2010 Australian Grand Prix preview

Webber heads to his home event as a Grand Prix winner for the first time

Webber heads to his home event as a Grand Prix winner for the first time

Can Fernando Alonso bolster his championship lead with another win at Melbourne? Might Mark Webber finally get on the podium or even win his home Grand Prix?

F1 heads into the first double-header event of the season with the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne followed by the trip to Sepang for next week’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

Reasons to be cheerful

Will we see a better race in Melbourne than we did in Bahrain? I think there’s a good chance we will.

The Melbourne track, with its limited run-off and tricky braking zones, tends to invite incidents. And, happily, no one has bolted an ill-advised one kilometre long extension on it which consists entirely of slow, narrow corners.

Turn one is often the scene of first-lap accidents, like last year when Rubens Barrichello ran into Mark Webber. This time we’ve got an extra four cars to funnel through the right-left flick and I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one driver’s race lasted no further than the drive to the first corner.

Melbourne often produces stop-start races with several safety car interruptions. Last year there were two, courtesy of Kazuki Nakajima and the Sebastian Vettel-Robert Kubica crash in the dying stages of the race.

Bahrain was a cagey affair – you got the impression that even some of the front-running teams were still exploring the limits of their cars’ performance and avoiding taking risks for fear of ruining their tyres and falling down the field.

But it’s still as hard to pass in F1 as it’s ever been and qualifying will be extremely important.

Strategy

We could see some very early pit stops this weekend.

At Bahrain teams discovered the best way to make progress in the race was to make your first pit stop as early as you could get away with. Lewis Hamilton, for example, came in as soon as McLaren realised they could slot him into clean air further down the running order, which allowed him to move ahead of Nico Rosberg.

Assuming we get a clean start without a safety car appearance, what will be the earliest lap the front running teams can bring their drivers into the pits?

That will depend partly on how the field is spreading out behind them and when those drivers make their pit stops. It will also depend on how quickly the leaders catch the slowest cars – expect the race leader to catch the HRT duo around lap 12, assuming they’re still running.

Tyre wear will be important as well. Last year Bridgestone brought medium and super-soft tyres, and drivers complained the latter wore out too quickly. This year the tyre choices are soft and hard and that more durable combination may make it possible for teams to do very long stints on one set of tyres. But we’ll have to see how those tyres perform in practice to get an idea if that is the case – especially as the track temperature falls towards the end of the ‘twilight’ race.

As it’s quite likely we could see a safety car deployment on lap one, could drivers pit for tyres then and try to make it to the end on a single set? I think it’s possible – but the scramble into the pits would create problems of its own.

Not only will teams have to turn around both their cars within a few seconds of each other, but the new ‘exclusion zone’ rule in the pits could cause some drivers to lose a lot of places. Teams may only release their cars when there is not another car within a certain distance of them, and with the entire pack streaming into the pits at once it’s not hard to see how one unfortunate driver might lose a lot of positions.

(Looking ahead, we may see the FIA discourage this by copying the rule used in GP2 which says that a pit stop taken within the first few laps does not count as the mandatory pit stop a driver must take. A better solution would be to remove the requirement for each driver to use both types of tyre during a race, but I digress.)

Drivers to watch

Four driver to keep an eye on this weekend. Name your top picks in the comments.

Mark Webber – How can it be that Mark Webber’s best result in his home Grand Prix is still the fifth place he scored for Minardi in 2002 (which he matched at Williams in 2005)? He has had some miserable luck at Melbourne, not least his gearbox failure while leading in 2006 and being taken out at turn one last year.

The Red Bull RB6 is clearly quick but Webber failed to capitalise on its performance in qualifying at Bahrain. This weekend the pressure will be on him not just to perform in front of his home crowd, but also to get on terms with Sebastian Vettel.

Robert Kubica – Another driver who is owed a result here after his tangle with Vettel last year and being taken out by Kazuki Nakajima in 2008.

