I’m quickly compiling a list of taboo topics living in Melbourne. A dislike of coffee, obviously, as I found out the hard way. The fairly tempestuous weather situation. And Formula One motor racing.

Melburnians haven’t quite taken to the colour, the cash, the guttural roar of the F1 Grand Prix. Oh, your bogans, sure. They come from far and wide. And your social set, perched high above the grandstands in their corporate marquees swilling expensive champagne and chowing down on the finest lunch mass catering can muster. But not your average, working Melburnians, the portentous latte-sippers who whine about all the concrete and fumes in their precious lakeside park.

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It’s one weekend a year, people (sure, and the months of track construction and park destruction before and after). Wake up and smell the burning rubber — in global sport it doesn’t get much bigger and much more exciting than the multizillion dollar F1 circus. Get along. You might even enjoy it.

I walked the 5.3-kilometre circuit last weekend as the advertising hoardings were fixed, the last barriers of the concrete canyon forked into place and the remaining towering grandstands and corporate facilities were summoned from the earth. For a motor sport fan from way back, it’s a thoroughly impressive set-up and the pre-event buzz is palpable. This weekend a few hundred thousand people will descend on the parklands for a spectacle worth gazing at whether you’re a rev-head or not.

To tour the pit complex is like gawking through the window of a high-end jeweller — the place reeks of cash, from the highly paid celebrities behind the wheel, found hiding out in their luxurious motor homes with their model WAGs, to racing machinery worth hundreds of millions of dollars. And trackside, the sound of a squealing engine is something else — or, if music is more your scene, stay on for the concerts from Powderfinger, Simple Minds and indie bands such as Scientists of Modern Music, the Midnight Juggernauts and Bang Gang DJ’s (yes, I too am aware of the inappropriately positioned apostrophe and no, I don’t know who any of those bands are either). It’s just one big party in the park, really. And who doesn’t love a party?

The details: The Australian Grand Prix begins at Albert Park today. Get your tickets on the event website. The park will recover! Just live a little, Melbourne. Elsewhere, the Grand Prix will be showing on Channel 10, the home of So You Think You Can Dance.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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