LOCATION AND ACCOMMODATION


The Albert Park street circuit is located between South Melbourne and St Kilda, some four kilometres south of the city centre. It is minutes away from the CBD, where most people tend to stay. It is possible to stay close to the circuit by booking well in advance (check listings on Airbnb). The best way to get to the track is catch one of the free GP Express trams from Southern Cross Station (Gates 1 to 4) or the free GP Shuttle tram service from Flinders St Station (Gates 5 to 10). Melbourne's public transport network is very good and staying outside of town should reduce your accommodation bill significantly.

Parking within walking distance of the Albert Park is heavily restricted. There are four Wilson Car Parks (no affiliation) with early bird and weekend rates available either close to the track or a free GP tram:

  • 436 St Kilda Rd Car Park in St Kilda (A$23/day early bird rate on Thu-Fri; A$10/day during the weekend) is a 5 minute walk to Gate 5.
  • Eureka Car Park on 70 City Rd, Southbank (A$14/day early bird rate on Thu-Fri; A$10/day on Sat; closed on Sun) is a 2 km or 25 minute walk to Gates 4 or 5 and a 1 km or 12 minute walk to the free Crown Casino Shuttle Bus servicing Gate 1.
  • 542 Little Bourke Street Car Park costs A$20/day early bird rate on Thu-Fri; A$8/day during the weekend. It is only a 10 minute / 700 meter walk to the Southern Cross Station tram stop for the free GP Express tram to access Gates 1, 2, 3, and 4.
  • Flinders Gate Car Park on 172-192 Flinders Street, Melbourne (A$14/day early bird rate on Thu-Fri; A$8/day during the weekend) is the closest to the free St Kilda Road GP Shuttle tram to Gates 5, 8, 9 and 10.

Accommodation in the south of Melbourne CBD or around Bourke or Spencer Street is great if you need to enter via Gates 1-4 as it's easy to hop on a tram from there. If Gates 5-10 are those indicated as preferred on your tickets or passes, then trying to stay close to the corner of Swanston and Flinders Streets.

Prices for the grand prix weekend are likely to be inflated. It might be worth having a look in suburbs further afield that are linked by train to either Southern Cross or Flinders St train stations if you are on a restricted budget. And in any case, book early and cancel later if need be, preferably free of charge. This will save you hundreds of dollars, as long don't forget to check the cancellation policy beforehand.


Pit exit and Fangio grandstand - Image: Haas F1 Team


2 // MONEY MATTERS


The cost of living in Australia is high. Accomodation and food prices (even at supermarkets) will seem more expensive than in most countries. And chances are, if you're not a local, that you'll also need to add the cost of a long haul flight if coming from abroad, Perth or Darwin, etc.

Booking in December once the F1 calendar has been ratified by the FIA, you can expect the following prices.

Return airfares to Melbourne (Tullamarine) start from:
• A$400 from Sydney or Brisbane
• A$300 from Adelaide
• A$600 from Perth
• NZ$600 from Auckland
• £650 (1 stop) from London
• €1,100 (1 stop) from Frankfurt
• $1,200 (1 or 2 stops) from New York
• S$900 (direct) or S$600 (1 stop) from Singapore

Four night accommodation from:
A$950 / $750 / £600 / €700 for a double/twin room in a two star hotel in the CBD with a review score of 7/10 or more on Booking.com.

Visa:
Unless you are an Australian Permanent Resident or New Zealander, you will need to apply for a visa to enter the country. A free eVisitor visa is available for citizens of 36 European countries including the UK, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Sweden or Denmark. To see the full list of eligible countries, go to www.border.gov.au/Trav/Visa-1/651-# > eVisitor applicants > Who could get this visa. Travellers from the US, Canada and other countries will require a A$135 / $110 / £90 / €100 Visitor visa.
In most cases, applications need to be made from outside Australia. Visit www.border.gov.au/Trav/Visi/Visi to check which visa requirements apply to you.

Food and drinks:
A$200 / $160 / £130 / €150 per person for four days for meals from local eateries or supermarket groceries and bottle shops/off licence/liquor stores.

Airport transfer to CBD:
• A$60 / $50 / £40 / €45 for a one way taxi fare off-peak; or
• A$35 / $28 / £22 / €26 for return trip with SkyBus.

Internet access: A$30 / $24 / £19 / €22 for a SIM card and
• 3GB of 4G mobile data on Optus and Vodafone; or
• 1.5GB anytime + 1.5GB between 8pm-8am of 4G data on Telstra.
There is a plethora of telecom providers in Australia and other companies include Amaysim, Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile and many more.

TOTAL BUDGET (excluding flights, visa and tickets) from:
A$1,100 / $850 / £700 / €800 for a solo traveller or A$1,350 / $1,050 / £850 / €1,000 for a couple.