His first outing for Renault was frustrated by a first-lap collision but he showed good pace in the R30 and ran a longer stint than anyone else did. Surely the driver most likely to break into the ‘big four’.

Felipe Massa – Beat Alonso in qualifying but lost out to him in the race. Needs to hit back while the F10 is still the class of the field.

Paul di Resta – Set to make his first appearance as a test driver at Force India in free practice one on Friday. His planned first appearance at Bahrain was cancelled as the team wanted to run their race drivers having lost so much preparation time due to rain during in pre-season testing.

The Australian Grand Prix on F1 Fanatic

Join us for live blogging during all the practice sessions for the Australian Grand Prix, plus qualifying and the race itself. Times here: Australian Grand Prix live TV Times

Before the race weekend starts look out for our unofficial race programme with quick links to all the important information.

We’ll have analysis of the times during Friday practice and extensive coverage of qualifying and the race.

Remember to keep an eye out for our “rate the race” feature after every Grand Prix and don’t forget to enter our predictions competition to win great prizes including F1 tickets, DVDs, paintings and books.

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Are you going to the Australian Grand Prix?

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2010 Australian Grand Prix

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161 comments on 2010 Australian Grand Prix preview

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  1. yelrom said on 22nd March 2010, 9:48

    Go Webber! Be great to see him win in Australia. The last driver to win his home grand prix was Massa in Brazil in 2008.

    • Farrokh Bomi Bulsara said on 22nd March 2010, 13:51

      No it was Vettel in England.

    • Jason Lopez said on 22nd March 2010, 14:49

      Ain’t gonna happen!

      • F1Fan said on 22nd March 2010, 19:29

        Jason, right on. ‘Ain’t gonna happen’ is correct. In fact, I like FA, Vettel, Massa and Lewis (and perhaps even Nico) to finish in front of Webber.

        • yelrom said on 22nd March 2010, 20:41

          Why? And whats to say it won’t, it’s his home race and in a quick car, people shouldn’t right this guy off so soon.

        • TommyC said on 23rd March 2010, 2:12

          i like how you say ‘ain’t gonna happen’. this is F1, like cricket, anything can happen! i would give webber a better chance of winning than buemi but remember vettel won in a toro rosso! i would never have picked that. nor fisichella’s win in brazil 03, or his pole in belgium last year. i repeat, ‘anything can happen!’

        • Jesus said on 23rd March 2010, 6:14

          F1Fan. Errrr. Such a hater.
          Go Webber!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          • F1Fan said on 23rd March 2010, 14:32

            Not a hater at all. In fact I really, really like Webber as a person. He conducts himself honorably, no lies (unlike Lewis), no pretending. But as a driver he is really, really mediocre. He may be quick here and there and may win a race or two, but to be up there w/ Alonso, Lewis and Vettel requires not only ***consistent*** technical (driving) skill, but also race management and ability to judge and react to a race while it is unfolding. Webber lacks in both, epsecially in the latter. Even if he wins pole (which can only happen if Vettel blows it in Q3), chances are that he won’t win the race. I am simply stating facts, and Webber’s career numbers are there as backup.

          • Mike said on 23rd March 2010, 16:34

            “Anything happens in Grand Prix racing and it usually does”

            From the great Murry Walker. ^^

  2. Terry Fabulous said on 22nd March 2010, 9:51

    It is going to be a great race. It HAS to be after Bahrain!

    Nice analysis there Keith, I like your pick of Massa as a man to watch, never really shone at Albert Park. Although we will all be wanting to see Webber kick ass!

    Would any F1Fanatic at the race want to meet up and have a beer/coffee/soft drink? There is a two hour break between Prac 3 and Qually and we could meet up 4pm under the Golf Course Giant Screen?

    Anyone keen, let me know and I will see you there for a chat, drink and a laugh!

    • TommyC said on 22nd March 2010, 10:22

      you’ll be in the same grand stand as me won’t you? Jones? probably see ya there!

