Finally, the long wait it over, Formula 1 is making a comeback this weekend for the 2015 season and its 66th edition of the championship. And, once again Australia is the venue for the opening grand prix. This will be the 31st running of the Australian Grand Prix as an official FIA F1 World Championship race. Also, it will be the 20th time thatthe Australian-race is being held at the Melbourne’s Albert Park Circuit. Officially called the 2015 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix, this race will be the first round of the 20-racelong calendar.
The circuit in Melbourne:
The 5.303 kilometers(3.295 miles) long Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit is actually a street-circuit which is located around the Albert Park Lake. The area is just a few miles away from the Melbourne city-center and the 16 corner-circuit incidentally uses many parts of the public road. However, this doesn’t stop the track to be flowing, fast, challenging, tight and twisty, which in turn makes it a huge challenge for the drivers, and for their cars.
The undulation changes and the bumps around the track; also makes the drive more adventurous, and hence this becomes more of a spectacle for the fans. The track has one prominent long straight, the start-finish line stretch, which usually also doubles up as the piece of track where the main DRS zone is situated. The second DRS zone is right after Turn 2, but there is only one common detection point for both the zones, which is located right before Turn 14.
The fast-flowing nature of the circuit makes it a venue which many drivers and teams on the paddock love. The circuit also has few places where a F1 car can unleash its horsepower and hence there are various heavy braking points around the track which have felicitated overtaking in the past. Also, the venue can be uncompromising and unforgiving to drivers, because the walls and the barriers in most parts of the track are very close circuit, hence a small mistake can prove costly.
The qualifying format and race strategy:
Since, the track is a street circuit; the road surface doesn’t not have the same density of grip-level like at a dedicated race-circuit. And, because of this, Pirelli is bringing in its range of medium and the soft tiresfor the weekend. Strategy wise, like last year, when the same tire compounds were used, you can easily expect a 2-stopper for everyone during the 58 laps of racing.
And, talking about the qualifying format, if the Manor-Marussia Grand Prix successfully make it to Australia, then you will see the 5 slowest cars each dropping out of Q1 and Q2. And, if the grid sticks with 18 cars, then 4 slowest cars each in both the phases will drop out. Whatever it may be, a 10 car shootout for pole position in Melbourne will be in store for all the fans in Q3.
Rules and Regulations changes for the new season:
In terms of regulations, the 2015 season is not going to feature any dramatic changes as we saw last year. Apart from the inclusion of the Virtual Safety Car and few in-race penalty changes, which includes the introduction of a 10-second time penalty, nothing earth shatteringhas been planned. Besides this, some minor rule changes with the race-starts and pit-lane start procedures have also been made by the FIA.
Interestingly, a new rule has been enforced upon all drivers where they can only use one single helmet design and livery all through the season. Although, it remains uncertain that if a driver decides to break this law (which will of course be a deliberate action), then what course of action will the FIA take against him. Also, in a relief to all the fans, ‘Double Points’ will not be awarded to anyone during any Grand Prix Sunday this year.
The changes and the transfers:
Since Australia is the first race of the season, you will also see many new drivers and team changes in front of the public-eye for the first time. Although, pre-season testing gave us a good essence of the new patch ups, but Melbourne will be the first official outing for all of them. And, since last year, many top drivers have moved houses and allegiance. Notably, Fernando Alonso has shifted from Ferrari to re-join McLaren. And the British squad in turn has re-united with their old engine partners Honda, which subsequently has allowed Lotus to rope in Mercedes power. Unfortunately for McLaren, Alonso won’t be partnering Jenson Button at the first racein Melbourne because of medical issues. The former double-world champion was involved in an accident during pre-season testingin Spain last month, and is currently recovering from the occurred concussion injuries. Taking his place will be McLaren’s reserve driver Kevin Magnussen, who incidentally finished second on debut last year at Melbourne for the team.
In other places, Sebastian Vettel’smove to Ferrari, as Alonso’s replacement, has sparked off many subsequent changes in the paddock. With DaniilKvyatjoining Red Bull in place of him and Toro Rosso going inwith an all-rookie lineup of Max Verstappen and Carlos SainzJr. Where, the former will make history, at 17, in Albert Park by becoming the youngest driver ever to compete in Formula 1. And finally, even Sauber has made changes to their driver rooster and has appointed Swede Marcus Ericsson and Brazilian rookie Felipe Nasr as their new pilots. Although there is still a big question mark over Manor-Marussia’s participation this season, but the team has announced that Will Stevens is already signed up for his full-season F1 debut. However, the identity of his teammate has not been revealed yet. Sadly, Caterham has not managed to save itself from administration, and will not feature this year in F1.
Previous Winners of the Australian Grand Prix:
2014 Pole Time: Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes 1:44.231 (Rain affected)
2014 Fastest Lap Time: Nico Rosberg, Mercedes 1:32.478
Lap Record: Michael Schumacher, Ferrari 1:24.125 (Year 2004)