It is time. A new season, an evolved grid of cars, and the first track preview of the season. Formula 1 is in
this weekend, starting with first and second practice (likely already completed
by the time you read this) Friday, third practice and qualifying Saturday, and
the race Sunday. Melbourne, Australia
Albert Park is one of the semi permanent circuits in a park on the calendar, situated around a lake in a park it shares a similar look to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. The similarities don't end there, the track is made up of many straights leading into second and third gear right-left corners with chicanes spattered throughout, and a few high speed curved "straights" for good measure.
Drivers begin on the short start-finish straight with speeds climbing to 190mph before braking into the first complex of corners. Drivers approach the first two corners, a tight third gear right hander into a fourth gear left hander opening into a short, flowing straight. Expect an incident when the flag drops Sunday. The entry into turn 1 is usually the best spot for overtaking, but since both of these straights will compromise the DRS zone for Sundays Grand Prix the entry into turn 3 could see some overtaking maneuvers.
Cars reach fifth gear before a very sharp second gear right leading into a mellower third gear left. Turn 5 is a right hander and gradual enough to be taken in sixth gear, leading into another top gear straight and tight third gear right.
Turn 6 and 7 are remarkably similar to the first two corners, third gear right into a gradual fourth gear left, through sixth gear turn 8 before yet another seventh gear straight into third gear right and fourth gear left, turns 9 and 10.
A sweeping "straight" to the left creeps close to the water before the exciting turns 11 and 12, tight sixth and fifth gear corners that are almost a larger version of Monaco's swimming pool complex, where drivers toeing the limit will show off some oppositelock (most noticeable in the wet).
Another "straight" doglegs and then the final corners, third gear right through 13, short sprint up to fifth gear held through right-hander 14. The pit entry is after the extra tight second gear turn 15 and the final corner, 16, is very gradual left that calls for patience before hammering onto the gas and mashing the DRS to complete a lap at Albert Park.
The ends of the long straights met with sharp rights have sand traps very close to the tarmac punishing drivers testing the limits of the braking zones. The tight and unrelenting layout of the circuit, high speed into tight corners, makes overtaking rather difficult. Thankfully, as the first race of the season, teams are still figuring out the new tires and drivers their cars. Even though the 2013 racers are more evolutionary than brand new, the new rubber with its larger working window but quicker wear rate should mix up the grid plenty from green flag to checker.
Excitement is in the air, team by team breakdown and predictions to come shortly, stay tuned!