It’s time. After what has felt like an eternity, F1 is back! The curtainraiser is the beautiful Albert Park, a street race in the city of Melbourne, Australia.
By now Albert Park has firmly established itself as a fan and driver favourite. Street venues have a different dynamic to race tracks, given the constant usage and putting down of both rubber and oil. Street venues also tend to be bumpier, so they offer up a very different challenge. 58 laps around the circuit await our racers, who will cover a distance of 191 miles. This is also the first opportunity for the teams to show their true potential, something which appeared ominous for Mercedes’ rivals in FP1, where the Silver Arrows appeared a lot faster than everyone else. However, FP2 suggested a much smaller gap between Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari.
What are the key features of the track? Well, the run into turn 1 will be a likely scene for overtaking, or at least the chance for overtaking, what with a pretty strong braking zone. However, the sharp right-hander immediately gives way to a left-hander that drivers will accelerate into, giving the defending driver the chance to either protect their place or take it back. There’s then a powerful run into turn 3, which is another beast of a right-hander and another chance for overtaking. With the 2018 cars continuing the design philosophy from 2017 and being even faster, corners 11, 12, 13 and 14 could be taken either flat out or close to it, but turn 15 is a big, meaty left-hander, right before cars come to the pit entrance. There might be some tangles here.
One final note – we haven’t had qualifying yet, which will be the first real demonstration of the cars’ performance. Already local boy Daniel Ricciardo has been handed a three-place penalty, the details of which involve pace under red flag conditions, but what from I’ve been led to believe, the penalty is hugely unfair. To start handing out penalties before a car’s been revved up in anger is to make a mockery of the system and serves as a reminder of how nitpicky F1 penalties can be. The system needs to be reviewed.