With the new rules banning mid-race refuelling and Bridgestone tyres that performed far too well for the conditions seemingly having contributed to a listless season-opening race in Bahrain, key F1 figures and fans will be hoping that the second round of the championship provides much more on-track action.
Fortunately, Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit has traditionally provided F1 fans and drivers with a great race weekend, and it remains one of the most popular fixtures on the F1 calendar.
This year’s event will again be a twilight race timed more to bolster the TV audiences in the key European market than for any other factor. The move has not necessarily proved popular for drivers, but the added issue of the low-lying sun has added another factor for the drivers to contend with.
|2010 Formula 1 QANTAS Australian Grand Prix
|Date:||28 March 2010||No. Laps||58|
|Lap Length:||5.303km||Race Distance:||307.574km|
|Lap Record:||1:24.125 – Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), 2004|
For a circuit run on public roads around the picturesque Albert Park lakeside, it is surprisingly high-speed. Its layout is punctuated by chicanes, and its dusty surface usually sees plenty of practice spins and trips through the gravel as drivers explore its limitations.
The situation generally changes little in the race, and the near-magnetic attraction of the concrete barriers that line the circuit should see a few safety car interruptions.
Without any massively long straight to speak of, past races have still managed to provide plenty of overtaking opportunities, with the usual points being at the end of the main straight and into the Turn 3 right-hander.
The History Bit
An ever-popular venue since it took over from Adelaide as the home of the Australian GP, almost every year has provided a thrilling race for drivers and fans alike.
The first race in 1996 saw Jacques Villeneuve take pole position in his debut outing in F1, and he looked on course to win until he was forced to cede the race lead to team-mate Damon Hill when his Williams Renault developed an oil leak. That year’s even will be remembered most for Martin Brundle’s spectacular opening-lap accident that saw his Jordan launched into a frightening series of barrel-rolls and from which he was lucky to emerge unscathed.
The 1998 race provided a team orders controversy when David Coulthard ceded the lead to his McLaren team-mate Mika Hakkinen, after the Finn made an inadvertent trip to the pit lane.
The following year’s race was punctuated by safety car incidents and just 8 cars finished. Eddie Irvine took a surprise maiden win for Ferrari, while his team-mate, Michael Schumacher, finished last!
Tragically, the 2001 event was marred by the death of a trackside marshal, but spirits were lifted at the following year’s race when Mark Webber scored 2 points for the minnow Minardi team on his F1 debut, sparking a wave of patriotism and emotion across the country:
Incredibly, Webber has never managed a better result on home soil than his first-race effort, matching it in 2005 for Williams.
Albert Park has proved to be something of a Michael Schumacher benefit, with the German picking up a hat-trick of wins in 2000-2, and then a fourth win in 2004. The German is unlikely to be a race-winning contender this weekend unless a bit of luck falls his way.
Of course, last year’s race provided plenty of emotion for the race fans when Brawn GP took an emotional first victory just a matter of months after reforming the team out of the ashes of the Honda team.
What to expect?
The F1 form guide has been given a little more clarity after the opening race, and we should again expect a close fight between Ferrari and Red Bull at the pointy end of the field, closely followed by Mercedes GP and McLaren. The circuit layout typically places less pressure on engines and aerodynamics, so we should see a smaller spread between the front and the back of the grid than at the previous race.
With there having been a big row between the teams regarding some teams’ interpretation of the rules governing the rear diffuser design, up to four teams will arrive at Melbourne with new rear diffuser designs to conform with the written guidelines.
Ferrari’s 1-2 at Bahrain owed as much to their pace as it did to Sebastian Vettel’s spark plug-induced retirement, and will probably enter the weekend as early favourites.
The new teams and drivers will again face a stern test this weekend. Lotus had a promising debut and was the sole new team to see both its drivers classified as race finishers. Virgin and Hispania Racing have a lot to do in the reliability stakes, but the demands of the circuit might better suit all three teams, who could ruffle a few feathers and upset some of the more established outfits.
Above all, what really needs to happen this weekend is some decent on-track action to put the nay-sayers’ concerns to rest.
We look forward to bringing you all the action from this weekend’s event!