PRIXVIEW – Australian Grand Prix

Features Prixview

The seventieth Formula One season begins in Albert Park in Melbourne. Australia has been the traditional season opener since Grand Prix racing returned to Melbourne in 1995. The circuit first hosted a non-championship race in 1953 around the road of the park.

Albert Park is a street circuit, however it one which allows for close racing around the 3.2 miles. It is a twisty but fast circuit which has seen a number of dramatic and edge of the seat racing as the Autumn begins down under. Drivers, however, enjoy the nature of the circuit and it can push drivers to the limit.

The circuit is like another street circuit it takes time to rubber in, but making mistakes isn’t as costly here. But the biggest mistakes are punishable as into some of the corners which require big braking points are lined with gravel and grass. As the drivers push to the limit in qualifying mistakes are common.

Albert Park is one of the faster street circuits, the flat terrain and the lack of real straights means overtaking isn’t easy. But most of the overtaking comes into the first corner and when drivers are pushing mistakes are common, which means that yellow flags and red flags makes drivers want to be on track as much as possible in qualifying.

The first race at Albert Park started in dramatic drama when Martin Brundle was launched into the air in an enormous accident. Footage of the crash, and Brundle’s subsequent rush back to the pits to take the spare car for the restart. The race was won by Damon Hill.

The race normal can show which cars are good all-rounders, as you need a good combination of speed and downforce. It can be hard to overtake, but as with any street circuit, it will evolve rapidly throughout the weekend. This means that when we get into qualifying the battle to make it into Q3 and for pole can be close, as the circuit is rubbered in.

Melbourne sees close racing in the field, but the 1998 race was clouded by controversy when Coulthard pulled over with two laps remaining to allow Häkkinen to win, honouring a pre-race agreement between the pair that whoever made it to the first corner in the lead on lap one would be allowed to win.

The circuit can also see variable conditions, however, admit the ongoing bushfire crisis this looks unlikely. This weekend the question is about whether anyone can beat Mercedes, the team has been strong in the hybrid era in Albert Park. However, the circuit can throw up great unpredictability.

The race sees the high possibility of a safety car as the drivers are racing for the first time this year and the narrow roads around Albert Park Lake. The teams want to hit the ground running as the chase after Mercedes who have dominated the race in the hybrid era. However, qualifying is key, Sebastian Vettel beat both Mercedes in 2017 and 2018.

Albert Park, will not give us the understanding of where the teams are, you need to wait until we return to Barcelona…

Facts and figures

Round 01 of 22
Race Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix 2020
Venue Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Albert Park, Melbourne, Victoria
Circuit Length 5.303 km (3.296 mi)
Laps 58
Race Distance 307.574 km (191.071 mi)
Lap Record 01:24.125 Michael Schumacher, F2004, 2004
Most wins drivers Michael Schumacher (4)

Lex Davison (4)

Most wins manufacture McLaren (12)

Fast facts

  • Australia is mainly known for its beaches and year-round sun. However, the Australian Alps, straddling New South Wales and Victoria, are a mecca for skiing enthusiasts. It is the perfect place to get your skiing fix during the northern hemisphere summer.
  • There are 60 designated wine regions in Australia, producing approximately 1.35 trillion bottles of wine every year.
  • Every time a team has finished one-two in Melbourne, the team has won driver championship and the team has won the constructors. And that’s not happened once or twice, it’s happened eight times!
  • Transporting the F1 cars and teams from Barcelona and Melbourne takes months of planning. Incredibly, it takes six Boeing 747 freighters and 35 shipping containers to ship the sport down under for the season opener.
  • An Australian driver has never finished on the podium at their home race since the Australian Grand Prix became a round of the World Championship in 1985. The best result from an Australian at Albert Park is fourth place. Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified from second in 2014 because of a technical infringement.
  • Lewis Hamilton, Kevin Magnussen and Jacques Villeneuve all scored podiums on there debuts at Albert Park. The 2007 race saw Hamilton along with Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen all finish on the podium on their first race for their new teams.

Event timetable

Session

Local

GMT

Friday

P1 13:00-14:30 01:00-02:30
P2 16:00-17:30 05:00-06:30

Saturday

P3 14:00-15:00 03:00-04:00
Qualifying 17:00-18:00 06:00-07:00

Sunday

Race 16:10 05:10

What happened in 2019?

A new season is normally a start of new hope, but when the paddock arrived in Melbourne there was an air of sadness. Race director Charlie Whiting had passed away suddenly in his hotel room ahead of the weekend, as expected F1 paid its respects.

Lewis Hamilton once again started his season off in style, he took a sixth back to back pole in Albert Park outpacing Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas by four-tenths of a second. The pace of Ferrari had been a talking point leading up to the opening race, but the team were seven-tenths off the pace despite finishing testing as the fastest team. Daniel Ricciardo would start his home race and Renault debut from sixteen.

