The 2014/2015 winter season has flown in and the countdown is on to the first race of the season. Albert Park will once again play host to the opening round of the Formula One World Championship and once again the season has already started with its fair share of drama.
The good news is that there will be 20 drivers on the grid following the saving of Manor. The bad news is that we are still not 100% sure who will be driving all 20 of those cars. One change that has already taken place is Kevin Magnussen in for Fernando Alonso following the Spaniard’s crash at the first test in Barcelona. On doctors advice, due to the concussion he sustained, Alonso will sit out the Australian Grand Prix but is working to be back on the grid in Malaysia. It was a welcome reprieve for Magnussen who had faced a season on the sidelines as the team’s test and reserve driver. It is in no way ideal conditions for his return to the grid but he will no doubt be making the most of his surprise weekend in the car.
Elsewhere Sauber are in court with former test driver Giedo van der Garde. His testing contract included a clause which meant he would race for the team this season. When times got tough financially, Sauber instead chose to go down a different route and signed Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson. The Crown Court in Victoria ruled that van der Garde should race this weekend while Sauber argued this would be dangerous. The appeal is set to be heard tomorrow and Sauber will find out who will be driving their car at the weekend.
Much is also being said about Max Verstappen, set to become the youngest ever F1 rookie at just 17 years of age. Some think he is too young but he has performed well in testing so far. He will make his debut alongside Carlos Sainz Jr, Roberto Merhi, Nasr and Will Stevens who is not technically a rookie but has raced just once in F1 before.
Elsewhere, Sebastian Vettel, Daniil Kvyat, and Ericsson (perhaps) will make their debuts with their new teams. Vettel will be hoping to return to winning ways following an uncharacteristic 2014 while Kvyat will hope to emulate new team-mate Daniel Ricciardo’s step up to the senior Red Bull team when he won three races and fought the Mercedes duo for the title.
Circuit: Albert Park
Number of Laps: 58
Circuit Length: 5.303km
Number of Corners: 16
Lap Record: 1:24.125 Michael Schumacher (2004)
Previous Australian GP winners still on the grid: 7
Most Successful Team: McLaren (12 wins)
DRS Zones: 2
Pirelli Tyres: Medium and Soft
The Australian Grand Prix normally throws up a number of surprises and has been won by four different constructors in the past five years. Last year the race was won by Nico Rosberg while team-mate Lewis Hamilton suffered an engine failure. Ricciardo finished second but was later disqualified promoting Magnussen to second and Jenson Button to third.
Albert Park is a street circuit which provides it’s own challenges for teams and drivers with low grip and a low average speed. Chances of a safety car are high – there has been at least one at six of the last seven races. The Australian Grand Prix is generally one of high attrition as teams run their cars to full race specification for the first time and reliability is tested. Once again Mercedes look like the team to beat but quite what order the chasing pack will be in remains to be seen. Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton, Magnussen, Ricciardo, Verstappen, and Vettel will feature in the first drivers’ press conference of the year due to take place tomorrow.