Mark Webber's switch to Jaguar after his impressive debut season in a Minardi, beginning with that unforgettable fifth place in the 2002 Foster's Australian Grand Prix, is certain to make "Webber fever" even more infectious second time...
Mark Webber's switch to Jaguar after his impressive debut season in a Minardi, beginning with that unforgettable fifth place in the 2002 Foster's Australian Grand Prix, is certain to make "Webber fever" even more infectious second time around.
The 26-year-old from Queanbeyan, near the national capital, Canberra, is held in high regard in Formula One circles, earning this assessment from Sir Jack Brabham: "Mark did a very, very good job in his first year with Minardi. He proved that he's quite capable of driving a Formula One car. Now he has the opportunity to move forward. I've got a feeling that Jaguar is going to go a lot better in 2003 than in 2002. Mark could be in the right place at the right time. In a couple of races towards the end of the season the Jaguar was in the points. Its Cosworth engine is doing a pretty good job. I think they could be a very good combination in 2003. It's a good place for Mark to be."
Joining Jaguar too is 22-year-old Antonio Pizzonia, nicknamed "Jungle Boy" because he hails from Brazil's Amazon region, while another new rival for Webber is Cristiano Da Matta, the Champ Car champion, also from Brazil, who will race for Toyota.
A couple of familiar faces have changed places; German Heinz-Harald Frentzen is back with Sauber, the Swiss team that he began with a decade ago, while Frenchman Olivier Panis has joined Toyota too.
Changes to the Formula One rules, decided by the F1 Commission in late October, could see a shuffle in the grid line-up and a challenge to the dominance of Ferrari and its superstar Michael Schumacher, especially by the likes of the Williams and McLaren teams.
Young Australian F1 prospects like Ryan Briscoe, now entering his second year as an official test driver for Toyota, and perhaps James Courtney and Rob Nguyen could have a chance to be on-track at Albert Park too -- depending on whether enough teams agree to a proposed new two-hour test session on the Friday morning.
Back by popular demand is the Ultimate Speed Comparison that was such a winner with patrons at the 2001 Grand Prix. A road car, a BMW 318ti driven by the legendary Allan Moffat, and Larry Perkins' V8 Supercar will again take on a BMW.WilliamsF1 car driven by Marc Gene -- the Williams team's "Catalan Rocket" test driver -- in a series of one-lap handicap sprints. The F1 car will concede more than a minute's start to the BMW road car and about half a minute to Perkins' Holden Commodore as the handicapper tries to ensure they reach the finish line three abreast. It's a unique format not to be missed.
The tribute to Sir Jack Brabham will be the theme of the ever-popular Tattersall's Historics. Cars that he raced in a glorious career from the late 1940s until 1970 will be on display throughout the Grand Prix in the Tattersall's Historic Garage and on track each day -- driven by the triple world champion and many of his mates, including perhaps his greatest rival, Sir Stirling Moss.
The Grand Prix's traditional corporate kart race steps up a gear in 2003, with its new milk sponsor making it the REV GP Kart Challenge. Shannons -- Australia's leading insurance provider for vintage, classic and collectible vehicles -- maintains its big Grand Prix presence. At Albert Park it will again sponsor the Show 'n' Shine, the display of 100 exquisitely-maintained cars and motorcycles from different eras, while Shannons also conducts the charity auction at the Grand Prix Ball and the official GP Auction, with up to 80 classic and collectible vehicles, worth about $3.5 million, under the hammer at the Melbourne International Motor Show on the Monday after the big race.
The Grand Prix's official charity for 2003, benefiting from the Ball auction proceeds, is Here for Life, an organisation committed to the prevention and reduction of youth suicide.
Kicking off Grand Prix Week, as always, will be the Trading Post Grand Prix Rally with an expected 170 competitors taking a 1,200km scenic route through Victoria's central, North-Eastern and Gippsland regions -- including 40 driving skill tests at racetracks and airports. Once at Albert Park the exquisite Rally cars are on display and parade.