THE DRIVERS ON: THE CIRCUIT

Fernando Alonso

“It’s been a very long winter – the longest I can remember without Formula 1 – so I’m really looking forward to getting back in the car. This track is always exciting to drive, partly because of its street circuit nature – tight run-off areas, a bumpy surface and low grip – but also because everyone is impatient to go racing again.

“The important thing is to get a good start – usually everyone is eager and it’s quiet common for there to be some drama off the line in the first race. This year, it’ll be interesting to see how everyone’s tyre choices play out, and the strategy each team picks, but it’s only on Sunday afternoon that we’ll get to see where we really are. On Friday and Saturday, we’ll be working hard to predict the track’s characteristics on race day, and focusing on setting up the car in its final specification. It’ll also be interesting to see how the improvement in the power unit deployment pans out on this tricky circuit, too.”
 

Jenson Button

“I’m so excited to go racing again! Albert Park is always a great season-opener – I love Melbourne as a city, and the track is pretty good, too. The warm weather is a welcome change and the higher track temperatures than we’ve been used to in testing always pose a bit of a challenge.

“In Australia it’s always a new slate each day in terms of set-up, as the track starts off very green on the Friday and wears in more and more as the weekend goes on. We are planning to bring some updates to this race, so we’ll be working on configuring those into our set-up right from FP1. Albert Park is a tricky place to start the season at – it’s an unforgiving, technical, bumpy street circuit, so it really gets you going after a few months off from racing, but that’s why we love driving there.”
 

CIRCUIT STATS

 
2015 winner Lewis Hamilton, 58 laps, 1:31:54.067s
2015 pole position Lewis Hamilton, 1m26.327s
2015 fastest lap Lewis Hamilton 1m30.945s (lap 50)
Name Albert Park
First race Lewis Hamilton, 1m26.327s
Circuit length  5.303km/3.295 miles (12th longest track of the year)
Distance to Turn One 350m/0.217 miles 
Longest straight  860m/0.534 miles
Top speed 305km/h/190mph, on the approach to Turn One
Pitlane length 280m/0.174 miles, estimated time loss 21s
Full throttle 61 per cent 
DRS zones Two, on the approaches to Turns One and Three
Key corner The Esses at Turns 11 and 12. The minimum apex speed is 225km/h (140mph) and negative camber at the exit makes it easy to run wide.
Fastest corner  275km/h (171mph), Turn Eight
Slowest corner 84km/h (52mpg), Turn 15
Major changes for 2016 No changes to layout, but a few alterations to kerbing, run-off and Astroturf
Fuel consumption 1.7kg per lap, the third highest of the season due to the amount of acceleration bursts from low speed
ERS demands Medium
Brake wear High, there are seven big stops from more than 230km/h (143mph)
Gear changes 56 per lap /3248 per race

 
CIRCUIT FACTS

History lesson: A permanent fixture on the F1 calendar since 1996, Albert Park did in fact host grands prix many decades earlier. It was home to the non-championship Australian GP in the ’50s, a race twice won by Stirling Moss.

What makes the track unique: The bumpy pit straight. These bumps create severe pitch oscillation, which makes the car challenging to set up. The aerodynamicists want to run it hard; the engineers want to run it soft and a compromise has to be reached for best overall performance. 

Grip levels: Low. This is a street circuit, used just once a year, and it’s very slippery until some rubber gets laid down during practice. Drivers need to be wary of the negative camber, particularly at corner exit. 

Run-off: Substantial, but mistakes are punished because there’s a mix of grass and gravel awaiting errant cars. Remember Martin Brundle flying through the air in his Jordan in ’96? 

Watch out for…: Sunset. The 16:00hrs start (local time) means the sun gets low and into the drivers’ line of vision towards the end of the race.
 

EVENT STATS
 

Start time 16:00hrs local / 05:00hrs GMT
Race distance 58 laps (full world championship points will be awarded after 75 per cent distance/43.5 laps)
Safety Car likelihood 48 per cent, relatively high
When to press record The start! The drivers haven’t raced for 15 weeks and some might be too anxious to get things underway. Remember 2003, when eight cars were eliminated in a pile-up at Turn One?
Don’t put the kettle on When the race reaches laps in the early teens and late 30s. These were the two pitstop windows during last year’s race 
Weather conditions now   27 degrees and sunny
Race forecast 19 degrees, patchy cloud. Being a coastal location, Melbourne’s weather can change quickly.
Tyre choices Supersoft/Soft/Medium

 

EVENT FACTS

First Australian Grand Prix: Adelaide 1985

Slogan: “It’s a great place for the race”

Australia’s F1 heritage: The Australian Grand Prix has been staged at two different venues: Adelaide (1985-’95) and Melbourne (1996-present). There have been 13 Australian F1 drivers since the inauguration of the World Championship in 1950 and two Australian World Champions – Jack Brabham and Alan Jones. Jack remains the only driver in history to win the world title in his own car.

