It’s time for the third round of the Formula 1 World Championship, the Australian Grand Prix, back on the calendar for the first time since its cancellation in 2020. It was two years ago, with everyone already on site in Melbourne, that the race was cancelled because of the first wave of Covid 19, with one member of a team testing positive. This year, Scuderia Ferrari comes to Australia leading the Constructors’ classification, having scored 78 out of a possible 88 points from the races in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, while Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz are first and second respectively in the Drivers’ standings.
The track. This will be the 27th time that Albert Park has hosted the Australian Grand Prix, the 25th as part of the World Championship, with two non-championship races held in 1953 and 1956. The circuit has undergone several modifications. Turn 1, often the scene of accidents, has been widened by 2.5 metres to relieve the bottleneck which saw cars lining up to take the only line available. Now, there is room for two cars. Turn 3, the scene of plenty of overtaking has been widened by four metres, while the 6 is now around 70 km/h quicker. The most radical change is the removal of the chicane that made up turns 9 and 10, so that drivers will be able to push through turns 7 and 8 before getting to the esses that mark the start of the third sector. It’s expected that top speeds will be around the 330 km/h mark and in this section there is now a double DRS zone, along with those on the main straight and between turns 2 and 3. The penultimate corner has also been widened, while the pitlane is around 2 metres wider and runs up to the track edge, the strip of grass that was a feature, having been removed. The new layout is much faster with lap times expected to be up to five seconds lower than previously. That could result in a pecking order similar to the one seen at the Jeddah Corniche track, where our closest rivals were quicker both in qualifying and the race.
Programme. The Australian Grand Prix will be the first race of the season to run entirely in daylight. Free practice starts on Friday at 13 local (5 CET) with the second at 16 (8 CET). The final hour to prepare the cars will take place on Saturday at 13 (5 CET) prior to qualifying at 16 (8 CET). The 36th Australian Grand Prix to count towards the Formula 1 World Championship will get underway on Sunday at 15 (7 CET) and runs over 58 laps, a distance of 306.24 km.
Three questions to...
DAVID SANCHEZ, HEAD OF VEHICLE CONCEPT
1. What is the Albert Park track like from an aero point of view? How will the changes to the track affect the preparation for qualifying and race?
“The Albert Park track is fairly close to what we call an average downforce track in terms of aero efficiency. It has a blend of low and high-speed corners with some relatively long straights. It is also a track where having good traction is critical. Compared to the old layout the new one will be significantly faster by a few seconds per lap. Most of the corners have been reworked, making them more open, which should allow the cars to carry more apex speed than they used to. T1-2, 6-7 and 11-12 are relatively high speed corners and it will be very interesting to see how these new generation cars perform in these sections. Here too, we’re expecting tyre management to be a key topic for the race. Lastly, the old track used to be very bumpy and so it will be important to see in free practice where we are with the phenomenon, seen with these new 2022 cars, of porpoising, to see if the cars are bouncing up and down along the high speed straights.”
2. How useful is the data from the last time we raced there (2019) in preparing for this race given that the new cars are very different?
“Although the layout is faster the underlying nature of the track remains the same. It is still a track which rewards good aero efficiency and traction. This allows us to look back into the data from the last few times we raced there with a critical eye to ensure we consider all the key elements as we tackle free practice. We also spent a large amount of time running the new car in the simulator, so when it hits the ground in FP1 in Albert Park the car should hopefully feel pretty good from the drivers’ perspective.”
3. What impressed you the most about our start to the season?
"Right from winter testing it was reassuring to see that our time on track was pretty much trouble-free. Although visually simpler, these new cars happen to be extremely complex and are posing significant challenges. It seems we managed to anticipate many of them with relative success and the team reacted very swiftly to manage unexpected ones such as porpoising. The other impressive aspect is how both ourselves and our main competitor are closely matched on track, having developed brand new cars from scratch."
GP entered 1032
Seasons in F1 73
Debut Monaco 1950 (A. Ascari 2nd; R. Sommer 4th; L. Villoresi ret.)
Wins 239 (23,16%)
Pole positions 231 (22,38%)
Fastest laps 256 (24,81%)
Total podiums 782 (25,26%)
Ferrari Stats Australian GP
GP entered 35
Debut 2021 (S. Johansson 5th; M. Alboreto ret.)
Wins 9 (25,71%)
Pole positions 6 (17,14%)
Fastest laps 9 (25,71%)
Total podiums 25 (23,81%)
Australian Grand Prix: facts & figures
6. The number of sheep per capita in Australia. It is the most common mammal in the country, with over 150 million of them, while the human population is around 25 million. Also numerous are crabs (70 million) and kangaroos (12 million). As for that other symbol of Australia, the koala, its numbers have dropped dramatically to 40,000 from over 100,000 in 2001, with a risk of extinction by 2050.
11. The furthest back on the grid from which the Australian Grand Prix has been won. David Coulthard (McLaren) was the driver in question in 2003. As for the longest drive to the podium, Jacques Laffite has that honour. In the first edition of the race in 1985, at the Adelaide street circuit, the Ligier driver went from 20th to second. In Albert Park, Jarno Trulli took his Toyota from 19th to third in the 2009 race.
18. The average number of overtaking moves in the Australian Grand Prix at its current venue. In 2013, there were no fewer than 43 changes of position, while the most enjoyably dull race was the 2017 edition when Sebastian Vettel won for Ferrari on a day with just two overtakes. The outright busiest race took place in Adelaide in 1986 with 67 changes of position.
24. The number of tracks that have hosted the 84 Australian Grands Prix – not just Formula 1 – going back to 1928. The first eight took place at Phillip Island, now host to a MotoGP round, while Albert Park has the highest number of 26, 24 of them counting towards the Formula 1 World Championship. Next up is Adelaide on 11, all of them world championship rounds. The demanding Mount Panorama circuit hosted four races before becoming home to the Bathurst 12 Hours, considered one of the most challenging races in the world.
26. The number of years during which Melbourne was the Australian capital. It dated from 1901, the year the Australian Constitution was enacted, to 1927, when the parliament was established in the new capital, Canberra.
At Ferrari 75 years ago
Enzo Ferrari made a decision: his cars would make their debut at the Piacenza Circuit, in the first race of the Italian racing championship. The race would have taken place on 11 May 1947, organised by the city’s Automobile Club on the Wauxsall avenue circuit, the name owing its origins to the Vauxhall gardens in London and corrupted by locals to “facsal.” This avenue skirted the ancient south facing city walls, overlooking the countryside, described as “a place of joy, to test oneself and of the new.” The track was bumpy, even though the biggest potholes had been patched up and the crowd gathered in the shade of the Plane trees, where there were also some small grandstands. It was the ideal venue for any type of racing; running, cycling, scooters and real motorcycles.