We may risk and say that March is the favourite month for F1 fans. The action on track returns and it is time to stop speculating and star enjoying. 2015 championship trophy is looking for an owner!
As usual, 2015 calendar brings us to Melbourne first. Around the Albert Park’s lake, the race is held on public roads. Despite of that, the asphalt line is quite wide and smooth. It is considered an easy circuit. Drivers will complete 58 laps around the 5.3km track for a race distance of 307.58km.
First GP held in Albert Park was in 1996. Before that date, the Australian Grand Prix was held in Adelaide.
A little bit of history
In 1986, Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet, driving for Williams, and Alain Prost behind a McLaren’s steering-wheel which was, comparatively, less powerful, were fighting for the title in this last race of the championship. Mansell needed only a third place while Prost and Piquet needed to win if Mansell didn’t finish third or better. After being first for several laps, the Williams of Mansell suffered a spectacular mechanical failure. Prost took the lead and won the race and the championship.
In 2001 there was a tragedy when a wheel came loose after Ralf Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve collided and reached a marshall causing his death.
In 2002, Mark Webber accomplished to get fifth in an uncompetitive Minardi, taking the misfortune of other pilots who crashed on the first lap.
In 2008, Lewis Hamilton scored his fifth victory in a race that was only completed by 6 cars.
Turn 1 is a medium speed corner to the right, very challenging because it comes just after the first DRS zone where drivers arrive at 327 km/h and they have to be very careful where they start to brake not to run long. An open soft corner to the right follows. It is important to get a good exit from corner number 2 as the second DRS zone starts right away in the second straight. Turn 3 is one of the best overtaking points if the driver can outbrake his rival in that right-handed corner. No space to breath since turn 4 comes immediately after, this time to the left. Before getting to sector number 2, a fast section of the track formed by a short straight, the fast corner number 5 to the right raced at 240 km/h and another straight.
Sector 2 starts with a tricky corner to the right, where drivers slow down from 240 to 130 km/h and shift down to fourth gear. Corner number 7 continues, a similar corner to number 2, open to the left and quite fast. Then comes a very long flat out corner to the right ending in a short straight before the slow chicane formed by corners 9 and 10. Drivers exit that last corner at 115 km/h and are able to press the accelerator now as the track continues with a long open and fast turn to the left before arriving to the final section.
The last sector begins with a high speed chicane left-right. There is a straight divided in two by a very fast corner to the right which leads to a 90º corner to the right again. That corner number 13 can be an overtaking place for the most risky drivers but it can also be a trap. DRS detection point is located just before getting to the turn number 14, another 90º but softer corner to the right, taken in fifth gear. Right after, drivers get to the slowest section of the track; corners 15 and 16. The first one is taken in second gear and it goes to the left. At the second corner it is important to have a good exit to take the main straight at full throttle.
Tyres and technical requirements
Pirelli brings to Melbourne the soft and medium compounds. The Italian brand repeats the 2014 election of tyres, although the medium rubber has changed from last year.
The cars need high level of downforce to get the necessary grip in fast corners. Around 0’2s per lap can be gained if the grip trough corners 15 and 16 is increased. Albert Park is quite demanding on the brakes because of the slow corners such as number three and 13 . The tire wear is medium-high; it is a semi-urban circuit but roads where rebuilt before the start of the 1996 venue.
The lap record is held by Michael Schumacher since 2004, with a 1.24.125s. He is also the driver with most victories in Albert Park, with 4, followed by Jenson Button, with 3, and Kimi Räikkönen, with 2. Alonso, Vettel Hamilton and Rosberg won once in Melbourne. Everything makes us think that this will change for one of the Mercedes drivers this year.
Race local times
FP1 Friday 13 12.30h
FP2 Friday 13 16.30h
FP3 Saturday 14 14.00h
Qualifying Saturday 14 17.00h
Race Sunday 15 16.00h