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd March 2010, 10:29

      Would any F1Fanatic at the race want to meet up and have a beer/coffee/soft drink? There is a two hour break between Prac 3 and Qually and we could meet up 4pm under the Golf Course Giant Screen?

      I’m so jealous! Make sure you send us some pics.

      • damonsmedley said on 22nd March 2010, 11:25

        So am I! I went last year and wish I could have gone again… Maybe next year!

        • Schumacher said on 22nd March 2010, 22:11

          I’ve got tickets at the senna stand. That’s the last corner and the start/finish.. Kinda wish I was at the first corner now. Either way I’m so excited!! Anyone going to the autograph session on Thursday?

          • TommyC said on 23rd March 2010, 1:52

            when is the autograph session? i haven’t found any official times yet. and i don’t really want to waste time heading out on thursday at the wrong time…

          • Terry Fabulous said on 23rd March 2010, 3:07

            Schumi, Tommy…. Saturday 4pm under the golf course giant screen.

            We are having a catch up with a few laughs, drinks and informed F1 chat.

            Hope to see you then!

    • I’m in Jones for sunday only (got the 4 corner pass this year). Can’t remember the seat number off hand though ;)

      Anyone going tomorrow to the behind the scenes tour? Might see you there !

      • Terry Fabulous said on 23rd March 2010, 10:01

        Pink I am leaving Sydney tomorrow morning at 3 and hope to be there for the tour.

        Come and say gday under the big TV at the golf course on Saturday 4pm!

        • Terry Fabulous said on 25th March 2010, 22:01

          OK Gang…

          I have a big Yellow sign that says F1FANATIC!
          I will be wearing a big red SUPER AGURI hat.

          4pm Tomorrow under the big TV at the golf course.

          See you then!!!!

          Email me on missingthechilli@gmail.com if you want to contact me.

  3. rfs said on 22nd March 2010, 9:58

    I expect the drivers will be more aggressive this time around, and this track produces a good race more often than not. However, I can still picture a Hamilton or a Webber being stuck behind a slower car like in Bahrain. Let’s hope that’s not the case.

    Also, is this going to be a twilight race like last year?

  4. Nathan Bradley said on 22nd March 2010, 10:47

    Hi guys, I think the McLarens’ could also be worth watching this weekend. With the blend of quite a few high speed, slightly lower downforce corners, and quite a few straights long enough to take advantage of the F duct, they might have a shot at the podium, although I still think Red Bull/Ferrari will be fighting for the win, dependant on Red Bull reliability.

    Your thoughts please,

    Nathan

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd March 2010, 15:13

      McLaren, like Sauber, struggled with the new bump at Bahrain. I think they’ll do better relative to their rivals here. But I suspect Ferrari and Red Bull will retain their edge.

      • F1Fan said on 22nd March 2010, 19:34

        I agree w/ Keith. Look at the track outline and tell me where you see long enough straights for the MP to capitalize on its straightline speed advantage. There are none. Even the start-finish line is far shorter than in Bahrein. The are faster corners here but the RBR and F10 are pretty good around those as well. I don’t expect a significant MP step until Spain. It will only be because of Lewis’s ability if MacLaren can get another podium (forget about the other guy).

        • Harvs said on 22nd March 2010, 20:23

          dont forget the only weak point of the mclaren was the qualifying, thier (lewis’s) race pace was identical to the red bull and both ferrari’s in the race,

          maybe bahrian was just a glitch, in lewis championship year i remeber him qualifying more than a second behind the pole sitter in some races and then going on to win the race, its too early after one race to say that ferrari and red bull have a huge advantage because they dont, the diference may be 0.2s but that can easily be made up by a good driver

          • Patrickl said on 22nd March 2010, 22:19

            Indeed, if Hamilton hadn’t been pushed off track by Massa and/or hadn’t outbraked himself in the next turn, he could easily have been behind Alonso fighting for the win.

