2015 Australian Grand Prix Preview
“Melbourne means the same thing every year: racing! After a long winter of preparation, it’s always good to see the lights go out and get the season underway. It’ll be fascinating to see how we stack up against the opposition.”
“Although the circumstances are not ideal, I’m thrilled to be racing in Australia. It’s a race that I have fond memories of from last year and I’m excited to see what the MP4-30 can do around Albert Park. The car felt a step forward from last year when I drove it in testing.”
Albert Park, situated in the southern suburbs of Melbourne, hosts its 20th Australian Grand Prix in 2015. The track runs in a clockwise direction around a lake and it has a relatively slow average speed, being made up of predominantly second and third-gear corners.
This being the only race weekend of the year at the circuit, the asphalt is very slippery to begin with. Conditions improve as Pirelli’s soft and medium-compound tyres leave their mark and grip levels usually become consistent by the end of Friday practice.
There’s one change to the schedule from previous years: the 58-lap race will start at 16:00 (05:00GMT), which is one hour earlier than last season.
Albert Park facts & stats
Australian Grand Prix
|Start time||16:00 (local)/05:00 (GMT)|
|Race distance||58 laps (full world championship points awarded at 75% distance/43.5 laps)|
|2014 winner||Nico Rosberg|
|2014 pole position||Lewis Hamilton 1m44.231s, 183.159km/h (wet)|
|2014 fastest lap||Nico Rosberg, lap 19, 1m32.478s, 206.436km/h|
|Chances of a Safety Car||High. Six of the last seven races have been interrupted by the Safety Car, and the 2009 Australian Grand Prix (won by Jenson Button) even finished behind it.|
|When not to put the kettle on||Laps 10 to 12 and 35 to 40. Last year’s race was won using a two-stop strategy, with most front-runners pitting during these laps|
|Weather forecast||Unpredictable. It’s autumn in Melbourne, so you regularly get four seasons in one day. Ambient temperatures are usually around 20 degrees at this time of year.|
|First race||1996 (first Australian GP: 1985)|
|Circuit length||5.303km/3.295 miles|
|Run to Turn One||350 metres|
|Longest straight||860 metres, on the approach to Turn One|
|Top speed||305km/h, on the start-finish straight|
|DRS zones||Two – the first on the approach to Turn One, the second on the approach to Turn Three|
|Key corner||The Esses at Turns 11 and 12. Minimum speed 225km/h and the track drops away at the exit, so it’s easy to run wide|
|Pitlane length||280 metres, estimated time loss 21 seconds|
|Significant circuit changes for 2015||None|
|Fuel consumption||1.7kg per lap. This is the second highest fuel consumption figure of the season, due to the short bursts of acceleration from low speeds|
|Full throttle||61 per cent of the lap; the longest flat-out section is 843 metres|
|Brake wear||High. There are seven big stops from speeds of more than 230km/h|
|Gear changes||56 per lap / 3248 per race|
|Lap time improvement in 2014||2.465 seconds
FP1 best – 1m31.840s
FP2 best – 1m29.625s
FP3 best – 1m29.375s. It rained during qualifying last year, so lap times were slower
|Did you know?||Albert Park hosted the non-championship Australian Grand Prix between 1953 and ’58. Unlike today, the circuit ran in an anti-clockwise direction.|
Technical words of wisdom
Jonathan Neale, Chief Operating Officer and acting CEO
“Historically, the biggest technical challenge that the teams face in Melbourne is ride quality. We’ve been testing in cold conditions, on cold tyres, in Europe and we immediately face ride quality problems when we get to Albert Park. Effectively, it’s the car bumping. The pitch oscillation on the car and the particular nature of the straight in Melbourne provides a real challenge: aerodynamicists want to run the car stiff and engineers want to run it as soft as possible. Somewhere in the middle of all that lies a ride quality issue.”
McLaren at the Australian Grand Prix
|Wins||11 (Adelaide: 1986, 1988, 1991, 1992, 1993. Melbourne: 1997, 1998, 2003, 2008, 2010, 2012)|
|Poles||10 (Adelaide: 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 199. Melbourne: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2008, 2012)|
|Fastest laps||8 (Adelaide: 1988, 1991. Melbourne: 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2012)|
Memorable Australian Grand Prix: 1986
Arguably the most exciting race of the ’80s. Three drivers entered the season-finale with a shot at the title: Nigel Mansell (70 points), Alain Prost (64) and Nelson Piquet (63). The Williams drivers locked out the front row of the grid, with Prost (McLaren) lining up fourth.
Mansell’s title chances blew up when his right-rear tyre exploded at 180mph, leaving Williams with no option other than to pit Piquet for precautionary fresh rubber. Prost took the lead and won the race by four seconds, giving him his second world title.
#22 Jenson Button
|Age||35 (January 19 1980)|
|Best result in Australia:||1st (2009, 2010, 2012)|
“I’m so excited to be back in Melbourne. After the ups and downs of 2014, I feel that the challenge of 2015 is a completely new chapter in my career and I’m totally up for it. I also love Melbourne – it’s a fantastic city with great people and the atmosphere is always buzzing – Albert Park is the perfect place for the season-opener.
