By Paul Healy
Formula One action returns this weekend as the Championship heads to The Albert Park race circuit in Melbourne. After a three year absence from the calendar since 2020 F1 returns Down Under.
In 2020 the F1 Australian Grand Prix was cancelled at the last minute due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, and was unable to return to Australia due to the strict travel restrictions which have now been eased.
The track is a fourteen-turn, 5.278 km or 3.280 mile circuit which takes place in Ablert Park . The track has undergone recent resurfacing and some other slight modifications. The new layout is 24 meters shorter which is expected to result in shorter lap times.Turns 1, 3, 6, 11 and 13 have all been widened to promote overtaking .
The biggest change is the previous Turn 9/10 chicane, which has been turned into a fast flick that leads onto the high-speed left-right sequence. The pitlane has also been widened to allow more space. The lap record here was a 1:25.580 by Valtteri Bottas in 2019 the last time an F1 race was held here as the 2020 edition was cancelled before FP1 could commence. Bottas won the 2019 race for the Mercedes team.
In the last round of the 2022 championship in Saudi Arabia Max Verstappen won for Red Bull ahead of Charles Lexlerc of Ferrari who is off to a strong start this season after a win in the opening round in Bahrain and a second place in Jeddah. Going into this weekend Leclerc is the favourite with the Monegasque leading the Driver’s championship with 45 points. Expect the battle between Verstappen of Red Bull and Leclerc of Ferrari to continue in Australia .
Mercedes have history done well in Melbourne, however despite a p3 and p4 finish in the opening round , the silver arrows still struggle to get to grips with the porpoising issues. In terms of on track performance or in new Mercedes driver George Russell surprisingly who is quicker while The 7- time world champion Lewis Hamilton appears to be struggling.
The Australian Grand Prix will no doubt be a special occasion for the Aussie driver Daniel Ricciardo, however there are troubles at McLaren with the team collecting just six points from the opening two races and a loss of power forced Ricciardo to retire the car last time out in Jeddah.
This year sees an extra DRS zones , making 4 zones and together with the a number of corners being modified and the track resurfaced it should make for more exciting racing but only time will tell.
2022 Formula 1 Australian GP session timings in the UK
Friday 8th April 2022
- Free Practice 1: 04:00 – 05:00 BST
- Free Practice 2: 07:00 – 08:00 BST
Saturday 9th April 2022
- Free Practice 3: 04:00 – 05:00 BST
- Qualifying: 07:00 – 08:00 BST
Sunday 10th April 2022
- Race: 06:00 BST