Not only are this year’s Formula One drivers heading to Albert Park with machines that are much faster, they will have to balance finding the fringes of the limit in this new era on a track that’s greener than most.
Albert Park isn’t a permanent race track, meaning that as the weekend progresses, the track will get stickier as rubber is laid down. It means that if the physical demand of the new cars wasn’t enough, then hitting the limit on a track without embedded rubber is going to separate the men from the boys.
This is why we think drivers who were around to race in the mid-noughties will prosper early on. Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa will be ones to watch this weekend, they will have memories of racing Formula One cars similar to the current spec. Newcomers like Lance Stroll and Stoffel Vandoorne will have a great deal to manage, as will other drivers who have only known Formula One driving in the past couple of years.
Predictions for the Australian GP:
Pirelli are bringing the Ultrasoft compound to Albert Park for the first time, and there is a mandatory allocation of tyres for the opening five races for each team, so there’s no wiggle room in the rubber department until the Monaco Grand Prix. The asphalt around Albert Park is relatively smooth, so little degradation is expected. This again, means that it might take a bit longer than usual for the circuit to become bedded with rubber.
Pirelli’s head of racing Mario Isola said,
“The teams completed 7427 laps of Barcelona during pre-season testing, using all the compounds but concentrating on the medium and soft tyres, which were the ones best suited to Montmeló. In Melbourne, it’s going to be interesting to collect more data on the ultrasoft and supersoft compounds, which we’ve not been able to fully assess up to now.”
– Mario Isola
The tyre that will be tested the hardest will be the rear-left tyre on each car, but degradation isn’t going to be the biggest concern in the race. A very green track in much quicker machinery will be a greater concern to teams around Albert Park.