Melbourne once again takes its place as the traditional opening round of the Formula One season and, as ever, it presents teams with a unique set of challenges. Firstly, it’s a temporary circuit that is rarely raced upon, so it takes time to ‘rubber in’ over the race weekend, with grip improving gradually with each session. That means early weekend offs are common, so expect to see a few red-faced drivers limping damaged cars back to the pits on Friday. It’s also a tight track and that means first corner chaos is never far away. Indeed, in 2008, five drivers were eliminated at the start, while in 2002, 22 cars went into turn one but only 14 emerged. Because of the close confines the Safety Car is also a race-day regular and it has put in an appearance in six of the last ten Australian Grands Prix. Finally, with the teams all bringing largely unproven machinery to Melbourne, the attrition rate is generally high, though things have improved since 2000 when a whopping 11 cars had mechanical failures. Last year just three of the seven non-finishers retired because of mechanical problems.
For 2012, defending champion Sebastian Vettel returns to begin his bid for a hat-trick of consecutive World Drivers’ titles, a feat only achieved previously by Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher. Last year Vettel enjoyed an outstanding campaign, claiming the title with four races in hand and in the process bypassing Nigel Mansell’s 1992 record for most pole positions in a season with 15. Since then Formula One has seen some significant changes, the most crucial being the disallowing of the exhaust blown diffusers that provided teams with so much downforce. The new strictures should mean even closer competition, and with a number of teams impressing in testing, the destination of the title, and indeed this race trophy, is far from guaranteed.
ALBERT PARK CIRCUIT
Length of lap:
1:25.125 (Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, 2004)
Start line/finish line offset:
Total number of race laps:
Total race distance:
Pitlane speed limits:
60km/h during practice,
100km/h during race
CHANGES TO THE CIRCUIT SINCE 2011
“Speed bumps” will be installed behind the kerb of turn 4 to prevent drivers running wide on the exit of turn 3 and rejoining between turns 4 and 5.
A new section of kerb will be added after the existing kerb on the exit of turn 4.
The kerb on the apex of turn 5 will be extended by approximately ten metres.
The kerb on the apex of turn 13 will be extended by approximately six metres.
The angle of the wall relative to the track on the left on the exit of turns 4 and 12 will be reduced.
The tyre barrier on the drivers’ left after turn 12 will be shortened where the wall is parallel to the track.
The tyre barrier on the drivers’ right after turn 12 will be extended.