Why the Australian GP could provide drama again

Daily News
11 Min Read
Why the Australian GP could provide drama again

After Albert Park delivered the most chaotic race of the 2023 season, Bernie Collins and Anthony Davidson explain how the Australian Grand Prix could be set to shake up Formula 1 once more.

Red Bull have made a dominant start to the season with Max Verstappen beginning his quest for a fourth successive drivers’ title by leading one-twos from team-mate Sergio Perez in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Only Ferrari have so far appeared capable of applying the slightest bit of pressure to Red Bull, with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc taking a podium each in the opening two races.

However, after a weekend off to reflect and review their opening performances, the likes of Mercedes and McLaren will arrive down under with hopes of taking significant steps forward at an Albert Park Circuit that has key differences to Jeddah despite being another high-speed layout.

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Fernando Alonso is tagged by Carlos Sainz which causes a long line of accidents at the second race restart and brings out yet another red flag!

“I’m really looking forward to the race, I really am,” Davidson told the Sky Sports F1 Podcast.

“I think we’ve had a bit of a snapshot of different cars’ and drivers’ performances around two quite different circuits in Bahrain and Jeddah, but now we’ve come to Melbourne, a parkland circuit which is very high speed, a bit higher speed actually than Jeddah and puts the car slightly into a different window even than that of Jeddah.

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“So a different surface as well which produces quite a bit of grip, a bit more of a front-limited circuit, so lots of different nuances to the track in Melbourne that I think could really shake up the order.

“Particularly when it comes to stuff like downforce levels that we saw how much of a difference it was from Bahrain to Jeddah, and then Melbourne sits slightly higher speed, so requires a little bit of a difference from the downforce once again, and hopefully you’ll see a bit more of a shake-up in the order because of that.”

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Highlights of the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park Circuit.

C5 tyre to provide qualifying mystery

Ahead of the action getting under way on Friday, Sky Sports F1’s strategy expert Bernie Collins has analysed some of the key considerations for teams and drivers in Melbourne…

The fact that Albert Park is effectively a street circuit means there are huge gains to be made by drivers as the surface improves throughout each session.

As we return to the traditional F1 weekend format, Saturday’s qualifying is likely to throw up plenty of entertainment with track evolution set to keep most of the field on their toes throughout.

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Alex Albon crashed out of the 2023 Australian GP to cause a first red flag.

Also adding unpredictability, particularly for qualifying, is Pirelli’s decision to allocate the softest possible collection of tyres.

That means that the C5 tyre, the softest available compound that was rarely used in pre-season testing, is set to be used for the first time in competitive action.

While teams will have time to test the tyre out during the three practice sessions, track evolution and the potential for changing conditions in Melbourne are likely to ensure there won’t be anywhere near as much knowledge tyre-wise as there was going into the opening two 2024 qualifying sessions.

Softer tyres to change strategy outlook?

While it will impact qualifying, Pirelli’s decision to bring its softest compounds is more about attempting to create higher levels of tyre degradation during Sunday’s race.

In this generation of design regulations, the track has not provided much of a challenge in this area. In last year’s race, the majority of the field showed they were capable of running the whole race on one set of hard tyres.

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Kevin Magnussen clipped the wall and lost a tyre to bring out the second red flag of last year’s race.

This year, the hard option will be a softer C3 as opposed to the C2 it was then, which is likely to at least ensure the mandatory one stop is needed, and can’t be taken as early in the race as we’ve seen in the last couple of years.

It remains to be seen whether the change will be enough to make a two-stopper a competitive option, while there is of course the possibility that safety car or red flag interruptions could change things completely.

Faster layout to create more drama?

After a stuttering and failed attempt in 2022, a fourth DRS zone was successfully added to an updated Albert Park layout last year.

The changes to the track and extra DRS zone were intended to create better racing at a circuit where overtaking has proved challenging in the past.

While the changes definitely improved the product, Albert Park remains a track position race where a significant pace advantage is required to pull off a pass.

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Check out all the funniest Formula 1 moments from the 2023 Australian GP.

What did happen to spice up last year’s contest was the occurrence of three separate incidents that resulted in red flags.

While crashes for Alex Albon and Kevin Magnussen can’t be directly attributed to the additional DRS zone, the track is as faster than ever before and clearly one where drivers must maintain full focus at all times.

The final red flag, which came at the standing restart following the preceding stoppage, followed an multi-car collision that will remain on the minds of several drivers when they line up on the grid on Sunday.

It will be fascinating to see whether last year’s chaos was something of a freak, or whether this is a track that can continue to offer up major drama.

Sky Sports F1’s live Australian GP schedule

Australian Grand Prix schedule page

Thursday March 21

  • 10.30am: Drivers’ press conference
  • 9.45pm: F3 Practice
  • 10.55pm: F2 Practice

Friday March 22

  • 1am: Australian GP Practice One (session starts at 1.30am)
  • 2.55am: F3 Qualifying
  • 4.45am: Australian GP Practice Two (session starts at 5am)
  • 6.25am: F2 Qualifying
  • 7.15am: The F1 Show
  • 8.30am: Australian GP Practice One highlights
  • 10am: Australian GP practice Two highlights

Saturday March 23

  • 0.10am: F3 Sprint
  • 1.10am: Australian GP Practice Three (session starts at 1.30am)
  • 3.10am: F2 Sprint
  • 4.15am: Australian GP Qualifying build-up
  • 5am: Australian GP Qualifying
  • 7am: Ted’s Qualifying Notebook
  • 7.30am: Australian GP Qualifying highlights
  • 8.30am: Australian GP Qualifying replay (Sky Showcase)
  • 10.30am: Australian GP Qualifying replay
  • 10pm: F3 Feature Race

Sunday March 24

  • 0.30am: F2 Feature Race
  • 3am: Australian GP build-up: Grand Prix Sunday
  • 4am: THE AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX
  • 6am: Australian GP reaction: Chequered flag
  • 7am: Ted’s Notebook
  • 7.30am: Australian GP highlights
  • 8.30am: Australian GP build-up: Grand Prix Sunday replay
  • 9.30am: Australian GP race replay
  • 10am: Australian GP highlights (Sky Showcase)
  • 11.30am: Australian GP reaction: Chequered flag replay

Formula 1’s biggest ever season continues with the Australian Grand Prix this weekend, with Sunday’s race live on Sky Sports F1 at 4am. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership – just £21 a month for 12 months. No contract, cancel anytime

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