In just 6 days the Formula 1 2012 season will be underway with Friday first practice (FP1) taking place in the early hours of the morning for all followers from the United Kingdom. The Melbourne based track of Albert Park is a 58 lap race and always offers an interesting race for spectators as there are a lot of unknowns heading into the race weekend due to the new season.
Along with the amount of unknown factors adding to the thrill of the Melbourne Grand Prix this year there has been an extra drag reduction system (DRS) zone added. It has yet to been announced where the zone will be placed but I would think that after turn one going down the medium straight down to turn 3 would be a suitable place, or after the 2nd gear chicane approaching the end of sector two.
It will be a key weekend for every team in many aspects as they will work hard to get there car into a prime set up to maximize there race pace, but along with this the teams will also be trying to make sure all off track procedures and fine tuned and everyone on the team know what they are doing heading into a back to back race with Malaysia. The mechanics and engineers (like the drivers) will have to get back into the rythem of working long days in extreme conditions to the highest levels which can be draining.
Going into the event we can not read to much into preseason testing form but it seems to be McLaren & Red bull are leading the pack with Lotus, Mercedes and struggling Ferrari just behind. Although this appears to be the case I remind you to think of last season when Ferrari looked dominant leading up to the opening race and McLaren had huge problems, but when everyone revealed there true pace and the Melbourne spec cars were unleashed Ferrari struggled and McLaren lead the battle to a immensely strong Red Bull Racing.
Moving into the midfield, Force India & Toro Rosso seem to be at top end with Caterham perhaps closing the gap again to the tale end of the midfield. This years midfield will be as close to each other as ever before. Teams in the midfield pack will be punished for the slightest of errors in qualifying and race. Teams such as Force India, Toro Rosso, Sauber, Williams & perhaps Caterham will find themselves slipping from Q3 to Q1 with the smallest of strategical error.
With Caterham looking like they have slowly closed in on the midfield of the pack it just leaves newly named Marussia & freshly based Hispania (HRT) at the back of the field. Marussia have had a hugely poor preseason with only making one appearance and that being in last years car. To make this worse they have recruited a young driver in the name of Charles Pic who finished only fourth in the GP2 series and has never won a GP2 race, but combined with Van Der Garde helped Addax GP2 be crowned 2011 GP2 constructors champions. Its not all bad though as the team were able to have 1 day testing at Silverstone under "filming day" restrictions which limits the mileage and tyres you can run.
HRT have also been mixing up there driving line up and have come up with Spanish veteran Pedro Dela Rosa & Indian star Narain Karthikeyan. The newly Madrid based team have had major changes in personal throughout the team and are looking to start a new era. Although they only appeared at one test like Marussia they also were able to run a "filming day" at Barcelona on the Monday after final preseason testing.
This is now the second year of the Pirelli tyres and the manufacture has been told to make the tyre compounds softer and closer in compound for two reasons. Pirelli have been asked to make the tyre compounds softer so the racing is faster and there is more degradation over the race as well as being closer so that there is more choice in team race strategy. Last year it was a fact the front runners would use the option tyre until the latest moment possible in the race and then switch to the slow prime tyre. This was because the difference in lap time was to much. This is why Pirelli have been asked to close the compound difference which in turn will decrease the range in time compared to difference compound (super soft, soft, medium, hard)
Despite everything I have discussed above the truth is we can not really have any sense of what will happen come Qualifying in Australia. This is because there are to many variables. Who knows how much fuel the teams were running in preseason and how hard the drivers were pushing. Combined with this the addition of upgrades and the new Pirelli tyres being virtually unknown creates a world of possibilities.
"I think its when you go to qualifying, you put your trousers down and you see what you have got and everybody else has got." Sebastian Vettel
How do you see Melbourne, Australia panning out? Leave a comment on the blog or feel free to Tweet me. (Twitter name and link below)
Twitter - @PhillipNunesF1