Come Sunday, it was Bottas who got the better start passing Hamilton into turn one where he managed to build a huge gap. He set off into the distance while teammate Hamilton was under pressure from Max Verstappen. A surprise given Ferrari’s performance in Barcelona, the dutchman breezed past him

New season, same errors for Sebastian Vet tell locking up allowing new teammate Charles Leclerc to challenge him. Before the team instructed them to hold the position. The class B battle showed what was to become a close-fought battle, Nico Hulkenberg locked in battle with Racing Point and Toro Rosso. The German winning with seventh.

Daniel Ricciardo’s home race saw him retire after going wide and losing the front wing.

Race Result – 1) V. Bottas, Mercedes, 01:25:27.325, 2) L. Hamilton, Mercedes, +20.886, 3) M. Verstappen, Red Bull – Honda, +22.520

What to watch for?

We head to Melbourne off the back of six days of testing, where Mercedes set the pace on the track. Albert Park is a street circuit, but overtaking is a possibility as it is not lined fully by barriers like in Monaco. Mercedes have won most races in the hybrid era, but the difficulties in overtaking means being on track at the right time can be a key factor in the race.

We know with street circuits accidents are common, meaning the strategy is important for the teams to be in the pits at the right time. Teams need to choose carefully between the over and undercut as that can prove the difference in position on the track. Albert Park is one of these circuits in which the track rubbers in throughout the weekend because of its use as public roads.

Drivers know its one of the circuits they need to build throughout the weekend. The weekend hasn’t always been a happy one for Daniel Ricciardo he has retired from half his home races as well as being disqualified from one other. His best result has been fourth in 2016 and 2018.

The other interesting thing going into this weekend is the midfield battle, the early indications from testing sagest that the close battle will continue throughout 2020. The focus is set to be on how close Red Bull are to Mercedes, we know that Ferrari goes into this race expecting to be on the back foot. That could make for interesting analysis post race when we analyse the opening race of the year.

2018 vs 2019 Race Data

P1 Fastest

P2 Fastest

P3 Fastest

Q1 Fastest

Q2 Fastest

Q3 Fastest

Race Time

Fastest Lap

2019

01:23.599 01:20.486 01:22.292 01:22.017 01:21.014 01:20.486 01:25:27.325 01:25.580

Diff

-0.427 -3.445 -3.775 -0.807 -0.980 -0.678 -04:06.162 -0.445

2018

01:24.026 01:23.931 01:26.067 01:22.824 01:21.994 01:21.164 01:29:33.283 01:25.945

A lap of Albert Park

Lewis Hamilton comes out of the final corner going to the outside of the track where he slightly drifts over to line up with the grid as he enters into Jones hits the kerb and then drifts the Mercedes across the track entering Brabham. Stays on the inside as he runs along Aughtuie Drive before crossing to the outside for Sports Centre. Breaking a 100m before the corner, and runs the car to the outside before returning to the inside. Goes nicely through Hellas and runs the car along the inside nips to the outside briefly going into the ninety-degree Whiteford.

Carries speed on the way to Marina, breaking 100m before the corner gets a good exit and build speed through Lauda hugging the lakeside. He exits the curve he heads to the outside before breaking for the Waite chicane.

Which he takes by going to the outside hitting the kerb on entry and straight through the exit going back to the outside. Nicely driven on the approach to Hill before breaking runs along to Ascari, where he takes the kerb goes to the inside for Senna. He hugs the apex before lining himself up through Prost going to the outside and runs along all the way doing a 1:21.164.

Tyres

Driver

Team

White Hard (C2)

Yellow Medium (C3)

Red Soft (C4)

L. Hamilton

Mercedes 1 2

10

V. Bottas 1 2

10

C. Leclerc

Ferrari 1 3 9
S. Vettel 2 2

9

M. Verstappen

Red Bull – Honda 1 3 9
A. Albon 1 3

9

C. Sainz

McLaren – Renault 2 2 9
L. Norris 2 2

9

D. Riccardo

Renault 1 2 10
E. Ocon 2 1

10

D. Kvyat

Alpha Tauri – Honda 1 3 9
P. Gasly 2 2

9

S. Perez

Racing Point –Mercedes 2 3 8
L. Stroll 2 3

8

K. Raikkonen

Alfa Romeo – Ferrari 1 2 10
A. Giovinazzi 2 1

10

K. Magnussen

Haas – Ferrari 1 2 10
R. Grosjean 1 2

10

G. Russell

Williams – Mercedes 2 2 9
N. Latifi 1 3

9

Jack

Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.