After what has seemed like an eternity (but has actually been a matter of just a few months), the Formula 1 show is back on centre stage once again, with Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit playing host to the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
We’ll be right in the thick of it and reporting to you straight from the F1 paddock, with RichardsF1.com securing full media accreditation to this incredible event once again. So let’s take a look at our race preview…
The 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, despite ongoing mutterings from various sections of the community that it would be better if the race went elsewhere.
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 them to contend with.
|2013 FORMULA 1 ROLEX AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX
|Date:||15-17 March 2013|
|Race Lap Record:||1:24.125, Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F2004) – 2004|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 12:30-14:00|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 16:30-18:00|
|Free Practice Session 3||Sat 14:00-15:00|
|Race (58 laps, 307.574km)||Sun 17:00-19:00|
|Past 10 Years’ Winners:||Jenson Button (McLaren Mercedes MP4/27)||2012|
|Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing Renault RB7)||2011|
|Jenson Button (McLaren Mercedes MP4/25)||2010|
|Jenson Button (Brawn GP Mercedes BGP001)||2009|
|Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes MP4/23)||2008|
|Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari F2007)||2007|
|Fernando Alonso (Renault R26)||2006|
|Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault R25)||2005|
|Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F2004)||2004|
|David Coulthard (McLaren Mercedes MP4-17D)||2003|
Between 1985 and 1995, the Australian Grand Prix was held at Adelaide and occupied the last slot on the calendar, but a new tradition took over in 1996 when Melbourne snatched the race and the Albert Park circuit assumed the honours of the championship curtain-raiser.
A hugely popular destination for the teams and drivers – many of whom arrive almost a week ahead of schedule to adjust to the climate and to take a quick holiday – the fans also flock here in droves.
A circuit made up mostly of public roads set around Albert Park’s lake, it has minimal elevation changes and features the usual hallmarks of a street circuit.
A dusty and slippery surface awaits drivers at the start of the weekend’s activities, the track gradually builds grip and is at its quickest during Sunday’s race.
Certain section of the track offer little in the way of available run-off, and the cement walls are more than willing to pluck wheels and wings off cars if the drivers make a mistake. Historically, the race has claimed plenty of casualties and thrown up more than a few surprise results.
The most popular section of the track are the high-speed Turn 11 and 12 sweeps at the back of the circuit, which are taken at well over 140mph.
Take a look at our Albert Park Circuit Guide:
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 eight 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 two points for the tail-ender 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 and again last year.
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. Despite Mercedes’ improved form over the pre-season testing period, the German is unlikely to be a race-winning contender this weekend, unless a bit of luck falls his way.
The 2010 race sought to arrest concerns that the season was going to be a snooze-fest, with action aplenty as wet weather hit the circuit as the joker in the pack. A clever strategic call saw Jenson Button take his first win for McLaren, while home fans were disappointed with local boy Webber, who drove one of the more error-ridden races in his career.
In 2011, Sebastian Vettel kicked off his 2010 championship defence with a comfortable win, one of umpteen he would claim over the course of an utterly dominant championship season for the German and the Red Bull Racing team.
Last year saw Button return to the winner’s circle in Melbourne to claim his third win in four years at Albert Park. The McLaren driver fended off team-mate Lewis Hamilton at the start and took an assured win to kickstart his season. The race was punctuated by several safety car interruptions, while Pastor Maldonado crashed out heavily on the final lap to throw away a valuable points haul for the Williams team.
The Players and Form Guide
As is the case with any season-opening race, trying to pick a clear favourite for this weekend’s event – when so much is unknown – is not an easy thing to do.
While it feels like a lifetime ago since the chequered flag waved at last year’s season-ending race at Interlagos, but it’s actually been a little over two months between that and the very first car launch of the season.
Before long, we were into pre-season testing in Spain, and now we find ourselves gearing up for the championship battle to begin in earnest on the streets of Albert Park.
Will Red Bull Racing be able to claim a fourth successive sweep of the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship crowns, or will one of the other driver / team combinations finally wrestle it from their grasp?
Ultimately, all will be revealed after Saturday’s qualifying session and at the end of Sunday’s 58-lap race thriller. But speculating about the outcome is still pretty fun in the interim…
The technical regulations have remained reasonably stable between 2012-3, meaning that this year’s machines are largely evolutions – rather than wholesale redesigns – of their 2012 challengers.
That being said, there are plenty of subtle and important changes to the rulebook. Gone is the uninhibited use of DRS during the practice and qualifying sessions. Drivers will now only be able to use the device within the designated DRS zones at each circuit (as is the case in race conditions), which rather begs the point of why the device is even appropriate for use in qualifying. If pole position is determined by which driver has the quickest thumbs, then it’s a rather sorry indictment on the sport…
The other major change is to the tyre compound make-up, with Pirelli taking an even more aggressive approach in designing its 2013 tyre compounds to try and further spice up the racing. Conditions in testing will hardly match the type of weather we are likely to see in the opening rounds of the championship, so success in Melbourne could well come down to which driver is able to manage his tyre wear better than the rest of the field.
Red Bull Racing didn’t really show its hand in pre-season testing. Reigning champion Sebastian Vettel clocked up plenty of mileage in the new RB9, but not once did he feature at the top of the timesheets at the end of the day. The new DRS rules will hurt the team’s customary edge in qualifying, but with plenty of stability in its technical line-up, it’s a brave fan who would bet against the Milton Keynes team.
Fernando Alonso is therefore best placed to capitalise, and after a positive run in Ferrari’s new F138, the Spaniard is quietly confident about his prospects. Despite the shortcomings of last year’s F2012, Alonso came within a whisker of claiming the 2012 title. If he has a better car, then his talent would be enough to get him over the line.
Evidently, the new car design is still taking some time to sort out, leaving it at risk of the likes of Mercedes and Lotus, who seem to have shown improvement during the off-season.
The biggest driver move came from Lewis Hamilton, who took the place of the retiring Michael Schumacher at Mercedes, while the Englishman’s seat at McLaren was claimed by Sergio Pérez. Hamilton’s move to Mercedes was widely expected, and after six years in McLaren’s F1’s line-up, it will be interesting to see how he shows up in a new team.
Lotus look like the dark horse outfit in the pre-season, with both Romain Grosjean and Kimi Räikkönen looking strong in the new E21. Many people are tipping the Finn to feature prominently throughout the season, while Grosjean will be hoping to start his season on a more disciplined note and to stay out of trouble.
The battle for the minor points’ places will be as tight as ever, with Force India, Williams, Sauber and Toro Rosso all showing similar pace. All bar Toro Rosso have changed at least one half of their driver line-up during the off-season, and the Italian team is ambitiously targeting sixth place in the Constructors’ Championship after a disappointing 2012 campaign. Will new technical director James Key help the team deliver the goods? Time will tell…
The collapse of the HRTF1 team means that it’s now a two-team battle for cellar-dweller honours between Caterham and Marussia. Cashflow issues have forced both outfits to bring on all-new driver line-ups, and it will be difficult to see how their inexperienced pairings will be able to propel either team off the last two rows of the grid, let alone into the points…
Buckle up for what should be an action-packed Australian Grand Prix. We look forward to bringing you all the action from this weekend’s event!
Don’t forget to enter your F1 Predictions!
The first round of the 2013 RichardsF1.com F1 Predictions Competition is now open, and you can enter your predictions for the race right here to be in the running for some great prizes throughout the season and at the end of the year!
The cut-off to submit your predictions is no later than five minutes before qualifying starts, so make sure you’re in it to win it!
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