A giant step into the unknown (Australian Grand Prix preview)

Will Mark Webber's run of bad luck at home come to an end this year?

Will Mark Webber's run of bad luck at home come to an end this year?

Every first race of a new F1 season his hard to predict. But this is different. This is a revolution: the most radical new rules in a generation, and testing form which suggests the world champion’s team are nowhere, and the outfit that was sold over the winter could win the race.

Is Lewis Hamilton?s title defence over before it has even started? Is KERS hype or the future? Can ugly cars bring beautiful racing? Just some of the questions we’ll be asking during the Australian Grand Prix.

An unpredictable race

A lot has changed over the winter but one thing stays the same: the season kicks off at Melbourne?s popular parkland circuit for the Australian Grand Prix.

Albert Park has a knack for producing unpredictable races. The tight first corner invites a lap-one melee ?ǣ Felipe Massa and a handful of others tripped up here last year.

After that, what happens beyond that first corner is pretty much anyone’s guess. We?ve spent months poring over the testing times at F1 Fanatic and a poll of our readers revealed Ferrari, BMW and Brawn GP are the three most fancied picks.

But we all know how difficult it is to judge real speed from testing, and we won?t know anything for sure until the dust has settled on Sunday evening.

KERS, safety cars – and twilight

As ever the start will be crucial and it will be fascinating to see what role KERS plays here. At the moment only Renault and Ferrari have said they will use KERS this weekend (see the forum for more) ?ǣ and it could hand them a significant boost at the start of the race.

With much of the circuit hemmed in by barriers safety car periods are regular occurrences. These have been robbed of their power to destroy one driver?s race while virtually handing victory to another as they have in the past, thanks to an overdue outbreak of common sense in the regulations. But it could still play a decisive role.

Another significant change for this year is the timing of the race, moved back several hours to make the race?s broadcast time suit European audiences better. As Doctorvee has pointed out, this could lead to the unusual sight of a race ending in dusk conditions. The race organisers are even calling it “The world?s first twilight Grand Prix”.

Drivers are likely to struggle with low light in the later stages of the race. More seriously, a major hold-up in the running of the race could cause it to be finished before the full 58 laps have been completed.

Drivers to keep an eye on

Lewis Hamilton – Two appearances at Melbourne, one win and one podium – but is the MP4-24 even up to making Q3?

Mark Webber – Sensational debut in 2002 netted fifth place but appalling luck at home ever since.

Fernando Alonso – Ended 2008 looking very strong – if he’s in the mix at Melbourne a title bid is definitely on the cards.

Jarno Trulli – Of all the drivers, he seems the most pleased with the return to slicks. I have a hunch he might be in for a very good year.

Essential links for the race weekend

Predictions

In the run-up to the race we’ll be launching the F1 Fanatic Predictions Championship with prizes to be won. Keep an eye on the site for more information – here’s details on how to subscribe: Get the latest from F1 Fanatic

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61 comments on A giant step into the unknown (Australian Grand Prix preview)

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  1. SamS said on 24th March 2009, 12:38

    I am so excited only 3 days until we get to see all the cars driving round in practice!

  2. Kristian said on 24th March 2009, 12:47

    I predict 4 broken front wings in the first corner…

    • Moolander said on 24th March 2009, 13:11

      Yep! By the time they finish the first lap, half the field will look like a brabham BT49

    • Chris Y said on 24th March 2009, 16:02

      With all the wiring for the front wing flaps, it really means that the wings will be more difficult to replace, right?

      So, coupled with a big first corner incident… Oh no.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 24th March 2009, 19:13

      Yep, one of the drivers was saying this a while ago, think it was Pedro de la Rosa. Front wing changes will probably take longer now.

    • Jay Menon said on 25th March 2009, 0:57

      Yeah, about the wiring to the front wings. I don’t think it would be a problem. If the system is setup based on basic wired controls, with little motors or electro-magnets moving the wings, the connections to the nose cone should just be a standard electronic coupling.

      That is of course if the wiring is lined on the body of the nose cone, which means it could fit onto the main body via means of a location pin and locking mechanism. Based on what I’ve seen during front wing changesm it looks to be something like this. So I don’t think the wiring will be a problem.

  3. Seedy001 said on 24th March 2009, 13:31

    Well hopefully I’ll have the upper hand on you, Keith as far as predictions go since I just got a sneaky look at some of yours on PF1!

    Nice one, that site needs a bit of F1Fanatic sanity at times!

  4. Woooooooooooooo! The mrs isn’t going to be happy when i take over the tv this weekend, buts its finally back! With no adverts either! I can’t contain my excitement!

  5. Toby said on 24th March 2009, 14:06

    As a Kubica fan id love to see him win but if KERS is deployed by BMW i think heidfeld will have a big enough advantage to beat Kubica. But it all depends on if BMW use it and on if only one or both of drivers use it.

