A vibrant atmosphere is expected in Melbourne this week as the new F1 season gets underway. Rolex is the chief sponsor, but it’s not the first time the Crown has involved itself in racing events in recent years, and throughout its 100-plus year history.
For racing fans, the long winter is over. The new Formula 1 season gets underway this week, kicking off Down Under with the legendary Australian Grand Prix. Held at the stunning Albert Park in Melbourne, the race will see all 20 of this year's drivers back at peak performance after their down time on test tracks - a set of drivers that includes giants like last year's champion Lewis Hamilton as well several promising new rookies. The four-day event kicks off on March 14th, ending with the big race itself on Sunday afternoon.
Sebastian Vettel will be defending his win at the 2018 Australian Grand Prix, but perhaps more interesting for watch lovers is the return of industry kingpin Rolex as the Title Sponsor. The "Crown" has a long and illustrious history with motorsports, and this will be the seventh consecutive year it has secured a role as top sponsor in Australia. It will also sponsor another of the 21 races in the 2019 Formula 1 calendar: no less than the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in July.
Not only does Rolex fly its flag at major events, it has also signed on as Global Partner and Official Timepiece of the entire F1 season. This role was also acquired in 2013. Previous primary sponsors for F1 have included TAG Heuer and Longines. TAG and other top sports watch brands from Hublot to Richard Mille continue to act as major partners for individual racing teams - something Rolex seems to want to avoid, perhaps wishing to appear aloof or impartial.
Of course, Formula 1 is just one component of Rolex's long history with driving, which arguably began back in the 1930s when Sir Malcolm Campbell was breaking the land speed record, becoming the first driver to push through the 300mph barrier in his car, Blue Bird. Today the company continues its long support of major motoring events such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Goodwood Revival, as well as forging partnerships with racing icons such as Jackie Stewart, Mark Webber and Tom Kristensen.
By far Rolex's greatest chapter in driving history is its close association with the Daytona racetrack which began in 1959. Rolex has been title sponsor of the historic Rolex 24 at Daytona since 1991, but it was already the track's official timekeeper back in 1962, the year before the launch of the legendary watch that bears its name: the Cosmograph Daytona. Today this watch remains Rolex's only major timepiece associated with race car driving, but its legacy is among the greatest of any sports watch in history. The design is simply iconic, having remained more or less unchanged up to the modern day.
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