            A cruise to a podium or a battle for the lead can be just one split second away.

  5. PeterG said on 22nd March 2010, 11:28

    My guess goes to Massa, while Alonso and Hamilton hit each other out and Button just misses out on top 5 battling with Schumacher ;-).
    It will be very exiting but no more overtaking then usual.

  6. Invoke said on 22nd March 2010, 11:41

    happily, no one has bolted an ill-advised one kilometre long extension on it which consists entirely of slow, narrow corners

    That made me laugh, here’s hoping for a good weekends racing, I’m behind Webber for a home GP win this year!

  7. “A better solution would be to remove the requirement for each driver to use both types of tyre during a race”

    The voice of reason speaks again!

    • Eje Gustafsson said on 22nd March 2010, 15:34

      Absolutely true. This would make for some very interesting tire choices and strategies. Could see some teams go for all soft tires and do 2 stops instead of 1 stop on each tire. Figure 2sec per lap faster on soft tires. 60 laps means 2min faster and 20-30sec to change tires.

  8. Mark Hitchcock said on 22nd March 2010, 12:03

    “Last year Bridgestone brought medium and super-soft tyres, and drivers complained the latter wore out too quickly.”

    And that produced an exciting race. Should have brought the same tyres again to give the teams something to think about regarding strategy. As it is, if the soft is durable enough, it’s another certain 1-stopper.

    • Icthyes said on 22nd March 2010, 12:44

      Agreed. Then we could have this situation:

      Webber goes for gold in qualifying and gets pole, but effectively ruins his tyres in doing so. He leads away from the start, but then dives into the pits on Lap 1 for his only stop. Slowly, he starts to catch up with the pack. By the time everyone has made their stops, Webber is back in the lead, but has to fight off Hamilton and Alonso, who are on fresher tyres. That would be a exciting race.

      • Mouse_Nightshirt said on 22nd March 2010, 14:06

        Flaw is that the hard tyres will easily last. Webber wouldn’t have an issue.

        • Farrokh Bomi Bulsara said on 22nd March 2010, 14:09

          Is this going to be a twilight race like last year?

        • Jarred Walmsley said on 22nd March 2010, 18:32

          Yes, but Hamilton and Alonso will also have the harder tires, but they will just be fresher

        • Icthyes said on 23rd March 2010, 12:34

          Nope. First of all, they’de be using the medium tyres, which can last but have to be managed. Webber will have run on them for quite a bit longer, and so the freshness of the others’ tyres will be noticeable in the extra grip they’d be able to extract from them. It won’t be seconds, but it might be enough.

          Of course, it wouldn’t definitely happen this way, but at least it could, unlike with a soft/hard split.

  9. We are heading to Melbourne this weekend. Long range forecast mentions there might be the chance of a shower on Sat and Sun, that will be interesting.
    Not too sure how the late start will go, if it is overcast it will get quite dark early. The days are getting much shorter now that it is almost late March. I don’t like the fact that we have to hang around all day for the race to start around 5pm. Plenty of action on track though, which should be good!
    I will try and grab some good photos.

  10. Rahim.RG said on 22nd March 2010, 12:47

    Its either vettel or Robert

  11. statix said on 22nd March 2010, 12:55

    My drivers to watch:

    1. Alonso/Massa – who will win?!
    2. Vettel – hope he will be around 12th after Q. I want to see him overtaking someone at last and win race without having PP.
    3. Sutil – another crash?
    4. Kubica – to prove good Renault performance.
    5. Webber – possible home race? i doubt, but lets see…
    6. Button – again watching Hamiltons or Merc back :)

    • He has already won a race without pole position :)

    • theo said on 23rd March 2010, 9:22

      if you can win without having to make a crusade through the field surely that is better. That means the driver has performed more consistently and qualified well!

