10th birthday looms for Melbourne

10TH BIRTHDAY FOR GRAND PRIX IN MELBOURNE -- AND WEBBER COULD MAKE IT THE PARTY OF ALL PARTIES Melbourne's 10th anniversary of Formula One will see Australian Mark Webber race at home with the last-start winning Williams-BMW team, and the ...

10TH BIRTHDAY FOR GRAND PRIX IN MELBOURNE -- AND WEBBER COULD MAKE IT THE PARTY OF ALL PARTIES

Melbourne's 10th anniversary of Formula One will see Australian Mark Webber race at home with the last-start winning Williams-BMW team, and the celebrations will begin with a People's Day of free General Admission at the 2005 Formula 1 Foster's Australian Grand Prix.

At the Albert Park track where he made his memorable debut in 2002, 28-year-old Webber will now be a serious contender for victory at the Grand Prix. At Williams he has joined forces with a 33-year-old fellow Australian, Sam Michael, the team's technical director with the job of creating Webber's new A$50 million car that needs to be a Ferrari-beater and race winner.

"We will be disappointed if we are not on the podium at the first race, and if the top step is there to be taken then we will fight very hard to be on it," Webber says. "We have to race Michael (Schumacher, Ferrari's seven-time world champion). It's not a big deal. It's exciting. We're up for it!"

In many ways Webber and Sam Michael are retracing the steps of two other great Australians who took on the Formula One world more than 40 years ago and conquered it -- Sir Jack Brabham and Ron Tauranac.

Brabham won three F1 world titles, the third of them in 1966 in a car designed by Tauranac and powered by an Australian-made Repco engine. The 2005 F1 world championship will mark the 25th anniversary of the world title won by another Aussie, Alan Jones, in 1980 with Williams -- the first of seven drivers' crowns and nine constructors' titles for Sir Frank Williams' revered team.

The new year could also see the arrival in Grand Prix racing of a second Australian driver in the modern era -- 23-year-old Ryan Briscoe, who is a frontrunner for a race drive with the Jordan team or perhaps the Minardi of Aussie Paul Stoddart which gave Webber his start in 2002.

The dawn of the new season in Melbourne on March 3-6 will see a substantially different F1 driver line-up. Juan Pablo Montoya, winner of 2004's final race in Brazil recently in a Williams, will be in a McLaren-Mercedes, Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli with Toyota, and 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve -- who came so close to winning Melbourne's first F1 GP in 1996 in a Williams -- now with Swiss team Sauber.

Rules and regulations for the 2005 season are still being finalised, but already the anticipation is mounting with the launch of the Formula 1 Foster's Australian Grand Prix today.

Victorian Premier Steve Bracks announced that, in honour of Melbourne's 10th "birthday" in F1, Thursday, March 3, will be People's Day, with free General Admission. Special commemorative tickets will be issued to patrons as part of the celebrations, while 10th anniversary merchandise was unveiled at today's launch.

Paul Stoddart revealed in a video message to today's function that he would delay Minardi's 2005 launch until People's Day to give the public the chance to participate in it at Albert Park and meet his drivers.

On track at Albert Park on March 3 will be a Williams-BMW F1 car in the Ultimate Speed Comparison against an Aussie V8 Supercar and a BMW road car, with the three drivers to be named closer to the time.

Like F1, the V8 Supercar field will arrive at Albert Park with a vastly rearranged driver line-up - Greg Murphy at PWR, Craig Lowndes at Triple 8, Jason Bright reportedly with FPR, Garth Tander at Kmart Racing, and Glenn Seton with Dick Johnson Racing.

The V8s are the headline support act at the Grand Prix and will be on track every day, including the GP100 race on Saturday. The theme for the 2005 BMW Celebrity Challenge is the "Best of the Best", and the grid is filling fast for the line-up of stars who will drive BMW's dynamic new 1 Series.

Formula Three is a new addition to the Grand Prix program in 2005. It is a junior single-seater category through which Mark Webber and Ryan Briscoe advanced overseas and the cars are like scaled-down F1s. V8 Utes are another addition to the support program, injecting even more spice into the Holden and Ford rivalries at Australia's biggest annual international motor sport event.

The Michelin Carrera Cup, the world's fastest one-make series for up to 30 Porsche 911 GT3s, is on the schedule too. The theme for the ever-popular Tattersall's Historics this time will be "Cars of the Century", while karts will be providing tons of thrills as always.

Off-track features include the GP Expo, with its special motoring and trade displays presented by Gillette, while the F1 Experience will give fans the chance to get up close to F1 cars and technology. The Grand Prix Super Bar opened last year in the golf course will be there again with its huge bar, beer garden with live music, a dance floor, dancers, and a superscreen.

The Official Merchandise Superstores, also introduced last year, proved to be a shopping heaven. The Superstore inside Gate 1 has 1,200 square metres of merchandise, while the other is in the golf course. Both have fun in-store events and special guest appearances.

Driver appearances -- especially by the F1, V8 Supercar and BMW Celebrity Challenge stars -- generate enormous excitement at Albert Park and will be scheduled again, providing fans with the chance of grabbing much-cherished autographs.

The GP Rally has a new route through western Victoria in 2005, starting at Echuca and taking in the Goldfields, the Grampians and the Great Ocean Road on the way to Melbourne, where competitors will be greeted at Docklands and Federation Square on the eve of the event, followed by parade laps at Albert Park during the Grand Prix. And the Grand Prix's official charity in 2005 is beyondblue, the national depression initiative.

-agpc-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Minardi , Jordan