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The Formula One Rolex Australian Grand Prix is one of the hottest tickets in Melbourne’s calendar. Paired with some of the city’s finest restaurants and accommodation, it’s an experience that’s hard to beat.

I’ll be the first to admit that racing is not my sport. My heart belongs to football, my soul to Chelsea. Full disclosure: I’ve seen the Formula One (F1) Grand Prix on TV over the years, but I wouldn’t call myself a fan. In fact, I had never considered going to the event.

Surely it was a place for petrolheads and other motor enthusiasts, I thought. Mostly male, probably aged in their 40s and 50s, looking to spend a weekend away from the wife and kids.

However true that impression may have been in years gone by, I’m happy to report that’s no longer the case. Turns out, it’s absolutely fruitless to try to imagine what it’s like at the Grand Prix unless you’ve experienced it for yourself. The scope, the passion, the atmosphere are all on a level I’d never seen before in Australia.

Melbourne really rolls out the red carpet for the Formula One, and anyone looking to make a weekend of the race is spoiled for options. It was this combination – five-star digs, top-shelf food and next-level entertainment – that piqued my interest in giving the Grand Prix a closer look.

The clincher was the interview we recently ran with Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) CEO Travis Auld, who made a strong case for a more welcoming incarnation of the motorsport.

This year’s Formula One was Auld’s first after taking the wheel of the AGPC in late 2023. His vision was to capitalize on the motorsport’s tremendous growth following the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the family demographic, but without alienating the diehards. I was curious to see how he’d pull it off.


Being from Sydney (by way of Bedfordshire), Melbourne can sometimes leave me feeling somewhat disoriented. I wanted to keep my F1 weekend localized to the Albert Park area, which played a part in my accommodation choice of The Langham, Melbourne.

The Langham has become shorthand for luxury, and the Melbourne location didn’t disappoint. A publisher’s work is never done, so I wanted to stay vaguely on call during the weekend. The Langham Club, with its thoughtful array of premium inclusions such as private check-in, workspace access and daily breakfast in the Club’s elegant Melba restaurant, was the right option for my whirlwind busman’s holiday.

Upon arrival at the Southbank hotel on Friday evening, my partner and I were whisked away to the 24th floor for a flawlessly seamless personalized check-in. On the way up, our concierge told us to prepare for the best view of any hotel in Melbourne.

The cynic in me thought, “Sure, how many hotels would say the same?” But when we reached the beautiful Langham Club, the view was genuinely stunning. The city and the Yarra River seemed to wrap around us, and were a good reminder of the epic nature of the weekend ahead.

As it happened, we were just in time for afternoon tea, available daily in the Club from 10am til 6pm. It’s a perfect soft landing, especially if you’ve come a long way for the Grand Prix.

The Langham Club is open daily for breakfast, and then from 12pm until 8pm, but the refreshments on offer change every few hours. Afternoon tea and the evening canapes are the showcases, while lighter snacks are served around those times. At US$65 per person, it’s great value just for the food alone.

Exploring The Langham was a gorgeous voyage of discovery. It feels more like a residence than a hotel, with no shortage of style and class. Many of the common areas, including the heated, crystal-clear indoor-outdoor pool and Jacuzzi and the breakfast buffet, boasted amazing city views that rivaled what was on show upstairs.

Melbourne really rolls out the red carpet for the Formula One, and anyone looking to make a weekend of the race is spoiled for options.

Incredibly, given it was the city’s busiest weekend, things never felt crowded or overly busy. There’s very much a concept of open space and high visibility running through The Langham, and that’s exemplified by the rooms.

Ours, an Executive River Club Room, provides exactly what the name suggests: shimmering views of the Yarra. The room itself is kitted out with a king bed and ample workspace as well as a stylish marble bathroom. The sense of style sets the room apart; The Langham’s trademark is the care put into design and presentation. At The Langham Melbourne, it shows at every junction.


The second part of the weekend trifecta was dinner at Omnia Bistro, in the heart of South Yarra and 10 minutes from The Langham by car. Culinary Director Stephen Nairn has made his own mark on Melbourne’s fine dining scene with Omnia – no easy feat.

Formerly of Vue de Monde and New York sensation Eleven Madison Park, Nairn and his business partner Larry Kestelman have created an experience of effortless class and sumptuousness.

The staff works together like an orchestra; everyone knows exactly what they’re doing and they do it well. Our sommelier was absolutely on point, and we had cocktails mixed right there at the table.

Nairn joined us to take us through the menu, which is very much European contemporary. It hit the sweet spot between too much and too little: they had an assortment of dishes you knew they’d be able to nail.

The staff worked together like an orchestra; everyone knows exactly what they’re doing and they do it well.

