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)

  1. Jess said on 24th March 2009, 22:16

    Saw that there is more protest on the diffuser. Give me a break. If it were illegal, how did it pass FIA inspection when it was presented? I dont get it.

    • Clare msj said on 24th March 2009, 22:44

      My logic may be a little off, and my knowledge of diffusers may be ever so slightly limited – but the fact that three cars have interpreted the rule in roughly the same way suggests to me that it was a ‘loophole’ there to be used. Its just the other teams who didnt spot the ‘loophole’ that are annoyed because they might have a performance disdvantage because of it. I have read somewhere that a couple of the other teams might be working on making a similar one to the three up for debate – so surely they cant think it is illegal if they are trying to mimic it.

      Most irritating about it all though is the time its taking to sort it – it would be much better if they had declared it either way and if it was illegal then the teams could sort it before Melbourne, rather than risk being disqualified – wont be a good start to the season if six cars are removed from the first race result – as if F1 needs anything else to make it look like a joke at the minute!

      Aside from all that though, I really cant wait for the new season, its the most excited i have been about it for quite a while – think its because i cant predict whatsoever who is going to do well! Hopefully itll be right close all year!

    • It also seems that the team protesting the loudest, Red Bull, wouldn’t be able to implement such a design due to the way they mount their rear wing and their pull-rod rear suspension… Sour grapes anyone??

      On a completely unrelated note, does anyone know what the parts shown in this picture are?

  2. teamorders said on 24th March 2009, 22:55

    I think Brawn is going to wipe the floor with the others, so I predict

    1. Jenson
    2. Rubens
    3. Kubica

    Lewis won’t make Q3 or past 10 laps of the race, he’ll crash pushing too hard in his slow car.

  3. Weather prediction for sunday 24 degrees, no rain. Of course, this being Melbourne it’s really anyones guess as to what the weather might do.

    Just about to leave work & head over to the track now, so I’ll see what I can suss out about the diffuser row, KERS, and the boycott rumour & report back. Any other controversies I’ve forgotten about?

    Sheesh, season hasn’t even started yet and already there are dramas. Is it too much to ask that we have a season of just pure racing & no 3 ring circus?

  4. Jonathan said on 25th March 2009, 10:59

    Can drives use KERS off the start line?

    Makes me wonder if the drivers will be trying to charge their KERS in the formation lap – will we see them breaking heavily to do this?

  5. None of the drivers interviewed today would confirm if they will use KERS this weekend or not. Sounds like some are going to run with & without during friday practice & then decide.

  6. Block said on 25th March 2009, 14:57

    Just been reading into that KERS thing and it looks like renault and ferreri are the only two teams going to use it this weekend. So where does this leave the rest of them? are they going to be allowed to run at different weights or not??? was 605kg but dont know if this has changed.
    Oh yes, one other thing! no adverts, no adverts, no adverts…get in.

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