Australian GP preview

26 03 2009

ferrari

Every first race of a new F1 season is hard to predict. But this is different. This is a revolution: the most radical new rules in a generation, and testing form which suggests the world champion’s team are nowhere, and the outfit that was sold over the winter could win the race.

Is Lewis Hamilton’s title defence over before it has even started? Is KERS hype or the future? Can ugly cars bring beautiful racing? Just some of the questions we’ll be asking during the Australian Grand Prix.

An unpredictable race

A lot has changed over the winter but on thing stays the same: the season kicks off at Melbourne’s popular parkland circuit for the Australian Grand Prix.

Albert Park has a knack for producing unpredictable races. The tight first corner invites a lap-one melee – Felipe Massa and a handful of others tripped up here last year.

After that, what happens beyond that first corner is pretty much anyone’s guess. We’ve spent months poring over the testing times. But we all know how difficult it is to judge real speed from testing, and we won’t know anything for sure until the dust has settled on Sunday evening.

KERS, safety cars – and twilight

As ever he start will be crucial and it will be fascinating to see what role KERS plays here. At the moment only Renault and Ferrari have said they will use KERS this weekend-and it could hand them significant boost at the start of the race.

With much of the circuit hemmed in by barriers safety car periods are regular occurrences. These have been robbed of their power to destroy one driver’s race while virtually handing victory to another as they have in the past, thanks to an overdue outbreak of common sense in regulations. . But it could still play a decisive role.

Another significant change for this year is the timing of the race, moved back several hours to make the race’s broadcast time suit European audiences better. This could lead to the unusual sight of a race ending in dusk conditions. The race organisers are even calling it “The world’s first twilight Grand Prix”.

Drivers are likely to struggle with low light in the later stages of the race. More seriously, a major hold-up in the running of the race could cause it to be finished before the full 58 laps have been completed

Drivers to keep an eye on

Lewis Hamilton– Two appearances at Melbourne, one win and one podium – but is the MP4-24 even up to making Q3?

Mark Webber– Sensational debut in 2002 netted fifth place but appalling luck at home ever since.

Fernando Alonso– Ended 2008 looking very strong – if he’s in the mix at Melbourne a title bid is definitely on the cards.

Jarno Trulli– Of all the drivers, he seems the most pleased with the return to slicks. I have a hunch he might be in for a very good year.

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