The Australian Grand Prix Corporation coined the phrase 'a great place for the race' and Melbourne is just that. Australia's second largest city is one of the most vibrant and cosmopolitan on earth, with plenty to do both day and night. The climate in late summer is perfect, the people are friendly and, to top it all, the Grand Prix is one of the most well organised of the year.
"Melburnians are sports-mad," says local hero Mark Webber. "The climate allows for a very outdoor lifestyle, so people are always doing something."
Albert Park staged a non-championship Grand Prix between 1956 and '58, but only in 1996 did it appear on the world championship calendar. Until 2005 the race had always been the season-opener, but that changed for 2006 due to the Commonwealth Games being staged in Melbourne until mid-March.
"You're totally spoilt for choice when it comes to restaurants, so you could spend the whole time eating if you wanted," adds Webber. "I take a look at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and tootle down the Great Ocean Road, which is an easy drive away."
Did you know? Melbourne is said to be the fox capital of the western world, with an estimated six foxes per square kilometre in the metropolitan area.
International flights arrive at Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport, 22 kilometres north west of the city. A taxi from there to the city centre is inexpensive. Alternatively, there is a regular bus service.
Melbourne's parks, beaches and open spaces make it pleasurable city to walk around. Everything is quite spread out, but the city's cheap and convenient tram system makes getting about easy. There are several stops near the Albert Park circuit, which is two kilometres south of the city centre.
If hiring a car, don't forget to pay the automatic motorway toll, and have plenty of coins handy as most inner city parking is metered.
Set in mown parkland, the circuit is easy to walk around. That makes general admission an appealing ticket to have on race day. But there are lots of grandstands too, particularly at the beginning and end of the lap, divided into three basic ticket prices. Remember to take sun cream and a hat. Even in March, the days are long and the rays are strong.
In the evenings, don't book early for dinner. Melbourne's bustling nightlife doesn't kick off until around 9pm, and don't go clubbing until gone midnight - unless you suffer from claustrophobia and like an empty dance floor...
Another bit of advice - and one well worth heeding - comes direct from the state department's traffic agency, which has the following slogan visible at various points around Albert Park: 'If you drink and drive, you're a bl**dy idiot!'
Where to go?
There's something for everyone in Melbourne, as you'd expect from a city known for being the arts, culinary and sporting capital of Australia. To name just a few daytime attractions: the Aquarium, the old Gaol, Melbourne Zoo, Melbourne Cricket Ground, the Ian Potter Centre and Chinatown.
"This might sound a bit weird," says Webber, "but a lot of young Aussies are getting into lawn bowls. They have a few beers and have a good laugh doing that. Don't knock it until you've tried it!"
Where to stay?
Since the Grand Prix came to Albert Park, the south Melbourne area has benefited from a lot of regeneration and there are now plenty of places to stay within walking distance of the track.
St Kilda is a popular destination for the F1 media because of its mix of street restaurants, clubs and stunning views of Port Phillip Bay. Drivers and senior team members tend to stay more centrally, usually at the Crown Towers.
There are plenty of things to do in Victoria, but if you'd prefer to get away from it all, jump on a plane, head north and visit the Great Barrier Reef.
"Victoria is not my home state," says Webber, "but I always fancy a road trip up the Great Ocean Road to check out some of the beaches. You've got to go to Lorne, Torquay or Bell's Beach, where they filmed the movie Point Break. If you plan to surf, that place isn't for boys, let me tell you. Elsewhere, I'd head to the snowfields to the north or to some of the vineyards."
Phillip Island, home of the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix is 140 kilometres south east of Melbourne. The bikers are often testing at around the time of the Formula One Grand Prix, so you might get to see some action.
For those in search of some Grand Prix nostalgia, go to Adelaide and drive the old Grand Prix track, which hosted the Australian race from 1985 to 1995.
220 Albert Road