We are at that time of the year again when the F1 teams get together for the first time to pit their wits against each other. This season the circus begins in Melbourne, where apart from 2006 and last season it has begun every year since 1996. Here, I look at the different venues to have hosted the F1 season opener.
Season Openers: 1996 – 2005, 2007 – 2009, 2011
Melbourne has become known as the traditional season opener in F1, having hosted more season-opening races than any other circuit. It has also regularly been the scene of some exciting races, including the double McLaren retirement and Eddie Irvine’s first race victory in 1999, the multi-car pile up at the start of the 2002 race, and the appearance of the safety car 3 times during the 2009 race. With the future of the race past 2015 uncertain, it is possible that the days of chaotic races Down Under could be coming to an end.
Season Openers: 2006, 2010
The only circuit to interrupt Australia’s run as season opener has been Bahrain. Back in 2006 it provided an exciting duel between Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher, with the former coming out on top. The second time it held the season opener in 2010 was less popular, with the new layout giving a processional race. It was due to host this season’s opener, but political turmoil in the country meant that the race was cancelled.
Interlagos, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
Season Openers: 1983 - 1991, 1994 – 1995
Before Australia moved to the start of the season, Brazil was accepted as the season opening race. The carnival atmosphere created by the fans always made it a special atmosphere, and unlike these days where rain is never far away, back then the late-summer date meant perfect weather most of the time. Although it never produced the dramatic races like Melbourne has, it was always a popular beginning to the season
Kyalami, South Africa
Season Openers: 1982, 1992 – 1993
Back when F1 began to favour the Southern Hemisphere for a warmer start to the season, South Africa was one of the first to hold the season opener. And with it being a popular venue, it was also a popular start to the season. Although the last two Kyalami season openers were held on the new Kyalami layout, it was still a popular venue to being the race despite the circuit not thrilling the drivers.
Phoenix, Long Beach, USA
Season Openers: 1981, 1991
The last time the season opener was held in the Northern Hemisphere was in the grand old United States of America. The 1991 race seen perhaps the most exciting race to be held on the streets of Phoenix, yet it wasn’t enough to save its future. The only other time in recent history that the USA has held the season-opener was back in 1981, when Long Beach held the USGP West. Reigning world champion began his defence of the season in style by taking a dominant win for Williams, with team-mate Carlos Reutermann second, and that season’s champion Nelson Piquet completing the podium.