    My prediction to win is either:
    Nick Heidfeld
    or
    kimi raikkonen

    • Clare msj said on 24th March 2009, 15:49

      I have my bets on a Heidfeld win also – especially if they use KERS – which I reckon they will given that Mclaren, Ferrari and Renault are using theirs, and BMW’s is race ready. I will be happy with either BMW winning to be honest, but a Heidfeld win would be brilliant! Either that or someone completely unexpected! I hear rain rumours – that should be interesting if it does happen!

      Goodness me I am so excited now its unbeleivable! People at work think I have problems!

    • Gman said on 24th March 2009, 17:45

      Same here Clare- only a few of them know anything about F1, the rest just put this clueless expression on :)

      I would very much like to see Heidfeld or Webber get their first win, and I think it could happen for either with the right developments. Of course I am pulling for McLaren also, but I don’t think either driver is going to be in the mix this weekend.

    • Clare msj said on 24th March 2009, 22:35

      Lol Gman – that face is quite accurate! Either that or I get the ‘oh there she goes again – quick change the topic!’ line!

      I’m a BMW and Williams girl me, so I would be pretty darn happy with either BMW guy winning (although Heidfeld would be best, after all this time without a win – plus I really rate Heidfeld – fancy him for a strong title challenge this season)

      Or maybe with some adverse weather conditions and a safety car or two – Nico Rosberg taking the win! Although methinks that is a little optimistic! Maybe the Williams will be real good this year though – I’ve never been one to do well at predictions!

  6. I’m so exited about this new season!! Can’t wait till it kicks off. I hope BBC bring back the old theme tune they had from Fleetwood Mac. And as the guy said above NO ADVERTS!!

    I really think this season will be something very special.

  7. GMac said on 24th March 2009, 14:21

    I agree, it’s got some new ingredients so could be a more level playing field & on the UK side, wow, we get the Chain, no breaks & red button with supplementary in-car shots, cool.
    I predict Lewis will slay his critics one way or another this season. Go on son!

  8. Varun Murthy said on 24th March 2009, 14:36

    Can KERS be used in qualifying?? that’ll make a huge difference..

    • In the rule book, there isn’t any provision stipulating time of the use of KERS. Which means, you can use it any time during the weekend and during the race.

      I suppose teams will use it both in the Qualifying and the Race. So we can expect first four rows consisting of four KERS-using teams [Ferrari, McLaren, Renault], including BMW, which I’m deadly surely honestly presumably sure that they’ll use it.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 24th March 2009, 19:09

      And they are allowed to re-charge KERS batteries between qualifying and the race.

    • Patrickl said on 24th March 2009, 19:27

      They are only allowed to charge while driving though right? So it makes sense that they can charge KERS in the lap they do to the grid or otherwise the parade lap.

  9. Fer no.65 said on 24th March 2009, 14:46

    The world’s first twilight Grand Prix.

    Niiiiiiiiiiiiiiice, that really is worth watching…

    how desesperate the organizers are?? xD!

  10. Abhishek said on 24th March 2009, 14:47

    can’t wait for the season to start and to watch the race along with the live chat at F1F :)

  11. gazzap said on 24th March 2009, 14:58

    it’ll be one of the most interesting opening races for years. the pack is mixed up. predictions are impossible. the fans are learning about rule changes as well.
    BBC back in town – WOOHOO!

    I dont necessarily think if someone like Hamilton is nowhere this weekend, you can rule him out of the title. Mclaren will develop their car as we go further into the season. they may find that reliability is not so good later as a result. fingers crossed that Brawn were not a flash in the testing pan.

    Australian GP is always a really strange result – just like Canada, and quite often Hungary. First race and circuit are probably culprits.

    • While the point-scorers in Australia are not necessarily going to be the regular point-scorers during the season, isn’t it the case that winning it is a good predictor of championship success?

  12. Although the start time has been moved back it is still relatively early, but will anyone miss the ritual of getting up in the middle of the night for the first GP of the season, I think I will.

    Also people in the UK remember the clocks go forward on Saturday night, you don’t want to get mixed up and miss part of the program.

  13. It does make the race unwatchable from the Western hemisphere — bummer. I’d pay an arm and a leg to get the Beeb’s ad-free coverage, even delayed a day or two.

  14. Nayanesh said on 24th March 2009, 16:56

    Cant we fast forward the time a little bit?
    This waiting game is killing me.
    I just cant wait for Albert Park!!

  15. The Limit said on 24th March 2009, 16:58

    Mr predictions for the race are

    Pole : Raikkonen.

    Results : 1# Alonso
    2# Raikkonen
    3# Massa

    Fastest Lap # Raikkonen.

    Teams that exceed expectations, Williams, Toyota, Brawn Gp.

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