Smallest winning margin: 0.702s, in 1998. Mika Häkkinen came home just ahead of McLaren team-mate David Coulthard. 

Sporting legacy: As well as the Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne hosts the Australian Open tennis championship, the Melbourne Cup horse race, surfing world championships at Bells Beach and, just 50kms (31 miles) down the road at Philip Island, the Australian MotoGP race.

Did you know..? McLaren is the most successful constructor at the Australian Grand Prix, having won the race 11 times and taken 26 podiums 

Don’t forget: No Australian driver has ever finished on the podium in Australia  

Fan zone: Sarah, aged 17, from London. “Any advice on the best strategy to watch the race”?

McLaren’s answer: To stay awake, or to get up early? That is the question. For the super-fans, get up early, drink a cup of Segafredo coffee and watch the race!
 

THE DRIVERS ON: THE EVENT

Fernando Alonso

“One thing is for sure, the fans are always very loud and it’s always a great feeling in the first race of the season. Apart from that, we can’t make any predictions of results or make comparisons as we don’t yet know much about the form book from winter testing. The same teams look to be strong this year, but everyone is holding their cards very close to their chest, so it will be interesting to see how the weekend unfolds.

“Usually the track conditions change quite dramatically from the start of FP1 on Friday to the end of the grand prix, so it’s a race in itself for the drivers and engineers to keep on top of it and make sure they have the right set-up ahead of each session, or risk losing out. The new qualifying format will surely make things a bit unpredictable for the teams and the fans, as every time a new regulation comes in each season it always take a little bit of time to get used to it. I’m looking forward to landing in Australia, getting back in the car, putting my visor down and getting back on track, then the season will really begin. I’m so ready!”

Jenson Button

“The Australian Grand Prix is always a fascinating unknown because you’re never sure where you are in relation to your competitors. Although we’ve finished pre-season testing, we’ve not had much time on track before the season starts, so this is the first chance for us to compare ourselves on similar set-ups. We’ve been concentrating heavily on our own development and processes, so I’m looking forward to seeing where we are on a level playing field.

“We’re working hard behind the scenes to develop the car and bring new updates at every possible opportunity. Melbourne will certainly be a challenge, but our package definitely feels like a step forward from last year. There are so many more variables this year – new qualifying format, new tyre regulations, and Australia usually produces unpredictable races, so anything could happen!”
 

HEAR FROM THE MANAGEMENT

 

Eric Boullier
McLaren-Honda Racing Director

“It’s been a very long winter, and I know that I can speak on behalf of the whole McLaren-Honda team when I say that we can’t wait to go racing again! There’s been an incredible amount of hard work done over the winter, and we’re all itching to get back on the grid to see where we are for this, our second year of the McLaren-Honda partnership.

“We are certainly a step ahead of where we were this time last year in terms of preparation – we have much more mileage under our belts and we’ve performed most of the necessary system checks that we were still working on during race weekends in 2015. That said, we didn’t manage to complete our final configuration and set-up work for the first race, so we go to Melbourne with a number of unknowns. It won’t be an easy start to the weekend in that sense, since we’ll need to concentrate on setting the car up for each session and readying the final specification of our package as soon as we get to Albert Park. Since the final pre-season test, there’s been a huge effort back in Woking to bring new parts to Australia and it’ll be good to finally get to the track on Friday and see how we fare.

“Until the other teams fully show their hand in the same conditions, we won’t have any idea where we stack up in comparison, but our priority is to focus on extracting the most out of our own performance, while still maintaining reliability. It’s a difficult balance to strike, but as usual we’ll work hard, in the hope of faring better in Australia than we did last year. We are always greeted by a warm welcome, and it’ll be fantastic to hear the cheers from the knowledgeable Aussie fans in Albert Park. We’re all counting down to the green light on Friday so we can get out on track and start the season proper.”
 

 

Yusuke Hasegawa
Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer

"As a season-opener, the street circuit of Albert Park is a strenuous track for the drivers, car and the power unit, so it will no doubt be a difficult race. The circuit is flat, narrow, slippery and fast, which makes the whole weekend unpredictable.

“That said, we are eager to see what the package is capable of out on track. During the short winter months, we worked hard to address the issues encountered in 2015, and during the two weeks of testing in Barcelona, we were able to confirm the fundamental power unit set-up for 2016. The logical next step is to test and show our progress on track, which will begin to shape the course of our development for this year.

“Last year, the team was given a warm welcome by the enthusiastic fans, as well as fantastic support from our Honda Australia peers. We hope we can show our appreciation through our efforts on the track during the grand prix weekend."