Once again Melbourne extends its welcome to Formula One as Albert Park prepares to host the Australian Grand Prix – the opening race of the 2013 FIA Formula One World Championship. Sixteen weeks after storm-lashed Interlagos and the drama-laden climax of the 2012 season, the teams reassemble for what is widely expected to be an incredibly close year of racing.
Stability in the technical regulations leads to a great deal of carryover from 2012 and, several notable exceptions aside, optimising existing designs has been the primary focus in the development of 2013 cars.
While the machinery has a familiar look, the same cannot be said for the driver line-up. Four of 2012’s field have switched teams in the off-season and five rookies will be making their F1 race debut in this weekend.
Albert Park is not the easiest place to make a good impression. Running on public roads through the park, the temporary circuit has a reputation for being slippery with several large bumps known to destabilise cars under braking. Gravel traps wait for the unwary and the unlucky – but being a street circuit there are also plenty of walls. Added to the limited and hazardous nature of overtaking opportunities at Albert Park, it means the safety car is often busy at the Australian Grand Prix.
Another variable to factor in are the new tyres on offer from Pirelli. Reports from winter testing suggest teams are not yet fully on terms with the revised compounds, raising the possibility of early races this year seeing shorter stints (and thus more frequent pitstops) than was usual in 2012.
As ever, winter testing did not provide any reliable evidence of a pecking order but did greatly add to the stock of speculation. Consensus points to a very tight battle ahead but without any hard evidence, this weekend will provide the first real indication of how the 2013 FIA Formula One World Championship will unfold.
ALBERT PARK CIRCUIT
Length of lap:
5.303km Lap record
1:25.125 (Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, 2004) Start line/finish line offset
0.000km Total number of race laps
58 Total race distance
307.574km Pitlane speed limits
60km/h in practice;
100km/h in qualifying and race
CHANGES TO THE CIRCUIT SINCE 2012
► Kerbs on the exit of turns 14 and 16, which had subsided prior to last year’s race, have been repaired.
► Shade cloth will be used again, installed behind the debris fence in the section of track between turns two and three.