The new F1 season is just around the corner, time to start with Australian GP previews. There is only one rookie on the grid this year so we already know, or should know, what we can expect from the drivers. The big unknown however are the teams. Before they show us their true pace this Saturday and Sunday we can only guess where they are based on their winter testing form. I attempted to rank them after Barcelona test, and here is how I see them after the final test in Jerez. I decided to divide the teams into 4 groups – top, in between, midfield and back of the grid.
The introduction of KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) into Formula 1 has turned into rather controversial issue. One hand this brainchild of Max Mosley is here to show to the outside world how green and road relevant F1 can be. On the other hand this for F1 new technology has been a massive drain on financial resources of the teams at the time when FIA , FOTA and even Bernie Ecclestone talk about need to drastically reduce the cost of Formula One.
Melbourne, Montreal, Valencia, Singapore – these were my 2008 Formula 1 destinations. Melbourne and Montreal were new for me, Valencia and Singapore new even to Formula 1. Montreal and Singapore were also 2 of only 4 sell out races in 2008. Here is a mini photo review of the events that unfolded in front of me and my Nikon in 2008:
We expect some big changes in the look of the Formula 1 cars in 2009 but as the season progresses the cars change even without new rules. Let’s have a look how the 2008 F1 cars looked in Melbourne and compare them with their look in Brazil:
Ferrari – Melbourne
Both Victoria state Premier John Brumby and Bernie Ecclestone confirmed today that new deal has been reached to keep the Australian GP in Melbourne until 2015. The race will start at 5pm to better suit European audiences. Not sure how happy the local opposition will be after hearing this news, but from a visitor point of view I can say – Great news !
To see how it was in Australia this year, check my posts from 2008 Australian GP:
I realized this weekend that the 2008 Australian GP was the 10th Formula 1 race I went to. As I am getting ready for my 11th in about 1 month time this may be a good opportunity to recap the events that happened at the races I went to:
2004 Chinese Grand Prix
– Jacques Villeneuve returned to F1 with Renault
– In a taxi on the way to track I opened the China Daily paper I found in the hotel room. And there it was, small article announcing that Ford is leaving F1 at the end of the season. Jaguar is left looking for new owner, Jordan and Minardi start wondering what engines will they use…
– Rubens Barrichello wins his last Formula 1 race (this is true at the time of writing).
2005 Malaysian Grand Prix
– Takuma Sato got sick and Anthony Davidson raced for BAR-Honda instead
– Both BAR-Honda drivers, Button and Davidson, famously retired on lap 2 after engine failures
– Jacques Villeneuve spun off in front of me in Turn 1 and beached the car in gravel
– Jarno Trulli scored first ever podium for Toyota
2005 Chinese Grand Prix
– in the hotel room I read Red Bull is buying Minardi
– this race turned out to be the last race for Minardi, Jordan, Sauber and BAR in their former selves
– this was also last race for Barrichello in Ferrari and probably last Formula 1 race for Narain Karthikeyan
– Michael Schumacher colided with Christijan Albers… on the warm up lap …
– Juan Pablo Montoya colided with a loose manhole cover
– Narain Karthikeyan crashed heavily just after the banked corner leading to the long back straight
2006 Malaysian Grand Prix
– First 1-2 finish for Renault since they took the team over from Benneton
2006 German Grand Prix
– Jacques Villeneuve again crashed out in front of me in what turned out to be his last Formula 1 race, I saw the last of the former F1 champ in Formula 1
– some of my photos here
First two races, more than 10% of the season are behind us. Ron Dennis may claim that only Spanish GP will show the true form of the teams but why wait. Let’s look at who has been good and who has not so far.
BMW Sauber – They had worrying start to their winter tests with their new car but how they turned things around. Fernando Alonso considered them to be the dark horses of the 2008 season and it looks like he has been right. The team may not be yet ready to mount the title challenge. But they are surprisingly close to the pace of McLarens. It may not be impossible to score a race win on merit later on this season. And with the current reliability and Massa woes Ferrari are experiencing, the maiden win may not be too far.
