Welcome to the 2013 Australian Grand Prix, sponsored by Rolex. Ending a post-season break that has lasted nearly four months, the Formula One circus returns to Australia to begin the 2013 World Championship. This weekend will celebrate the 18th year Albert Park has featured on the Formula One World Championship calendar and promises to be an exciting start to an eagerly anticipated season.
After pre-season testing failed to produce a clear front-runner, Melbourne promises the first real glimpse into the strengths of each teams.
Previous winners include Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel. Coincidentally, these drivers also have at least one World Championship to their name.
Pirelli have introduced new tyres for the 2013 season and early feedback suggested the 2013-spec compounds suffer greater degradation than their predecessors. Though initial reports suggested they were lasting fewer than a handful of laps, the teams’ understanding of the new rubber appears to have improved and Sergio Perez’s estimation of “something like seven or 10 stops” in Melbourne is expected to be off the mark. Regardless, teams are likely to sample a variety of strategies during the race in Melbourne as they set about trying to identify the optimal level of the new tyres.
Pirelli will provide each team with two different compound of tyres for each race as well as the Intermediate and Wet sets.
Pirelli are bringing the Hard and Soft tyres to Melbourne.
With the teams having only previously tested the compounds at the Jerez and Catalunya circuits in Spain, the Australian climate will be a step into the unknown for the 11 constructors.
Drag Reduction System
The Drag Reduction System (DRS) regulation has been altered for 2013 and drivers no longer have unlimited disposal of the system during practice and qualifying. In Melbourne, DRS operation will be limited to the main straight and the run through turns One and Two. The system hasn’t typically been useful in assisting overtakes on the run to Turn One, so expect most opportunities to be created on the run to the third corner.
Following a low-key testing regime, Red Bull are looking to resume their place at the head of the order. They’ve been downbeat about their potential and all eyes will be watching Vettel and Webber come Q2.
Fernando Alonso has admitted that the F138 does not seem the fastest car on the grid, but that it only needs to be within two tenths of the fastest for the Prancing Horse to be in the title hunt. The team has confirmed their confidence in the Alonso-Massa lineup and will be hoping to have a better start to the year than in 2012.
McLaren looked to be the top of the order in Jerez, but as testing continued the Woking-based squad’s performances became less convincing. The Button-Pérez combination has the potential to be very successful, but McLaren will need to provide the machinery and race team to keep them at the front.
Lotus are the dark horse for 2013. Räikkönen showed in 2012 that he’d lost none of his previous form and with an off-season for Grosjean to refine his rough-edges, do not be surprised if Lotus are fighting at the front in Albert Park.
Lewis Hamilton’s arrival to the team looks to have brought a new lease of life into the Brackley squad. The Rosberg-Hamilton partnership has the potential to be formidable and Mercedes will be looking to continue their strong late pre-season form in Australia.
Sauber’s pre-season suggested they’ve retained a solid position in the midfield, though they don’t look to have moved forward. The team will expect to be right behind the leading pack and will be ready to take advantage of any mistakes by the top teams.
Sutil’s return showed he had lost nothing in his year off. Force India’s progress up the grid has hit a brick wall over the past two years, but Melbourne will provide them with a good opportunity to get a jump start on their opposition. Do not be surprised if Sutil outperforms his team-mate in Australia.
Though Mike Coughlan has claimed Williams has a car ready to deliver victories in 2013, they’ll be at odds to come near the top in Melbourne. Maldonado may experience over his rookie team-mate, but the promising Bottas will want to get the jump on his team-mate from the get-go.
Vergne and Ricciardo praised the STR8 on its debut and while it’s supposedly more workable than its predecessor, the pair look likely be fighting for the same places as they were in 2012. The pair qualified strongly here in 2012 and will be doing well if they manage similarly this time around.
Caterham had had a mixed pre-season; while they managed good mileage throughout, they don’t look to have made a step up the grid. Expect them to be fighting for the same places in Melbourne as they did in 2012.
Marussia look to be closer to Caterham than ever. With KERS system in the car for the first time, the team will be hoping for strong reliability in Melbourne. Their best chance to claim first blood against Caterham will be a reliable package in the opening round.
Tweets of the Week
Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton)
Touch down baby! Back in Melbourne, weathers great & what a stunning city! So happy to be here. Gonna go for a run. pic.twitter.com/nxjPH7P5NY
Nico Hulkenberg (@NicoHulkenberg)
Chillin..next week this time wont be as calm.when i hopefully will get further than lap1 in one of my favourite GP’s pic.twitter.com/XGOVK3bDnt
Daniel Ricciardo (@DanielRicciardo)
In the great southern land!!! You beauty. pic.twitter.com/Q5apR6LVgP