After what feels like an eternity, and with some pressing questions raised from pre-season testing, this weekend we finally head to Melbourne for the season-opening Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix in Albert Park.
What happened in pre-season testing?
Scuderia Ferrari, for the third consecutive year, took fastest lap in pre-season testing. Their time of a 1:17.182 was good enough for a new lap record too, comprehensively defeating the rest of the field – including last year’s champions Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport. Have Ferrari suddenly found pace and will they take another emphatic win in Australia? We can’t be sure…
Mercedes’ fastest lap wasn’t set on the new HyperSoft tyre compound like Ferrari’s – it was set on the Ultra-Soft tyre. Perhaps a deliberate choice, by opting not to use the Hypersoft Mercedes have kept their cards firmly pressed against their chest, choosing not to show their hand until qualifying in Australia. Ferrari, on the other hand, have seemingly gone all-in in testing, showing the true pace of their car and laying down the gauntlet to Mercedes. Though it undoubtedly helped the teams, for fans it’s raised more questions than it provided answers.
For full reports on the outcomes of both pre-season tests, click below:
What happened in the Australian Grand Prix in 2017?
There were big expectations for the 2017 Australian Grand Prix. It was the first race with the new wide tyres and high-speed, high-downforce cars, and hopes were high that it could lead to the sort of overtaking numbers we hadn’t seen for many years. Unfortunately for all but Scuderia Ferrari, this wouldn’t be the case.
Having qualified on pole, Lewis Hamilton looked set to romp into the distance and take yet another decisive win. Ferrari, however, had other ideas about how the race should be run, with their performance on the Ultra-Soft tyres exceeding that of Mercedes’. Chasing Hamilton and with the gap closing, Sebastian Vettel then launched a perfectly-timed undercut pit stop, forcing Hamilton to come in early. Though the German was able to come in and leave the pits unimpeded, on his return to the track Hamilton got caught behind Max Verstappen. Unable to overtake the Dutchman, Vettel simply carried off into the distance for the win.
Further behind the pair issues brewed, with seven cars failing to make the checkered flag. Among them are Fernando Alonso – a broken floor leaving him to take the first of his eight DNF/DNS results of the season, Romain Grosjean – a water leak ending his race after six laps, and Daniel Ricciardo – the Australian suffering yet more bad luck at his home grand prix in the form of a pit lane start and fuel-cell related DNF.
You can read the full reports on last year’s action here:
- 2017 Formula 1 – Round 1 – Australian Grand Prix – Qualifying Report
- 2017 Formula 1 – Round 1 – Australian Grand Prix – Race Report
What should I look out for this year?
Tyre selection and pit strategy. Two new tyre compounds have been added for the 2018 season – the Hypersoft and the Superhard – with the new compounds bookending the current selection. Though neither will be available for the Australian Grand Prix, expect tyres to play a part in this year’s championship.
You’ll also want to keep your eyes on the pits. This year’s cars are even faster than last year’s, making use of some extremely aggressive downforce. If last year is anything to go by, this means following cars will be more difficult, which could mean fewer overtakes. Battles are likely to take place in the pit lane, with strategy playing an integral part in races.
As for drivers, we have a couple of new ones this year. Sergey Sirotkin has taken over from fan-favourite Felipe Massa at Williams Martini Racing, whilst current Formula 2 and 2016 GP3 champion Charles Leclerc will be behind the wheel of Pascal Wehrlein‘s old car at Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team.
The battle between the newbies should be interesting if Sauber can find pace, but the real battle will be between Sirotkin and his teammate Lance Stroll. Stroll faced heavy “pay driver” criticism last year, and taking the fight to (and beating) his new teammate is vital if he wants to prove his maiden podium was no fluke.
What is the schedule?
Friday 23rd March
01:00 GMT / 12:00 AEDT – Free Practice One
05:00 GMT / 16:00 AEDT – Free Practice Two
Saturday 24th March
03:00 GMT / 14:00 AEDT – Free Practice Three
06:00 GMT / 17:00 AEDT – Qualifying
Sunday 25th March
06:10 GMT / 16:10 AEDT – Race
Where can I watch the Australian Grand Prix?
Channel 4 will be showing highlights of both qualifying and the race, so if you want to watch it live you’ll need a subscription service.
Sky will be showing all sessions on Sky Sports Formula 1, with the race starting at 6:10am on Sunday 25th March.
Unfortunately for fans without a subscription TV service, Formula 1’s streaming option – F1 TV – is yet to launch.
How can I keep up to date with the action?
If you’re not able to get to the track, you can follow all the action here on The Checkered Flag. We’ll have updates from all sessions over the weekend, along with comments from teams and drivers for all races this year.
You can also follow Formula 1 on Twitter, on @F1.
Where is the Circuit?
12 Aughtie Dr, Albert Park VIC 3206, Australia