3 // TICKET PRICES


Grandstand tickets can be split in five categories:

  • Reserved seat in the in the same covered/premium grandstand on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and an unreserved roaming grandstand ticket on Thursday
  • Reserved seat in the in the same grandstand (not undercover) on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and an unreserved roaming grandstand ticket on Thursday
  • Reserved seat in the in different grandstands (not undercover) on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and an unreserved roaming grandstand ticket on Thursday
  • Saturday and Sunday in the same grandstand (not undercover)
  • Single day grandstand (not undercover)

All grandstand tickets are detailed below. It is worth noting there are no concession prices available for any of the grandstand seats.



The general admission for 2017 is returning to a more standard offer after the trial of the 4-8pm ticket type introduced in 2016 for Thursday and Friday. All options are fully detailed below, inclusive concession prices available for young people aged 15-17, holders of a State Government Card, full Pensioner Concession Card Holders and full time Students. Free tickets for children aged 14 and under are available at the gate when accompanied by an adult.



Depending on what time of the year you order your tickets, the processing, handling and delivery fees vary. We've used the highest which apply during the GP Advantage period (see the 'Tips and recommendations' section below for more details).
The prices from the promoter (AGPC) have been rounded up to the nearest A$10 after including a 1.95% handling fee and a $9.90 delivery fee for the Three Day Grandstand tickets and packages. General admission also attracts a 1.95% handling fee and $4.95 processing fee instead of the grandstand delivery fee. Exchange rates used are sourced from xe.com are based on the highest rate since the last Australian GP and rounded up to the nearest $/£/€10.



Click map to enlarge - Image: Australian Grand Prix Corporation


4 // WHICH GRANDSTAND


There are a few aspects to consider when choosing your grandstand at the Albert Park. Protection from the extreme weather, views, photo opportunities and of course budget (see price list above). All grandstands have access to food and drinks stalls nearby as well as large TV screens which can be found opposite each of them.

The meteorological conditions can be a bit of a spoiler in Melbourne. Too hot, too cold, too windy, too sunny, too much rain, etc. The premium section of Fangio, Schumacher, Prost and Senna as well as the Piquet and Ricciardo grandstands all provide shelter from the unpredictable local March weather. Premium grandstand seating is very much in demand, so book early (by July) to avoid disappointment.

When it comes to the view, you'll need to consider whether pit, corner or overtaking action is more important, as well as the angle from where the cars are seen. Starting from the start/finish line, we review all grandstands.



Webber and Fangio grandstands on either side of and Advantage Bar
Image: Red Bull Media House


Fangio is located across the pit building and boast views of the main straight and team garages. It is the place for pit lane action, pre-race grid preparations (sections D-J only), start/finish of the race and podium celebrations (in front section D). On-track action is limited as the cars travel almost at full speed on this part of the circuit and the new hybrid turbo power units are fairly quiet in the straights. Please note sections A-C are ahead of the start/finish line and have view of the pit lane exit rather than the garages. Section E is opposite the championship winning team (Mercedes in 2017) and Section J the 9th placed team (Renault in 2017).

From Moss you'll see cars from the braking zone at the end of the main straight going into Turns 1 and 2. It is also a good spot for keeping track of who's exiting the pit. A good choice if your budget cannot stretch for the adjacent Jones grandstand.

It is in front of Jones that first corner action happens. The grandstand offers a good view of the pit exit and allows you to follow cars through Turns 1 and 2, which you'll see mostly from behind. Please note Sections A and B are no longer protected from the sun by hospitality units. Sections C and D are in front of the gravel trap should any driver end up there. Our pick would be the top row of section B.



Moss and Jones grandstands - Image: Red Bull Media House


Brabham provides a different take on Turns 1 and 2 as spectators here are mostly facing the cars. Sections A-C are protected from the sun by the corporate boxes behind during the early sessions (Practice 1 on Friday and Practice 3 on Saturday), however, all sections suffer from the glare of the sun due for Practice 2, Qualifying and the Race. The best seats are on the top rows of sections E-F to see the action above the fence.

Piquet Premium can be found at Turn 3, facing the cars coming from the straight between Turns 2 and 3. It's a DRS zone, so you should see some overtaking moves. Choose the top row to view as much as possible above the catch fence and as far West as possible (section A, seats 1, 2, 3 etc). It's worth also noting that some seats on the lower rows can have the TV screens obstructed by the beam of the debris fence. The ambience is a bit more subdued due to the grandstand being quite isolated from the main entertainment and merchandise zones.



