F1 Preview: Australian Grand Prix 2009

Finally, after all the waiting, it’s here!!

* * * *
FIA Formula 1 World Championship
– ING Australian Grand Prix (1/17)
– Albert Park
– Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
www.formula1.com
F1.com track map / F1Fanatic’s track guide
Live timing (Java required, free registration required, worth it)

* WARNING *

In the UK the clocks will change on Sunday morning. At 2am GMT we will jump to 3am British Summer Time (BST). Thus Qualifying and Race start at the same time locally but one hour apart for us.

Preview
Welcome to the slightly delayed preview to the Australian GP!

Circuit
Albert Park is a semi-street track set around a lake in the city of Melbourne. It isn’t a traditional street track, being as it runs through a park and the barriers aren’t always up tight to the racing surface. The racetrack isn’t as bumpy as your average street track – although this year the drivers seem to have found more bumps than usual.

The deceptively fast first corner is always a concern, more so this year with the extended width of the front wings this year. You know how drivers like to win the race at the first corner? Well this is the first corner of the Championship and some of them think they can win the title in the first corner!

Of course this is followed up by a medium/long straight into the tight heavy braking area of turn 3. Some guys who were careful in turn 1 decide turn 3 is the better opportunity, sometimes they are right, sometimes they are wrong. The guys will need to temper their enthusiasm to avoid crashes!

Here are two onboard laps to refamiliarise yourself with the layout, assuming you haven’t already been watching Free Practice!

The first is Jenson Button’s 2006 pole lap described by Martin Brundle, then of ITV:

Here is Kimi Raikkonen’s 2007 pole lap described by David Hobbs of SPEED:

Rule Changes
There are far too many variables to discuss with regards to the new rules and the time for explaining them in long reams of text is over. What we do know is that both Ferraris, both McLarens, both Renaults and Nick Heidfeld of BMW will all be using KERS this weekend. Force India, BrawnGP and Toyota say they are not running KERS, and the remainder are tight-lipped on the subject with speculation that Williams and others may be running it.

If you’ve been away from all the pre-season hype you may be aware of some major changes this year but perhaps not the specifics. Everyone else could probably use a refresher on the eve of the first race and this video is ideal for the purpose:

(7m40s, Inside Track from SidepodcastTV
you may prefer to try the low-res version)

Form
BrawnGP have been running exceptionally well in testing and have carried that into Free Practice. McLaren and Ferrari are stuck in the midfield among suggestions of sandbagging, running heavy to mask their true pace. I’m not sure this is true. Ferrari seem to have good speed over a long run if not over a lap, but they aren’t at the absolute cutting edge of lap time. McLaren appear to be struggling much more.

Williams are also fast however this has happened with Williams over the last few years, they are quick at Albert Park and then have a dire race in Sepang. Let’s hope the latter trend is put to rest this season. Interestingly Toyota and Force India have shown promising form in practice.

What is clear is the grid is very well shaken up and yet very close together, with only 2 seconds separating front to back in Friday FP2. The combination of all the different factors makes it incredibly difficult to predict what will happen on both Saturday and Sunday, something we haven’t been able to say about F1 for a very long time!! I think we’re going to enjoy this season.


UK TV

Q: BBC One will air Qualifying live at 5am GMT Saturday, session begins at 6am. Rerun at 1pm.
R: BBC One will air the Race live at 6am BST Sunday, race starts at 7am. Rerun at 1pm.
H: BBC Three will air 1hr Highlights at 7pm BST Sunday.

US TV

Q: Speed will air Qualifying live at 2am ET, it seems they are jumping straight in to the green flag unless I have my times wrong.
R: Speed will air the Race live at 1:30am ET with the race to start at 2am. Rerun at 4:30pm.

Canada should get coverage on TSN featuring BBC commentary.
EDIT – you used to be able to choose Speed but you may want to see this link and check what you can see at the time, although I’m not sure why you’d voluntarily sit through all their ads.

Race Notes
I will again be writing notes during the race for upload straight after the event. I won’t be doing a live blog, it’s more a journal of noteworthy events which is written live, checked for editing and uploaded shortly after the podium ceremony. If you’re sitting here killing time before Qual or Race because of the timezones, you can click here to see notes on previous races.

Live Comments
This season I will also be in the Sidepodcast.com Live Comments for all races and most qualifying sessions. Fire up the Live Commenting Live..Thing at the appointed time and join the appropriate thread at the top of the screen, then just type away! I’ve been keeping up with the comments during the latter end of the off-season, but not a live F1 GP before – it should be fun. You’re welcome to join us as long as you keep the sweary exclamations away.. I think I’ll struggle with that bit.. I may be quiet during races while I concentrate on the Race Notes, however I should be active during qualifying.

I will of course have TwitterFox to hand for those all-important tweets.

Support events
V8 Supercars*, Australian GT, Australian Formula Ford, Aussie Racing Cars, Historic Formula 5000, Mini Challenge, Minardi F1x2 two-seaters, Ultimate Speed Comparison (road car vs V8 Supercar vs 2008 BMW F1 car)
(these events are spread across the weekend)

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