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Ten most memorable moments of the Adelaide Grand Prix

There’s no doubt that the Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide from 1985 to 1995 provided Formula 1 fans around the world with exciting and dramatic moments, from ferocious title fights to heartbreaking endings.

Here’s our list of the most notable events throughout the Formula 1 era in Adelaide:

10 – David Coulthard’s painful mistake – 1995

In the early stages of the 1995 Australian Grand Prix, David Coulthard was able to snatch first position from polesitter Damon Hill. He retained his lead until needing to pit, entering the pitlane with too much speed, locking his front tyres and running into the pit wall, ending his race. Hill was able to comfortably cruise to victory, with Coulthard forced to watch on.

9 – Shortest race – 1991

Until the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix, the 1991 Australia Grand Prix was the shortest Formula 1 race ever held. Just 16 of the 81 scheduled laps ran before the race was called off due to a torrential downpour. Ayrton Senna qualified first and retained his lead throughout. Cars were aquaplaning and spinning out in all directions in the heavy rain. In his last race before retirement, Nelson Piquet spun out, while Nigel Mansell passed Gerhard Berger for second before Mansell crashed. Berger spun multiple times, with the rain becoming heavier and heavier. On the 16th lap, Senna attempted to signal the marshals to call the race off. The race was red flagged while Senna was on his 17th lap, and the official results were taken from the 14th lap with half points awarded.

8 – Ayrton Senna smashes qualifying – 1985

Senna was often called be ‘The King of Qualifying’, as evidenced by his performance during the 1985 Australian Grand Prix. In only his second season of Formula 1, Senna drove for Lotus and took to the Adelaide Street Circuit in the inaugural race in Australia. During qualifying, the Brazilian driver was able to place his car on the top of the starting grid with a time of 1:19.844, above the much faster McLaren and Williams cars by a significant margin. Nigel Mansell found himself in second, seven tenths of a second behind. Keke Rosberg went on to win the grand prix, however he was over two seconds behind Senna in qualifying.

7 – Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna take each other out – 1992

Rivals Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna lined up on the first row of the grid at the 1992 Australian Grand Prix. This was said to be Mansell’s last race before moving to IndyCar, however he did return to Formula in place of the late Senna in 1994. Mansell and Senna pulled away from the pack in the early stages of the 1992 race. As the laps went on, Mansell continued to set new fastest times, however Senna continuously remained in a solid position behind. It was not until the 18th lap, when Mansell found himself attempting to lap slower cars, that Senna was able to close in on him. In an effort to find an opening on the last corner of the circuit, Senna rammed into the back of Mansell, sending both cars off the track, eliminating both cars from the race.

6 – Only eight finishers – 1989

With the Australian Grand Prix occurring just before the start of summer in November, the weather could be temperamental. Over the course of the 11 years in Adelaide, F1 experienced everything from torrential rain to sweltering heat. In 1989, heavy rain made its way onto the circuit, with 70 of the 81 laps completed until the two-hour time limit. The first lap was certainly eventful, with Olivier Grouillard spinning off, before JJ Lehto had an incident at the first chicane and blocked a section of the track, forcing the race to be stopped. Alain Prost argued against racing in such conditions and did not contest the restart. At the restart, Ayrton Senna gained a large gap; up to nine seconds a lap quicker than some of his competitors. The retirements began to flood through, with spins, incidents and car issues resulting in six retired cars in the span of two laps. Then, suddenly, Senna hit the back of Martin Brundle while lapping the slower cars, followed on by further accidents for the likes of Nigel Mansell, Nelson Piquet and more. The race ended after 70 laps with eight cars finishing, with Williams' Thierry Boutsen taking victory.

