After a lull of almost four months, Formula 1 springs back to action this weekend with the Australian Grand Prix. Cristina DeLarge previews the Melbourne round of the 2016 Formula 1 World Championship.
The normative hasn’t changed much in 2016, but there are a few few things that are expected to spice up the show: one new team, three new drivers, a new qualifying system and the tighter battle between Mercedes and Ferrari (or at least we hope so).
As usual and probably until 2023, Australia will continue to host the first round of the season.. Around the Albert Park’s lake, the race is held on public roads. Despite 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 at Albert Park was in 1996. Prior to it, the Australian Grand Prix was held in Adelaide, starting in 1985. Motorsport as been part of Australia since 1928, with its first race held in Phillip Island.
Daniel Ricciardo, the Aussie hero this weekend, commented on the venue and winter testing:
“For me the favourite things about the Australian GP are first of all the fans. They’re pretty awesome, every day we go to the track we get a pretty big greeting from everyone and they are super enthusiastic, it’s cool! The track is fun, I love street circuits so for me Melbourne’s got really good flow, really good corner combinations, lots of left/right, left/rights which is cool. And I’m not a massive fan of the European winter so getting back to Oz, not only to race but just to get back to some sunshine is great. To hear the Aussie accent, have some good Aussie food and live that summer lifestyle is great, so not really much to complain about!
“Testing’s been a lot better for us this year. You still don’t really know where you are until you get to Melbourne, but we’re better prepared than we were this time last year so we can use that as some confidence. Me personally, I’m ready to go - I was ready in January and I’m still ready now! Just keen for those lights to go out and to get racing! I think everyone’s excited to get going, but even if the race was elsewhere I think there’s no-one more excited than me to go racing, period! But the fact that it’s in Oz and I’m going to have more supporters than anyone else, hell yeah I’m excited!
“In fact, I’m going to have to control my adrenaline because there’s a long build up over the weekend. Sunday’s cool, it’s probably the quietest day of the week for us in terms of other obligations so it’s really time to just focus on the race. When I’m on the grid on Sunday, it’ll just be full focus, full determination, knowing that I’ve got a battle on my hands the next hour and a half, a battle I’ll look forward to!”
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. It is passed at third gear. Even though it comes after the DRS zone, it’s not an optimal overtaking point. Drivers have to attack the kerbs to keep flat out for corner number 2, an open soft corner to the right. It is important to get a good exit from corner number 2 as the second DRS zone starts right away on the second straight.
Turn 3, raced at second gear, is one of the best overtaking points if the driver can outbrake his rival in that right-handed corner. Drivers can use both internal and external side. 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 with high g forces for the drivers and another straight.
Sector 2 starts with a tricky corner to the right, where drivers slow down from 240km/h to 130 km/h and shift down to fourth gear. Shadows of the trees obscure some parts of the track, so drivers need to brake carefully to take this turn, especially if it is wet. Corner number 7 follows; 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 the latter at 115 km/h and are able to press the accelerator now as the track continues with a straight which is actually a very 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. Drivers attack the kerbs but carefully enough to maintain car’s balance. 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, because it is dirty and slippery. 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
2016 brings us changes in this area: Pirelli is allowed to bring to the GPs up to three compounds. For Melbourne, they chose the supersoft, soft and medium compounds. Teams and drivers can use 10 sets of tyres as per their choice, with Pirelli deciding the remaining three.
In Albert Park aerodynamic efficiency is secondary to stability under braking and traction, as it has many 90º curves where it is important to brake late at the entrance and accelerate from low speed at the exit. The tyre wear is medium; it is a semi-urban circuit but roads were rebuilt before the start of the 1996 venue.
The kings of Albert Park
The lap record is held by Michael Schumacher since 2004, with a 1.24.125s. He is also the driver with most victories at Albert Park, with 4, followed by Jenson Button with 3, and Kimi Räikkönen with 2. Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton and Rosberg have won once in Melbourne. Let’s see if someone can defy Mercedes dominance this year.
Race local times
FP1 Friday 18 12.30h
FP2 Friday 18 16.30h
FP3 Saturday 19 14.00h
Qualifying Saturday 19 17.00h
Race Sunday 20 16.00h
by Cristina DeLarge