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Friday, March 26, 2010

Formula 1 Down Under

I've been quite restrained of late; conscious that you don't all want to read about Formula 1.  Therefore, this is a slightly different approach - more of a travelogue than a sports report.

This weekend it's the Australian Grand Prix, at Albert Park, Melbourne.

Albert Park was originally part of the Yarra River Delta, which involved large areas of wetlands and sparse vegetation, interspersed by lagoons, some of which were quite large, including the lagoon from which Albert Park Lake was created.

Following European settlement from 1835 onwards, much of the Yarra River delta was drained to dry the land and enable agriculture, housing and grazing. Through the 1840s and 1850s, the area now occupied by Albert Park itself was unofficial parkland, used for military training, grazing and hunting. In 1864 the area was officially proclaimed a public park and named Albert Park in honour of Queen Victoria's devoted consort, Prince Albert.

From 1953-1958, the Australian Grand Prix was held within the park, around the lake, until it was moved to the circuit on Phillip Island. Over the next 30 or so years, general park maintenance was neglected as funding became hard to come by.

During the early 1990s, the lake was drained to remove weed infestations, rubbish and other debris that had accumulated over the years. In 1993, it was announced that the Australian Grand Prix would be moved from Adelaide to a reconstructed Albert Park Circuit, loosely following the 1950s configuration. This was met with much opposition, but the project went ahead and a host of sporting facilities were subsequently constructed and funding allocated to improve the parklands followed.

As the action on the track evolves over the weekend, with 3rd practice tomorrow, followed by qualifying, and then the race itself on Sunday, at least you can watch knowing some of the history behind the park and countryside that whizzes by at high speed.
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