By James Malleson
- Hamilton looking to win in Melbourne race for third time
- The race heats up as drivers prepare for the first race of the season
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix race preview and what to look out for in Melbourne as Lewis Hamilton starts his campaign.
Hamilton During Pre-Season Testing
Lewis Hamilton had a reliable, if not spectacular pre-season, in his new Mercedes W08, although we will not know the exact performance outcomes of him compared with his rivals, until the first race, which occurs in Australia.
Although, Hamilton can expect stiff competition from the men driving the Ferrari’s. If pre-season evidence is to go by, they proved they could be a real threat as Kimi Raikkonen managed to record the fastest lap of 1:18.634. The Finn’s time was 3.09 seconds faster than that of team-mate Sebastian Vettel. And what’s more, the German’s time was quicker than anything recorded by the men driving the Mercedes.
However, Hamilton may have further rivals to add to his list, as Max Verstappen looked confident in testing, as well as Hamilton’s new team-mate Valtteri Bottas in replace of Nico Rosberg who retired and is subsequently, the first reigning world champion to not be racing in F1, in 23 years.
But perhaps Hamilton’s biggest demon will be his ability to adapt to the new changes in specification that have been introduced in the hope of producing closer contests and faster cars, enabling a better spectacle to the audience watching. Changes include: width of the car increasing, bodywork widening, increasing the area under the car with which teams can produce downforce, widening the front wing and increasing the size of the tyres.
However, although Hamilton (and his rivals) will have a faster car, the downside means that more drag will be created.
While pre-season is not always the most reliable indicator, it does show that Hamilton may not find the track to success as straight forward as he would have hoped.
Hamilton’s Record at Australia
Two is the magic number when it comes to Hamilton and his record at the track situated in Melbourne, Australia. Here, he has two titles to his name, coupled with two second and two third place finishes.
It has not all been so lucky though as Hamilton was disqualified back in 2009 driving at the time for McLaren which was because the rear wing on his car was deemed illegal. Unfortunately, he also retired during his 2014 stint after claiming the pole position for that race because of the loss of a cylinder which meant he was only running on five, causing him to cut his race short.
Last year he looked on course to win the race as he started in pole position after gaining the fastest lap time of 1:23.837 during qualifying. However, on the first lap Hamilton was pushed wide by Rosberg and lost further places landing in 6th position.
After various pit stops involving front runners Vettel and Rosberg, Hamilton’s front wing had to be replaced. The British driver continued but with better success as he eventually passed Daniel Ricciardo. As Vettel pitted Hamilton moved into second place behind Rosberg. Hamilton managed to fend off Vettel as he was denied first place by the current Formula 1 world champion.
The man from Stevenage will be hoping that three is his lucky number when he streaks past the chequered flag on Sunday.
Race Will Be Hotly Contested
As the sun beats down on the spectacular setting of parkland which Melbourne has to offer, the drivers will be gearing up for the first test of just over twenty.
With an autumn average temperature of up to 25 degrees Celsius, this is no easy test by any means. Drivers will have to cope with a dry setting and hot conditions if they are to contend with any chance of winning.
The sun light itself will also cause problems as this will affect the visibility. The race will be held in the evening as the sun sets, where it can be low at times and could impede the drivers’ vision.
This searing heat will affect the tyres because a hot track means that they will wear more quickly and soft tyres will last considerably less. Hard tyres will therefore most likely be used for this race.
The first race is certainly hotting up, but drivers will surely be hoping for a cool breeze or splash of rain.
Acceleration and Braking the Key to Success
Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city is host to Formula 1 this week. It’s vibrant and cosmopolitan atmosphere is usually equal in measure when it comes to the racing too. With its desert land in the middle and variety of nature on the coasts, Australia is the perfect match for the entertainment of twenty cars competing to cross the finish line first.
With 58 laps to complete and 307,574km it is not a small track. As the longitudinal forces will be greater than the lateral forces on the tyres it means that braking and then accelerating will be needed in succession if drivers are to successfully navigate 16 corners of the track and expect the left-hand rear tyre to be working the most as there are ten right hand corners to six left hand corners.
Additonally, there are a number of ‘slow corners’ meaning mechanical grip on the tyres will play a crucial role in driver performance.
So while the Melbourne track in Albert Park is fairly smooth, expect the acceleration and braking to be a constant feature.
Pitfalls of the First Race of the Season
Australia – home to over 24 million people and hosts of one of the tennis slams, it has no shortage of sports fanatics.
The Australian GP is the first race of the season, that alone causes problems. Drivers are eager to race which can lead to more overtakes were it is not possible to do so. This results in risky manoeuvres and increases the likelihood of crashes. If this race was placed later on the calendar, it would not be as of a threat as it is.
This reason is coupled with the limited overtaking options available in the middle sector of the track. A frenetic start to a frenetic season could provide an array of mishaps. The DRS zone is located at the start and could provide drama of some sort as everyone tries to overtake at the start. In addition, there are few straights of considerable length causing overtaking to be limited further, however it is a fairly easy track to learn and has less demanding corners compared with other tracks.
As the crowds line the grandstand in Albert Park, ready to cheer on their man Ricciardo, they will be raucous as ever here and 2017 will be no exception. As he competes with his opponents on this flowing track, you can expect cheers and jeers echoing from the avid supporters who flock here in there thousands.
But will this inspire a good run to the top step of the podium for Ricciardo and leave his opponents frustrated? What is for certain, is that this popular track can expect more in the future as it will remain on the calendar until at least 2023.
Virtual Circuit Guide via Formula 1 YouTube
- Lewis Hamilton
- Sebastian Vettel
- Daniel Ricciardo
The race starts at 06:00 BST Sunday 26th March.
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