Australian 2013 F1 Grand Prix preview

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    Mark Webber's time at the top was sadly overshadowed. (Image: Red Bull Racing)

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    The Aus­tralian Grand Prix this week­end ush­ers in the final sea­son of For­mula One’s V8-era.

    This will be the 18th event held at Melbourne’s Albert Park and, as ever, the major­ity of the pad­dock is greet­ing the trip Down Under with over­whelm­ing enthusiasm.

    Notions of 2013 rep­re­sent­ing a tran­si­tional cam­paign ahead of the V6 turbo-era will be dis­pelled as soon as the first car exits pit­lane and turns a wheel around the 5.3km cir­cuit in anger.

    Teams and dri­vers will see this sea­son as a golden oppor­tu­nity to dethrone Red Bull, still rid­ing high after achiev­ing the ‘triple-double’ dri­vers and con­struc­tors’ titles three years run­ning, cour­tesy of Sebas­t­ian Vet­tel and tech­ni­cal mas­ter­mind Adrian Newey.

    The Mil­ton Keynes-based out­fit has gone to extreme lengths to keep the RB9 under wraps through­out the pre-season, notably restrict­ing pho­tog­ra­phy at the car launch.

    The con­sen­sus is that the squad delib­er­ately left much to be desired dur­ing test­ing, hav­ing fig­ured a long way off pace­set­ters Mer­cedes over the final two days of the last test at Barcelona.

    Bottom-line, it would be no sur­prise to see one or both Red Bull cars on the front-row of the grid come Sunday.

    On the sub­ject of test­ing, never in recent mem­ory has a pre-season left onlook­ers as clue­less to the true order, with the afore­men­tioned Mer­cedes, Lotus, Fer­rari, McLaren and Red Bull, as well as the Williams and Sauber pack­ages look­ing handy.

    It won’t be until Q3 on Sat­ur­day evening at the ear­li­est, and pos­si­bly as late as the first race on Euro­pean soil in May (iron­i­cally at Barcelona), such is the nature of the fly­away events, that we will know how gen­uine the pace of these out­fits is.

    Jen­son But­ton has plenty of rea­son to be con­fi­dent head­ing into this week­end, hav­ing tri­umphed at Mel­bourne three times over the past four seasons.

    The two men who fought out last year’s title have just one vic­tory apiece Down Under, Fer­nando Alonso in 2006 and Sebas­t­ian Vet­tel in 2011.

    Lotus pair­ing Kimi Raikko­nen and Romain Gros­jean didn’t enjoy as much run­ning through­out test­ing as is ideal, but they will have no doubt been enthused by the pace of the E21 when reli­a­bil­ity wasn’t a fac­tor, the for­mer hav­ing won here in 2007 on debut for Ferrari.

    Lewis Hamil­ton has changed his tone dras­ti­cally in the past weeks fol­low­ing the final test, the Mer­cedes eye-catching times a far cry from the drum the Briton was beat­ing fol­low­ing his crash on his first day in the W04 at Jerez.

    Hamil­ton claimed vic­tory at Mel­bourne in 2008, hav­ing debuted so spec­tac­u­larly a sea­son ear­lier when he fin­ished third.

    Mark Web­ber hasn’t stood on the podium, let alone tasted vic­tory, dur­ing his 11 out­ings on home soil, his best result a fourth place last year. If the Aus­tralian can get the job done on Sat­ur­day and avoid one of his chron­i­cally dis­as­trous starts, this could be the year he holds a tro­phy of some descrip­tion aloft in front of his compatriots.

    Ser­gio Perez is a man who needs to make an early impres­sion as he is thrown under the spot­light asso­ci­ated with the big four out­fits. The Mex­i­can impressed on sev­eral occa­sions last sea­son, but in a McLaren, he will need to do so on every occasion.

    A dark horse looms in the form of the man who replaced Perez at Sauber in the form of Nico Hulken­berg, who many claim was unlucky to miss out on the McLaren seat when Lewis Hamil­ton announced his depar­ture. A future drive at Fer­rari looms if the Ger­man hits the ground running.

    Williams has big wraps on debu­tant Valt­teri Bot­tas, who is joined by a return­ing Pas­tor Mal­don­ado, and with an ambi­tious car in the FW35. These two could fea­ture promi­nently inside the top ten.

    The extreme weather doesn’t look like being as much of a fac­tor as first feared, in con­junc­tion with Pirelli’s noto­ri­ously fickle rub­ber, caus­ing all sorts of chaos dur­ing test­ing with rapid wear, appar­ently even more extreme than last season.

    It looms as a week­end where we will learn as we go, with half the field real­is­ti­cally in a posi­tion to chal­lenge for a podium.

    Until then, best to let the on-track action do the talking!


    First: Jen­son Button

    Second: Kimi Raikko­nen

    Third: Sebas­t­ian Vettel

    Fourth: Fer­nando Alonso

    Fifth: Lewis Hamil­ton

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    The Crowd Says (2)

    • March 13th 2013 @ 1:54pm
      Tlux said | March 13th 2013 @ 1:54pm | ! Report

      I think the story of the weekend is going to be the Pirelli’s.

      Bringing Super Softs to Australia is going to spice up the action.
      Coupled with one of the slowest pitlane transit times.

      Cars up the front will try for a conservative 2 stopper using a track position strategy, but a fast finishing 3 or even 4 stopper from a car outside of Q3 could really spice up the action in the final 10 laps with track temp dropping.

    • March 14th 2013 @ 10:58am
      Kimi the ice(cream) man said | March 14th 2013 @ 10:58am | ! Report

      Forecasted high temp of 18 degrees for Sunday!! Get the softs out of the way and run supersofts as much as possible… assuming they don’t fall off too quickly on a cold track!

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