2008 Australian Grand Prix preview

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

2007 Australian Grand Prix start, 450?150

It’s almost time for the first race of 2008. It looks as though Ferrari are going to pick up where they left off as the team to beat but the Australian Grand Prix will answer a lot of questions about how 2008 is going to pan out.

Read my prediction for the top three and make your guess below.

Ferrari leading the way

Kimi Raikkonen’s win here last year might have been the first for Ferrari since 2004 but this has always been one of those circuits where the Italian team have been strong – particularly in the tyre war years when Melbourne was decidedly a ‘Bridgestone track’.

He might not have dominated the race so easily had team mate Felipe Massa not suffered a gearbox problem in qualifying, leaving him on the grid. I think the battle for the win will be between these two drivers and we might get an early glimpse into how closely matched they are – and whether Massa is struggling as much without traction control as some people are saying he is.

I expect McLaren are going to be the only team able to get close to Ferrari. If the car is as quick over a single lap as it looks then Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen might get onto the front row, or even claim it outright, which could set up a very interesting race.

Qualifying: new rules and McLaren vs Ferrari

Happily the nonsense of fuel burn laps and fuel credits has been chucked for 2008 – that means no messing around at the start of Q3 burning off fuel, but it also presents the teams with a new strategic dilemma.

That especially goes for Ferrari. They know the McLarens are quick over a single lap so Ferrari might want to run their cars extra-light to ensure Hamilton and Kovalainen don’t spoil their day.

Raikkonen did an excellent job at the French and British races last year by carrying more fuel and taking the lead via the pit stops, but he won’t want to risk ending up behind Massa.

The midfield pack

Fernando Alonso, Renault, Barcelona, 2008 pre-season, 3

As for the other teams it looks like BMW, Williams, Red Bull and Renault will be fighting for the last six places in Q1 – and perhaps the Toyotas as well if Jarno Trulli’s stunning lap on the final day of testing is genuinely reflective of their pace. Along with Trulli top qualifiers Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber must be the most likely to cause an upset.

Williams and Red Bull are the two teams that appear to have improved the most since 2007 and their progress will be watched very keenly.

Interestingly Force India are very confident they are going to make it into Q2. But Honda needn’t worry as Super Aguri have confirmed at the 11th hour they will be racing, so there will be at least two cars for Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello to beat.

TV times

Television coverage

See the 2008 Australian Grand Prix F1 session times for more information. British television coverage is as follows:

Australian Grand Prix qualifying

Live ITV1, 2.15-4.20am, Saturday 15th March
Replay ITV1, 1.20-3.05pm, Saturday 15th March

Australian Grand Prix race

Live ITV1, 3.30am-6.30am, Sunday 16th March
Replay ITV1, 12.45-2.30pm, Sunday 16th March
Highlights ITV1 12.15-1.15am, Monday 17th March
Highlights ITV4 6-7pm, Monday 17th March

F1 Comments Live

Visit F1Fanatic.co.uk to discuss qualifying and the race as it happens. Look out for the F1 Comments Live post from half an hour before the start of qualifying and the race.

My top three prediction

I think this early in the season at a track where they are always competitive Ferrari are going to be too much for McLaren.

1. Kimi Raikkonen
2. Felipe Massa
3. Lewis Hamilton

Make your prediction below…

More about the Australian Grand Prix

Read the complete F1Fanatic 2008 season preview