      Vettel is an excellent driver, i remember everyone saying how great Button was in Brazil, didn’t Vettel do an even better job in that race coming up through the field….?

      • Matt said on 23rd March 2010, 12:12

        And Hamilton done an even better job than bith of them !

      • steph said on 23rd March 2010, 12:15

        Yeah Vettel started behind Button but finished ahead I think

        • Matt said on 23rd March 2010, 12:25

          Qualifying
          Jenson 14th, Vettel 15th and Lewis in 17th.

          Finished
          Hamilton 3rd, Vettel 4th and Button 5th (But that’s all he needed) Button was driver of the day i’d say!

          McLaren are always awesome on strategy and this is what helped Hamilton move up to 3rd (And the fact he had KERS and slashed Barrichello’s tyre)!

  12. BasCB said on 22nd March 2010, 13:14

    I am looking forward to the GP. Hope to see Webber going for gold, and also would like to see McLaren get something out of their F-duct solution with overtaking on the straits.

    • F1Fan said on 22nd March 2010, 19:38

      (a) Webber win – ain’t gonna happen.
      (b) What ‘straits’ ???

      • yelrom said on 22nd March 2010, 20:46

        stop saying it’s not going to happen,you obviosly dont like Webber (no idea why) but stop being so negative about him here. It’s his home race and out of all the drivers I think he deserves to win the most. And guess what I’m not even Australian.

        • F1Fan said on 23rd March 2010, 14:39

          I actually do really like Webber as a person. In fact, I like him a lot. It is just that as a driver he is defficient. His concentration is lacking, he is a poor race manager and doesn’t have that racing instinct that champions have. He has crashed too often, caused accidents and has not shown up when it counted. He is no better than an average F1 driver. And if you cannot accept these facts, it is not my fault. They are there for all to see.

          If RBR wins this race, it will be Vettel. He is going for the WDC and he is clearly the superior driver in that team.

        • bodie CI5 said on 25th March 2010, 20:36

          webber is a nice guy,but sorry my aussie friends,he is so over rated,vettal just keeps crushng him under his heel,its getting to the point were red bull,would love to ease him out for kimi-read these words-THE ICEMAN DOES COMETH..

      • BasCB said on 23rd March 2010, 10:29

        Well at least on the parts between the corners, where they don’t need downforce.

        I didn’t even say, Webber will win it, just that i was looking forward to him having a go at it this time. If he gets a good qualifying he should be right on it. It would be great, to see Webber win in his home race.

  13. Arpi_ said on 22nd March 2010, 13:16

    Vettel will take the pole again. Will he use a new engine?
    And It’s time to shine for Webber. So I think RBR gonna grab the front row at Saturday.

    • F1Fan said on 22nd March 2010, 19:41

      (a) Webber can’t/won’t get pole
      (b) Even if he did somehow (Vettel blows it in Q3) he can’t/won’t win

      Vettel can only win if he gets pole, in a normal race (i.e. no SC, which of course is very, very likely at Albert Park, especially w/ amateur drivers also participating this year)

      • TommyC said on 22nd March 2010, 21:26

        you’re hilarious F1Fan… GO WEBBER!!!

        • F1Fan said on 23rd March 2010, 14:41

          ‘Go Webber’ sounds nice, but check again w/ us here after the race on Sunday.

          • Chillax said on 23rd March 2010, 22:56

            It’s called ‘going for the underdog’. Ever heard of it?

            Even if he doesn’t win I’ll still be yellin’ it. You miss the whole point of motor racing/life.

            F1Fan’s a loser with no friends.

          • yelrom said on 23rd March 2010, 23:31

            It’s called supporting your favourite driver mate. What you wan’t me to start shouting GO HAMILTON! Well that ain’t going to happen. As Chillax said it’s called supporting the underdog, why do we always have to support the guy who always wins?

          • Going for the underdog is a *very* ‘Stralian thing to do. Especially when it’s ‘our’ underdog. Go Webber !