Toyota – Surprise surprise. But looking back to team’s performance in the last winter test it perhaps should not be that unexpected. Jarno Trulli claims they are now 4th best team (same claim Rosberg has about Williams). I would not probably say that. But Toyota firmly claimed their place in stronger end of the midfield, along with Williams and Red Bull.
As you may have realized from my few previous posts and from the photos I came to Melbourne to see the opening race of the 2008 Formula 1 season. Last few years I went to Sepang, 5 hours shorter trip, but this time I decided to go to Melbourne and see how Aussies do it.
First I was a bit disapointed with not too much information about and promotion of the Grand Prix in Melbourne. But that is where for me as a fan the disapointments ended.
The biggest issue I usually face when coming to the race is the logistic of actually getting to the race. That is not an issue in Melbourne at all. Of course the location of the track in the city helps a lot but you still have to get there somehow. Over the whole course of the F1 weekend there were special tram services to and from the Albert Park. And as I found out from a very talkative taxi driver and got confirmed by the tram people, the F1 ticket was all that was needed to ride on public transport …
The races in Shanghai and Sepang may have excellent purpose built facilities, but try to get something decent to eat or drink there … That is not an issue at all in Melbourne. All over the F1 venue there are plenty of places serving all sorts of food, 5-6 different beers, wine, Lavazza coffee. In direct contrast with the greed of Mr. Ecclestone there is free drinking water all around the Albert Park. And that sure came very handy during the hot F1 weekend this year.
1. Lewis Hamilton – McLaren Mercedes– 1:34:50.616
2. Nick Heidfeld – BMW Sauber + 5.478
3. Nico Rosberg – Williams + 8.163
4. Fernando Alonso – Renault +17.181
5. Heikki Kovalainen – McLaren Mercedes +18.014
6. Kazuki Nakajima – Williams + 1 lap
7. Sebastien Bourdais – Toro Rosso + 2 laps
8. Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari + 3 laps
Race report will follow later today.
It was much more pleasant today. The temperatures dropped by more than 10 degrees. But season seems to be off to hot start .
The free practice was unlike any I have seen or heard of as far as I can remember. There were at one stage 20 cars within 1 second … Only two Super Aguris lagged behind. At the end the timesheets looked strange – Kubica fastest, no Ferrari, no McLaren top ten. Heidfeld and Webber were quick to dismiss any possibility of two front running teams being in trouble. Webber said something like “it is only practice, they simply do not need to practice as much as we do”.
Then the qualifying began .
The sun was too strong and unfortunately I was facing it most of the time, so taking good pictures from my position today was quite tough. Here is the initial collection showing all 22 Formula 1 drivers on their first outing in 2008 Formula 1 season:
And it has started ! The engines fired up this morning in Melbourne, the new season is officially here !
I overslept a bit and arrived about half hour late to the track. And the first thing I saw, my first Formula 1 picture of the 2008 season is the blown engine of David Coulthard . As this was the first photo, the quality is not too good, it took me a while to get used to the very bright sun … More photos from Melbourne coming up later …
The weather during first practice session was very hot, the air temperature was 37 degrees. Surprisingly the track temperature was only about 40 … Most of the cars ran on the harder tyres saving the soft ones for later.
The drivers may say that the removal of driver aids does not make much difference to them, but the difference is very obvious on the track. The cars slide in the corners, many drivers were loosing their rears. I haven’t seen that many off the track excursions an any of the races I went to in past few years …
The cars do sound better, the ugly traction control cracking sounds are gone .
The second practice brought some surprising names higher up the order – Webber, Coulthard, Fisichella. This however has to be taken with caution. The teams were experimenting with tyres, running longer runs, carrying heavier fuel. So far I am not any smarter than I was yesterday. Ferrari and McLaren are clearly quick. Toyta seems to be quicker than people thought. Button is higher than perhaps expected. Red Bull, Williams, Renault, BMW all strong as predicted. But for clear indication of the form at the start of the 2008 seasn we have to wait till tomorrow’s qualifying …
From the reports from the pit lane during the session, it looks like the softer tyres deteriorated very quickly in todays conditions. But one has to remember that the actual race will start at 3:30pm – that is the time today’s sessions ended. By that time the temperatures were already much cooler.
Here are the Friday times from Melbourne: