The moment I fell in love with the Formula One Grand Prix (3 March 2002, Melbourne). Also the debut for Australian driver Mark Webber.
I fell in love with the F1 when I first saw it live in Melbourne in 2002. The 2002 Australan Grand Prix was held on 3 March at the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit in Albert Park, St. Kilda. It was the first race of the season.
The race was won by defending World Champion Michael Schumacher for Ferrari, becoming just the eighth driver to win the event three times since it was first held in 1928. Williams driver Juan Pablo Montoya finished 18 seconds behind in second position while McLaren driver Kimi Räikkönen came home in third place and was the only other driver apart from Montoya, not to be lapped by Schumacher. The race was heavy on attrition, with eight cars eliminated in a multi-car pile-up at the first corner. Williams driver Ralf Schumacher ran into the back of polesitter Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari). In the ensuing chaos Giancarlo Fisichella (Jordan), Sauber pair Felipe Massa and Nick Heidfeld, Jenson Button (Renault), Olivier Panis (BAR) and Allan McNish (Toyota) retired. Heinz_Harald Frentzen was disqualified for leaving pit lane under a red light and Enrique Bernoldi was disqualified for starting the race in the team’s spare car. With six other cars retiring during the course of the race there were barely enough cars to fill the points positions.
Eddie Irvine’s Jaguar took fourth position while the late race battle for fifth captured the spectating crowd’s attention. Mark Webber, the first Australian to start his home race since David Brabham eight years previously, found his Minardi in fifth position, Minardi’s first points in some years. The car was wounded, missing top gear and Mika Salo (Toyota) closing fast. With only a lap to go Salo spun trying to pass Webber. After the race, he celebrated with an enthusiasm more than equal to winner Schumacher. Webber and Australian team boss Paul Stoddart were given their own podium celebration and Michael Schumacher’s champagne bottle after the top three had left.
For some just qualifying for the race was dramatic. Takuma Sato (Jordan) was unable to set a time in the early part of the session when it was dry. Eventually he did manage to get some track time, but by then it was raining heavily. Because of this “exceptional circumstance”, the FIA stewards allowed him to race although an electrical failure stopped him after twelve laps.
Alex Yoong (Minardi) and Pedro de la Rosa (Jaguar) were the only other finishers.