5 – Most attended Formula 1 grand prix – 1995

The 1995 Australian Grand Prix marked the last time Adelaide would hold Formula 1 before the event moved to Albert Park in Victoria in 1996. Given the significance of Adelaide’s grand finale, the 1995 Australian Grand Prix had huge crowds across the four days – more than any other Formula 1 weekend in history with a staggering 520,000 people in attendance. It is the only race to have had an attendance above 500,000 and is often regarded as one of the busiest Formula 1 weekends in terms of on-track action and off-track festivities. Bon Jovi headlined the after-race concert, with the event the perfect send off for the 11 years of Formula 1 in Adelaide.

4 – Mika Hakkinen's horrific crash – 1995

During the 1995 Australian Grand Prix Friday qualifying session, Mika Hakkinen suffered a sickening crash. On a flying lap in, his McLaren suffered a left rear puncture, resulting in the Finn losing control. Hakkinen hit a curb, which sent him airborne and straight into a tyre barrier at a speed over 190km/h. In the 208G impact, he fractured his skull and was unresponsive with a blocked airway as trackside medics got to him. Hakkinen had to have an emergency tracheotomy before being taken to hospital. He was in a coma for several days before spending a further five weeks in hospital. He returned to the cockpit and went on to win two Formula 1 world championships.  

3 – Alain Prost’s last race and Ayrton Senna’s last win – 1993

Both Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna are legends of Formula 1, with seven championship titles between them. Their rivalry has often been regarded as the fiercest and most polarising ever seen in the sport, particularly during their time as teammates at McLaren. The 1993 Australian Grand Prix marked an end of an era, with Prost announcing his retirement at the end of that season. Unlike Prost, Senna was to continue racing in 1994, moving to Williams in place of Prost before his tragic death at the 1994 San Marino GP. The two rivals had one final duel in Adelaide, with Senna coming out on top and winning the race. During the podium ceremony, Senna invited both Prost and Damon Hill, who finished third, to the top step of the podium, symbolising an end to the ferocious rivalry. Not only did the 1993 Australian Grand Prix put an end to the Senna-Prost rivalry it was also the last time both of them would stand on the podium.  

2 – Nigel Mansell costly puncture – 1986

Going into the 1986 Australian Grand Prix, Nigel Mansell had been leading the championship by six points and looked set to claim his first Formula 1 title. Also in the fight for the championship was Nelson Piquet and Alain Prost, however Mansell would claim the championship if he finished third or higher, regardless of the result for both Piquet and Prost. Mansell furthered his advantage by qualifying on pole, ahead of Piquet in second and Prost in fourth. Mansell’s title competitors soon found themselves struggling, with Piquet spinning and falling out of the points and Prost suffering a puncture. Nonetheless, after quick pitstops, both drivers managed to catch the Brit. Sitting in a championship-winning position, Mansell’s championship hopes evaporated when, travelling at almost 290km/h on Brabham Straight, his left-rear tyre exploded. With incredible car control and reaction times, he was able to prevent a serious crash, however he was out of the race. Piquet then led before being called in to the pits for a precautionary tyre change given the fate of his teammate, handing the lead to Prost who went on to win the race and the championship. Mansell’s disappointment was one of three close attempts for the championship in the six seasons between 1986 and 1991 before winning a long-awaited title in 1992.

1 – Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill collide in title fight – 1994

The 1994 championship had been one of the most eventful, controversial and tragic seasons in Formula 1 history. Heading into the last race of the season in Adelaide, Michael Schumacher was on top of the championship with Damon Hill just one point. Schumacher took the lead off the start with Hill close behind. This remained the same until lap 36, with Hill closing on Schumacher. Schumacher went off the track on East Terrace, hitting the wall and slowly returning to the track as Hill rounded the corner. Hill attempted to pass Schumacher on the inside but collided as the leader turned in. Schumacher’s Benetton dramatically shunted into the air and retired in the tyre wall. Hill struggled back to the pits but retired due to suspension damage. Due to neither competitor gaining any points, the championship standings remained the same, and Schumacher claimed the first of his seven championships – one of the most controversial endings to a championship.

1 Comment

Jan 19

I was there when Alain Prost spun out on Stag Corner & have his autograph on a ”staff” jacket. I regard this as a priceless collectible.

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