  14. Drivers to watch:

    1. Schumacher – will he get back on track?
    2. Vettel/ Webber – ‘baby schumi’ or home hero?
    3. Hamilton – has success in Melbourne

    • Sirko said on 22nd March 2010, 14:26

      Is he still “Bubi-Schumi” or “new Schumacher”? I guess, he’s Sebastian Vettel already, a man with his own name.

      • Eje Gustafsson said on 22nd March 2010, 15:40

        definitely a man with his own name. He has none of the arrogance and “superior” behavior style as Schumacher show for so long. Seb let his driving talk for himself and shows humility and personality. If he botches for some reason he apologizes all over himself and take the blame all on himself. None of this arrogance behavior many other drivers has (Schumacher, Alonzo, Hamilton).

        • Patrickl said on 22nd March 2010, 22:16

          I do think Vettel is pretty arrogant to. They probably all need to be.

          I feel the way he dismisses other drivers because they have KERS, a Mercedes engine, a double diffusor or whatever advantage he perceives as unfairly taking away his just victory, rather arrogant. Especially since the previous season and this one he’s really driving the fastest car.

          The difference is that he is arrogant when he loses rather than when he wins. When he wins he’s all smiles and a very good boy. Schumacher, Alonso and Hamilton tend to get even more arrogant after they win :)

          • Maksutov said on 23rd March 2010, 6:27

            yes, it all depends on their mood. But I believe Vettel is much more polite and probably more considerate towards others, but i dont think he reveal his true feelings.

            Shumacher = what you see is what you get. If that is arrogant then its arrogant, if its not then its not.

            Alonso = fake, does not reveal his true colours.
            Hamilton = fake but prob not as much as Alonso.

            I’de say Alonso and Hamilton are more alike than not. Thats probably why they did not get along.

            The driver with most honest personality? I’de say Webber.

  15. Derek said on 22nd March 2010, 13:23

    The McLarens normally do well at this venue. I see Ron Dennis thinks that Red Bull may have fuel problems, either a small tank or thirsty car, this would slow them down in the later laps. Getting back to McLaren they were fastest cars in a strait line and quicker in the final stages in Bahrain. This circuit’s characteristics could put the McLarens alongside the Ferraris and just short of the Red Bull’s giving Hamilton the win when Red Bull runs out of fuel on the final lap!!

    • Farrokh Bomi Bulsara said on 22nd March 2010, 16:06

      I think that the mp4-25 is an over-developed car, just the opposite of last year’s car.

      Its a dormant beast waiting to be understood & unleashed by its designers & engineers. I think we will have to wait until Barcelona to see the true potential of this car.

      Lui Hamilton & Jen Button seem to be facing the same problems that Kimi Raikkonen & Juan Montoya did in 2005 with the mp4-20.

      This car has a lot of potential & seems to be very reliable as well. I think Mclaren should take over the lead in the constructors championship by the time they get to Silverstone.

    • macahan said on 22nd March 2010, 16:45

      Ron is just stirring things. If he had the volume turned up enough to hear (all the years at the track apparently damaged his hearing) Vettels car sounded lot different and didn’t fire right. The SpeedTV commentators even commented on that someones car didn’t sound right just shortly before Vettel got on the radio. It was obvious on the straights that Vettels car didn’t fire right the V8 song was of tune. After 6-8 laps his engine started sounding somewhat better and his lap time started to get much better to.

      • thestig84 said on 22nd March 2010, 17:45

        Thats what Ron was saying. The Mclaren ECU allows a cylinder to be turned off to save fuel. He thought that Red bull did this to save fuek but it didnt work out correctly.

      • BasCB said on 23rd March 2010, 10:32

        But Ron knows the ECU as his company produces it.
        The message from Renault reported electronical problems with a failure in the spark plug, if i remember well. So maybe the “electronical problem” was an ECU saving the engine from stalling for lack of fuel flowing in.

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