The corn tart sounds plain on paper, but Omnia’s corn is sourced from Jonella Farm, which has perfected the art of growing sweet corn. To try this corn tart was almost like taking a bite of the sun. You can taste the supplier’s passion.

And then there’s the duck. Yes, the menu has it as ‘Dry aged honey roasted confit duck with black star cherry and tarragon’, but if you know, you know it’s ‘the duck’. The morning after, I caught up with a colleague and mentioned that I’d had dinner at Omnia. He just looked at me and said, ‘The duck.”

That’s because the duck is perfect. It’s a whole duck presented and carved at the table – not that you really need to carve it, because it is that tender. There was a layer of crispy skin with no apparent fat, and then duck breast meat that was literally butter.

I do a lot of cooking, and Nairn and I talked quite a bit about sous vide and dry aging. When the duck appeared, I said I’d have to recreate it at home. “How long does it take?” I asked. The reply: “Sixteen days”. You must order it.

Omnia’s big point of difference is that it works so closely with its suppliers. You can tell because it shines through in the food. When a chef uses the finest products and doesn’t muck about with them, they let the flavors and ingredients speak for themselves. That’s exactly what you get at Omnia Bistro, and it’s why Nairn’s menu is second to none. He is a fast-rising star in the Australian restaurant scene, and in next to no time, he’ll be a household name.

Start Your Engines

I never thought that my first time visiting a Formula One track would take more than 3,000 meters above it, but there I was. Thanks to the steady hands at Professional Helicopter Services, Grand Prix attendees were able to take in Albert Park by air, as well as Melbourne’s central business district and Port Phillip Bay.

Seeing the circuit from such a height put into perspective for me the place the Grand Prix holds in the city. Friday night footy aside, the weekend revolves around Formula One, and on Sunday in particular, the anticipation grows all day.

That morning, my driver Ajay from Private Chauffeur Melbourne took us from The Langham right to the Grand Prix gate. The journey to Albert Park is well signposted throughout the city, but when you’re not a local, it helps to have someone who knows exactly where to go and the best way to get there. Ajay knew the short cuts; I won’t be surprised if he’s on the ladder next year.

Once our helicopter touched down and we were back in the thick of Travis Auld’s vision and a very electric atmosphere. Just like he said, families were everywhere, with many more women and children than I’d expected. Fortunately, there was plenty for them to see and do.

From fan zones for merchandise to live music and roving entertainment, from Pit Stop Park for family encounters with DC superheroes and the Batmobile (nobody tell Marvel Stadium) to Legends Lane, where you can see vintage race cars from years gone by, Auld and the AGPC team have truly ensured there’s something for everyone at the Grand Prix.

The Australian Grand Prix has earned a reputation for world-class hospitality no matter your cost of entry. For the race itself, general admission provides a fantastic day out, and great access to the action. If you’re lucky enough to earn a spot in a corporate box, however, the experience shifts gears significantly.

I spent most of my time at the Formula One Paddock Club, an absolute must if you can manage it. Adorned with the logos of industry giants from Rolex to Red Bull, the Paddock is where you can rub shoulders with the drivers themselves if you’re lucky. I caught glimpses of Lewis Hamilton and Australian newbie Oscar Piastri, and in one bizarre moment was taken for one of Daniel Ricciardo’s entourage.

The Australian Grand Prix has earned a reputation for world-class hospitality no matter your cost of entry.

So awesome is the Paddock experience and so convivial the atmosphere that the race is almost an afterthought. At 58 laps of just over 5 kilometers each, the race is scheduled for three hours but usually runs just half that. The Paddock enjoys some serious track views, but much of the time my experience of passing motorists was a quick “zzzip” sound every so often.

Being so close does remind you just how seriously impressive the skills on show are, and there’s a contagious sense of adrenaline that stays with you long after the race is won.

Am I a convert? I think so. For me, the aha moment was soaring over the circuit in the chopper and seeing thousands swarm towards the event. The city had so much buzz, but at ground level it wasn’t quite as obvious. From above, the bigger picture – and the astonishing power of Formula One – is an eye opener.

I knew it would be big, but I didn’t quite realize how big. I overestimated how much of a blokefest it would be. I didn’t understand how much people thought of the drivers as royalty. I was taken aback by the passion and the spectacle. Has the AGPC created an experience that’s worth it even if you’re not a fan? Absolutely.

That evening at the airport, my partner and I were sharing our thoughts over a beer at the sports bar. The TV caught her eye and she started laughing. Front and center was F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo taking questions from the media, and there, just behind him, was the sport’s latest convert looking very sheepish indeed. See you next year.

As told to Michael Wayne.

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