With the Formula One season starting in Melbourne next Friday the world will be watching the Australian circuit for its first chance to see what can be expected from this years cars. As to whether Ferrari can mount a stronger challenge to the Silver Arrows of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas or if Fernando Alonso’s McLaren will actually be able to finish a race will be eagerly anticipated.
The Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park has been the first race in the F1 calendar since 1996, excluding 2006 and 2010, and will continue be in the calendar until 2023. The 3.3 mile (5.3km) street circuit has played host to some memorable races throughout its 22 year run – like in 2002 when Ralf Schumacher launched his BMW over Rubens Barrichello’s Ferrari causing an 11 car pileup, in 2009 with Jenson Button’s first win for Brawn and of course countless driver debuts. This year’s race hopes to be just as exciting with preseason testing showing signs that Ferrari and Red Bull may have finally closed the gap on Mercedes after four years of domination and the mid-field is as tight as ever.
The great Michael Schumacher holds the record for most race wins in Melbourne, four, as well as the all-time fastest lap with a 1m 24.125s set back in 2004 in his V10 Ferrari. The current fastest lap for the hybrid powered V6 turbo is held by Kimi Räikkönen with a 1m 26.538s set last year but if the record breaking lap times from Catalunya testing are anything to go by that with surely change.
“As one of F1’s six street circuits it is praised for being the “smoothest” in terms of both track tarmac, which is made up of public roads and car parks, and the design of the track. Many street circuits, like Singapore, have 90 degree turns which create a start stop effect.”
The 58 lap circuit consists of three sectors with 16 turns. The drag reduction zone (DRS) is across the start/finish straight and second straight following turns one and two. The DRS detection point, when within a second of the car ahead, is located just before turn 14 so drivers will be hoping to remain close to the car in-front for a good exit out of turn 16 for the best opportunity to over-take in front of the 90,000 spectators.
With three main straights there is ample chance for drivers to slipstream and try to get ahead before the breaking zone. Fingers crossed fans can expect a lot of wheel to wheel action – especially in the mid-field – which has been proven in previous Grand Prix.
Melbourne’s four varying chicanes should supply some drama as drivers try to defend their line while also trying to hit their next apex and get a good exit. Albert Park has played host to some great battles like in 2005 when Alonso battled from 13th on the grid to finish on the podium. Case in point, Albert Park is a great all-rounder and a personal favourite.
As one of F1’s six street circuits it is praised for being the “smoothest” in terms of both track tarmac, which is made up of public roads and car parks, and the design of the track. Many street circuits, like Singapore, have 90 degree turns which create a start stop effect.
As F1 cars are designed to run as low to the ground as possible and public roads are not built to satisfy this, any bump will be felt 10 times over in a Grand Prix car but the smooth tarmac at Albert Park does not cause too much upset.
Melbourne is also described as one of the safer street races due to the track having clear run-off areas in high speed parts of the track. Unlike Monaco, a mistake here will not end your race.
Due to the track being a street circuit Perelli will be bringing the ultrasoft, supersoft and soft tyres to improve grip on tarmac which has had to put up with oil spills and constant wear from the Aussie public.
It was Sebastian Vettle who took the win last year after Lewis Hamilton, who qualified pole, got stuck behind Max Verstappen who was yet to pit. This years race may be clouded by the fact we have not seen these new cars race but if testing is anything to go by it is shaping up to be a close contest.
Timings – GMT+11
Friday, March 23 2018
Practice Session One – 12.00pm – 1.30pm
Practice Session Two – 4.00pm – 5.30pm
Saturday, March 23 2018
Practice Session Three – 2.00pm – 3.00pm
Qualifying – 5.00pm – 6.00pm
Sunday, March 25 2018
Race – 4.10pm – 6.10pm