Bookended by races in Bahrain and Azerbaijan is the Formula 1 (F1) series’ single Australian race — the Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix™, held at Melbourne’s Albert Park from March 30th to April 2nd. The city has welcomed the GP for 26 years, but 2023 is the biggest year yet, with the F2 and F3 series debuting alongside F1 on the circuit.
It’s a massive weekend on the racing calendar and an even bigger weekend for the state of Victoria, with fans flying in for the event from around the globe. While the 20 drivers show what they’re made of on the track, Melbourne puts its best foot forward off-track.
So Where Next’s F1 guide is here to help you experience the best of it all, aiding you in curating your experience from start to finish line.
This year, there’s plenty of home-grown Australian talent for Formula series fans to get behind.
The Australian Grand Prix™ marks the third-ever F1 race for Melbourne-born Oscar Piastri, who took fellow Australian Daniel Ricciardo’s seat alongside Lando Norris at McLaren in a somewhat controversial move. He’ll be getting a feel for his new seat during Friday’s practice sessions before fighting it out for his position on the grid during Saturday’s qualifying. Expect to see a sea of orange in the stands come Sunday afternoon when the clock hits 1:00 pm, and the lights go out on the starting grid.
On-track action begins well before Sunday’s pinnacle race, with Beaurepaire’s Melbourne Supersprint Gen3 Supercar and Porsche Carrera Cup filling the program on Thursday. Two more races from those cups will be run on Friday, though most of the day is focused on the F2 and F3 practice and qualifying sessions. In a format slightly different from that of F1, both F2 and F3 run two races over the weekend, a sprint race on Saturday (where the top ten and top 12, respectively, qualifying positions are reversed), and a feature race on Sunday.
Four Australians are getting behind the wheel across both leagues — Christian Mansell, Tommy Smith, and Hugh Barter in F3, and former Grand Prix™ motorcycle World Champion Mick Doohan’s son, Jack Doohan, in F2. Finishing sixth in the drivers’ standings last year, Doohan’s 2023 season with Virtuosi Racing is looking promising. Head to the track early to secure your spot in the park and show your support for the future of F1.
See the full on-track schedule here.
Plan your arrival at the track to coincide with the arrival of your favourite drivers. Each day, they’ll make their way down the Melbourne Walk, greeting and taking the odd photo with fans. If you’re lucky, you could be one of them. Make a pit stop at the F1 Fan Zone merchandise stands just prior, and you’ll have the perfect memento to hold out in hopes of an autograph.
Between track sessions, converge at the Fan Forum stage to hear past and present drivers in a Q&A session, check in on First Nations artist Kobi Sainty’s live painting of an F1 car, or try your hand at a lightning-speed pit stop on the Family Zone simulation. There are lesser F1-themed activities, too, should you or the family feel like flexing AFL skills or taking a leisurely ride on the Ferris wheel.
As track activity winds down each day, the M-Lane main stage comes to life. A stellar line-up of Australian musical talent plays each night from Friday through Sunday, headlined by The Jungle Giants, Hayden James, and Birds of Tokyo.
See the full off-track schedule here.
Eat and drink in Melbourne
Do as the podium finishers do and toast a racetrack victory with a shower of bubbles. The official F1 drop — a Metodo Classico Ferrari Trento — isn’t readily available in Australia, but there are infinite alternatives waiting for you at the 20s-themed Nick & Nora’s. Purchase by the glass, or settle in for a good night with a selection from the collection of 70-plus bottles on the wall. Should you feel extra celebratory, a $2,300.00 bottle of 1988 Krug Vintage is available to pop.
Continue your exploration of fine French fare at Her Melbourne, a four-storey multi-venue housed in a revamped federation building. Entrecoté with green peppercorn and brandy sauce — to be soaked up with pomme frites — is their speciality, as is a more modern take on confit duck, which comes neatly pressed into a jaffle with comté cheese. End the evening on the rooftop terrace with an aperitif under the stars.
While in Victoria, dining on the state’s home-grown produce is essential. The seven-course paired degustation at the eco-chic Farmer’s Daughters is as good of a place as any to start. Centred around a charcoal and wood open campfire kitchen, the menu is rustic yet elegant and tells a story of the wider Gippsland area (the region spanning from Melbourne’s eastern suburbs to the New South Wales border). Follow the narrative from mountains to ocean, savouring flavours of grilled rabbit and Lakes Entrance fish with grilled oyster mushroom and clam velouté.
Yakimono is a more casual affair, a perfectly executed, irreverent take on Japanese cuisine served in a high-octane setting. Settle in beneath the neon signs, and watch as flashes of fire lick at the spicy chicken tsukune and barbecued baby back ribs in the open kitchen. It wouldn’t be a Japanese meal without sake, shochu, and Japanese whisky, of which they have ample. Try it as is, or venture into the cocktail menu where more curious ingredients like purple carrot and jalepenõ pair with the traditional liquors.
See and do
Wake before the sun to see Melbourne in a different light. Floating gently by the city’s iconic high rises by balloon at dawn is an experience like no other, the streets completely still. En route, you’ll fly over an action-free Albert Park track and the MCG.
Back on the ground, take a peaceful stroll among the Royal Botanic Garden’s 8,500 different plant species. The 38-hectare park is a central oasis where picnicking and reading in the sunshine are encouraged.
Consume yet more works of art at the renowned NGV International. It’s Australia’s oldest and most popular art museum, credited for making the likes of Van Gogh, Dali, and Warhol’s work accessible to the public. Currently, more than 120 of the late Alexander McQueen’s garments and accessories are on display at the museum, filling out the striking Alexander McQueen: Mind, Mythos, Muse exhibition.
F1 isn’t the only sporting event in town for the weekend, with Marvel Stadium and the MCG playing host to no less than five AFL games and the Rip Curl Pro kicking off on April 4th. But it’s not all fast-paced, adrenaline-fuelled viewing. The musical & Juliet’s season has just begun at the Regent Theatre, while Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is playing some of its final shows after a record-breaking four-year run at Princess Theatre. Secure tickets to either and see Melbourne live up to its ‘culture capital’ reputation.
After a big day at the track, rest up in style at any one of these luxury Melbourne hotels. They’re grand, they’re sumptuous, and they’re all right in the heart of the city for ease of access.
No less impressive are Melbourne’s boutique stays, flaunting considered art collections, bespoke interiors, and just the right amount of pizazz. Opening late last year, Laneways by Ovolo gives a generous nod to Melbourne’s famed graffiti-filled laneways, infusing that colour and vibrancy with the big personality of Memphis. Similarly focussed on art is the aptly named Art Series Hotel Group’s Cullen Hotel. It pays homage to Sydney artist Adam Cullen, pulling hues from his eclectic pieces through to the furnishings and playing around with contrasting textures and finishes.
Traversing the length of the Melbourne CBD is made easy with the extensive free tram zone, extending from Docklands in the southwest corner to the Queen Victoria Markets in the north. On the Grand Prix™ weekend, trams from the city centre to Albert Park are also free of charge. Simply show your ticket to validate the service.
Tram services can get busy at the end of each day, so consider staying back at the circuit, enjoying the on-stage entertainment to beat the crowds.
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Lead image: Supplied/Australian Grand Prix