Daniil Kvyat at Turn 3 / Ricciardo Premium grandstand at Turn 4
Image: Red Bull Media House


Situated at the next corner, but on the inside of the track, Ricciardo Premium offers a panoramic view of Turns 3, 4 and 5. The only way to see above the safety fence is by standing up from the top row. Section C would probably be our preference for a greater viewing angle. As per the Piquet Premium grandstand, the atmosphere here is somehow quieter than that of the main straight or the main general admission area near Brocky's Hill where the next two grandstands are located despite featuring its own bar and food stalls.

Clark overlooks both the braking zone at Turn 9 and and the long Turn 10 sweeping bend. It is a low grandstand and there is a compromise to be made in terms of views. In any case, favour a seat as high up as possible so as to see above fence. Sit in Section A to see the oncoming cars out of Turn 8 as well as any passing manoeuvres. From there the cars can also be seen from behind going into Turn 10. If you can get a seat on the top row of Section C, you'll have an unobstructed view of the side of the cars going into the bend but will find it hard to see any action happening just before the braking zone. This grandstand faces the sun during Practice 2, Qualifying and the race and viewing can be uncomfortable without a cap or a hat.



Clark grandstand - Image: Red Bull Media House


Waite is just past Brocky's Hill, in the main general admission catering and merchandise zone as Clark. Spectators will see the cars mostly from behind going into Turn 12.

Schumacher is located between the final two corners. From there, it is possible to see the cars in Turn 15 unobstructed from the premium section as well as the top rows. It is also a good place to keep track of the on-track action as you can see the cars diving into the pit lane. On sunny days, spectators there will also experience the glare at the end of Practice 2, Q3 and the race.

Prost and especially its premium section would be our number one recommendation. It's the first premium section to sell out, so there are probably quite a few people sharing this opinion. The top row provide a great view of the Turns 15 and 16 as well as the whole pit straight or main straight depending on where you are seating in sections C-D or Premium B. That said, sections A-B and Premium A offer a viewing experience closer to the adjacent Schumacher Grandstand. Sit somewhere on the top rows of sections E-K or Premium C-E to watch the cars unobstructed by the catch fence.



Prost Grandstand - Photo: Sauber Motorsport AG


Senna is great value for money if you can manage to find a seat on the top rows or in the premium section to observe last corner action above the debris fence. The grandstand is opposite the V8 Supercars garages so this is a great spot for enthusiasts of this supporting series. Choose a seat in section A for a better view of last corner.

Section D of the Webber Grandstand has some view of Turn 16 and Section E faces V8 Supercars garages, so maybe prioritise seats in these sections. Sections G-H are probably best avoided. This is more of a grandstand for people on a budget who want to soak up the atmosphere of the main straight whilst having access to a guaranteed spot to watch qualifying or the race. At this price level though, we feel that the Clark, Waite, Schumacher and Senna grandstands have more to offer as a four day ticket or Moss, Schumacher and Prost on a single basis. And rather than having its own dedicated TV screen, it shares those of the Fangio and Senna grandstands.

Jones, Schumacher and Prost are the three wheelchair accessible grandstands provided on top of the three platforms available in the general admission enclosure.

Our recommendation for amateur photographers. With F1 cars, the best pictures are usually taken from cars accelerating out of a corner, thanks to the linear nature of this motion. It's much harder to shoot cars and their glowing discs into braking zones, even for the experts. To that effect, we'd choose the Brabham, Piquet Premium, Ricciardo Premium, Schumacher, Prost or Senna grandstands. The higher the ticket price the better, although preferences will vary from one person to another. Top rows of the standard section or first rows of a premium section will give you a better chance of fence free shots. That said, you can also take great shots from the general admission zone, as per the picture below taken by a professional photographer between the Clark and Waite grandstands.



Daniel Ricciardo at Turn 10 - Image: Red Bull Media House



5 // TIPS AND RECOMMENDATIONS


The Australian Grand Prix is a crowded place on the Sunday race and people hold on to the good general admission vantage points from 10:30 AM when the track opens to the public. It's worth spending a little more on a single day grandstand ticket in either Waite, Schumacher, Senna or Webber for a reserved seat. You'll find this provides you with a better value for money experience if you can enjoy all of the organisers have to offer without the hassle of keeping your spot safe.

