Following a long winter without racing, Formula 1 returns this weekend as the 2014 season kicks off and a new era in the history of the sport begins. As is tradition, the season will get underway in Australia at Albert Park in Melbourne. A favourite among fans and drivers alike, this is one of the biggest races of the season.
Albert Park is defined as a medium-fast “street circuit”. It is in effect a proper race track, albeit one that carries a lot of dirt and oil from being used as a public road for 49 weeks of the year. As such, it doesn’t reveal its true character for a few days, so achieving an ideal setup can be tricky and requires patience. The circuit has 16 turns, multiple chicanes and actual straight, with the other back straight consisting of a sweeping left-hander that has seen numerous accidents (often resulting in safety cars).
The first corner has been the scene of many accidents over the years and many drivers have been a little greedy under braking only to lose valuable time on the exit and the crucial run to turn 3. Offering the first genuine overtaking opportunity, the swimming pool section at turn 3 is hard to get right as the next left hander requires a compromise in order to achieve a rhythm (and consequently balance) through the sweeping right-hander around Bob Jane Stadium.
A driver’s exit is crucial heading onto the back straight. Obviously the inside line is the quickest route through here, but you need to position the car to the right in order to negotiate what is one of the quickest and trickiest chicanes on the Formula One calendar.
Again, a good exit is rewarded with another overtaking opportunity into a hard-braking right-hander, followed by another medium-fast right-hander that requires a little lift of the throttle. Without lifting, drivers could find themselves compromised yet again when attempting to set the car up for the penultimate left-hand hairpin.
Get this right and you should get a slingshot along the final sweeping right-hander onto the main straight to complete a lap at Albert Park.
Track: Albert Park
Lap Record: Michael Schumacher 1:24.125 (2004)
Tyre Compounds: Soft (Option); Medium (Prime)
2013 Winner: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
2013 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:44.231
2013 Fastest Lap: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:32.478
DRS Zones: Main Straight (T16 to T1); T2 to T3
Images courtesy of Red Bull/Getty and Scuderia Ferrari. Track guide graphic by Peter Leung.