The promoters sell tickets over five phases. In the couple of weeks after the grand prix, ticket holders of the last edition are given the opportunity to keep their seat for the next one. Once this period finishes, previous grandstand ticket holders who want to book a different seat are given priority. In the last week of May, grandstand tickets and packages go on sale for the general public. People who book before the 31st July qualify for Gold GP Advantage status, giving them access to a plethora of benefits:

  • Access to the upper level of the GP Advantage Bar and its magnificent view of the main straight and pits buildings. The bar is situated between the Fangio and Webber grandstands, directly opposite the tenth (and eleventh if applicable) best placed teams of the previous championship. *Gold benefit only
  • Ticket prices during this period are capped at the previous year's rates (saving approximately A$5-A$15 depending on the package).
  • A lanyard and plastic pass instead of a standard printed paper ticket from Ticketmaster.
  • A Formula 1 Australian GP program (normally priced at about A$15.00 - *Gold benefit only) and a merchandise item such as a seat cushion or portable FM radio, etc.
  • Priority access to the Thursday Autograph stage.
  • Exclusive access to morning and afternoon pit lane Walks on the Thursday of the event.
  • Main straight walk on Sunday morning before the gates open to the public.
  • The chance to win a trip to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November, inclusive of flights and accommodation.- *Gold benefit only

The next phase is the Silver GP Advantage one which ends on the 30 November. Benefits for these ticket holders are access to the ground level of the GP Advantage Bar, which becomes a very packed but dry if it starts pouring down. These spectators also qualify for the lanyard, pass, merchandise item, Thursday pit walks and Sunday main straight walk. There also draws to win a guided Formula 1 team garage tour or a Meet & Greet with a Formula 1 driver for two ticket holders at the event.- *Silver benefit only



General Admission near Turn 11 - Image: MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team


A good general admission viewing point is at Turns 10, where spectators are elevated on a hilly terrain and benefit from the Clark grandstand large TV screen diagonally opposite. The allocation of TV screens for general admission varies and we'd advise to go on a reconnaissance tour to find a good spot for qualifying and the race. Folding chairs and cooler bags are allowed in general admission. See the organisers' attendance conditions here. The renamed Club 15 Premium Zone remains a general admission area and whilst it has a superscreen, some chairs and bean bags, not all ticket holders will get to have one as they are available on a first come basis. Arrive early to avoid disappointment.

There are three general admission wheelchair accessible platforms. The same first come first served rules apply as for able-bodied patrons and it is likely that the platform at Turn 12, which has access to a TV screen will be the first choice of many. The other ones are located between Turns 2 and 3, and at the braking zone for Turn 14.

Melbourne's weather can be a bit wild at that time of the year. Pack a poncho, an umbrella (not to be used in grandstands) and a plastic bag/cover for your seat if it rains. Bring warm clothes as it can cool down significantly in the evening. Use sunscreen, even on a cloudy day, as it's easy to get burnt. Please note there is no shade in the autograph area by the paddock entrance.

Live event commentary is available on 99.7 FM, so bring tuner and headphones. The Official F1 App Premium Edition features text and audio commentary as well as live timings.

As with similar events, food at the circuit can be quite expensive and its quality may not be to everyone's expected standards. You can bring your own food and non alcoholic drinks as long as the plastic bottle seals are broken when you come through the gates. A 500 ml bottle of carbonated soft drink will cost you $5.00 or more compared to under $2.00 in the city. Water is supplied free at the fountains if you like to refill your bottle with tap water.

The cleanliness of the facilities varies around the circuit. Those behind the Jones and Prost grandstands have generally been rated as well maintained due to the low amount of people there. The same applies to those of the Advantage Bar.

Keep up to date on Twitter with the official @ausgrandprix account and keep an eye out for any prizes and tours to be won during the weekend.

Try delaying your departure via Gates 1 and 2 after the race on Sunday. Other gates will also experience some kind of delay, but generally less than you would expect most other F1 grands prix. There is a free entertainment somewhere on the circuit running from about 7.00 PM for an hour. Check the organiser's website from February for more details.



Club 15 Premium General Admission Zone - Image: Red Bull Media House


6 // USEFUL LINKS TO PREPARE YOUR TRIP TO MELBOURNE


www.grandprix.com.au - event information, schedule and ticket sales in AUD from the promoter
bookF1.com - our GBP/USD/EUR/AUD/CAD ticketing partner
GPTicketshop.com - our other EUR ticketing partner

Booking.com - our trustworthy hotel reservation partner

www.border.gov.au - visa information

SkyBus - Airport transfer
http://ptv.vic.gov.au/ - Public Transport Victoria (train, tram and bus maps and timetables)
wilsonparking.com.au - Car park rates and information (see above for suggested car parks)

Optus - Mobile and data services
Vodafone - Mobile and data services
Telstra - Mobile and data services

www.au.timeout.com/melbourne - restaurant, nightlife, arts and shopping guide

formula1.com - General Information and schedule from Formula1.com


Have you been to the Australian Grand Prix? You can help us to improve this guide by leaving your impression of this event in the 'Write a Review' section of this website.

The author has attended this grand prix six times with experience of general admission, Fangio, Schumacher, Brabham, Clark, Jones, Prost and Prost Premium grandstands.

If you would like to add further information or correct any of the above article, please leave your comments below.

Australian Grand Prix spectator guide
 

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