“While we know the city and the circuit well, what is more of an unknown is how we will fare in the MP4-30. McLaren-Honda has been working incredibly hard over the winter, and although we would of course have liked to cover more miles in Jerez and Barcelona, I can definitely see a difference in the car from the first day to the last. The team’s commitment to development and improvement, both in Woking and in Japan, is astonishing, and despite some tricky days in testing, we are seeing definitive progress. The car is a solid base which gives me optimism that we will get there, we just need patience.
“Melbourne is always a fascinating spectacle: nobody quite knows where they’ll be in comparison to their rivals, and even though the other teams are now in the second year of the turbo era, all of the development from last year has been done very much behind the scenes, so I don’t think anyone has quite shown their full hand yet. The race at Albert Park will be a huge learning curve for us, but I’ll be working flat-out with my engineers to get the car set up as best we can, and together, we’ll fight right until the last moment to get the most out of the weekend.
“Fernando not being able to race is a real shame and I hope he makes a speedy recovery so that he can get behind the wheel again very soon. It’s great to see Kevin back in the car though and I’ll know he’ll do a great job in Fernando’s absence, so I wish him well this weekend.”
#20 Kevin Magnussen
|Age||22 (October 05 1992)|
|Best result in Australia:||2nd (2014)|
“I’m really pleased to be behind the wheel with McLaren-Honda at Melbourne again. Of course, the reason I am here is an unusual one, but my job is to do the best job I can for the team while Fernando is out of the cockpit, and that's what I'll do.
“To be back in Melbourne is a fantastic feeling, especially as those memories of my podium here last year are incredibly special and something I’ll never forget. I loved racing on this circuit last year and I’m really looking forward to getting back out on track in Friday practice to continue the development of our car here. Although we had some challenges in Barcelona, overall the MP4-30 felt very positive and certainly different from last year’s car, in a good way.
“Of course, we aren’t expecting to win here, but my focus is on setting up the car for race conditions and pushing our progress forward. I’ll be working hard with my engineers to give them as much valuable feedback as possible so that they can keep developing the car and improving our performance and reliability.
“Although I didn’t expect to be sitting in the cockpit in Australia, I’ve spent the winter preparing as I would normally for a race season, so I feel fit and ready for the task ahead of me and to do the best I can for the team. It’s a fantastic opportunity for me to get more mileage under my belt in the MP4-30, and this will in turn benefit the team over the coming months as I work with the team back in Woking. The racing is sure to be unpredictable here at the start of the new season, and it’ll be really interesting to find out where we compare to the rest of the grid, but I’m definitely up for the challenge.”
#14 Fernando Alonso
|Age||33 (July 29 1981)|
|Best result in Australia:||1st (2006)|
“Of course, I’m very disappointed not to be joining Jenson in Melbourne in the McLaren-Honda garage, but I understand the recommendations of the doctors and I’m already back in training and preparing for my first race in the MP4-30. I would like to thank everybody for their kind wishes and support and I’ll be giving everything to be back in the cockpit for Malaysia. I wish Kevin all the best for this weekend in Australia, and I know the car is in his safe hands!
“Even though we faced a lot of challenges in the tests, I am very encouraged by the feeling I got from the car, and I’m looking forward to going through all of the data from this weekend with the team to continue our push for development and improve our performance.”
Eric Boullier - Racing director, McLaren-Honda
“The Australian Grand Prix marks the culmination of a huge amount of hard work and dedication from everyone within McLaren-Honda. It’s been a relatively short winter for us and there have proven to be testing times, but I am confident that we are moving forwards, and the race in Melbourne is just the beginning of a huge development in performance throughout the season.
“It is obviously disappointing that we weren’t able to do as many kilometres in testing as we had hoped, but we are undeterred and working relentlessly to improve the reliability of the MP4-30, and ultimately, make progress in terms of our raw pace. Despite our difficulties, our package shows a lot of promise; we completed a lot of valuable system checks and set-up work during testing, and the data from Jenson’s 101 laps on the second day of the final test in Barcelona is very encouraging.
“Of course, how this will translate to the Albert Park circuit, and especially relative to our competitors, is a difficult question, but there is complete focus, commitment and dedication from everyone in the team and we are very excited to debut the McLaren-Honda MP4-30 on track. I am confident in the progress we have made so far to get to this point, but we know there is a long road ahead in terms of our development and every kilometre will count.
“It’s a great feeling to be back in Melbourne; it’s a wonderful city and there is always a huge amount of excitement around at the start of the new season, for both the fans and the teams. Even more so this year, since this is the beginning of my second year at McLaren and the start of a new era with McLaren-Honda. We are ready for the challenge ahead of us, and cannot wait for the car to roll out of the garage this weekend for the first time at a Grand Prix; it will be a very poignant moment for the whole team.”
Yasuhisa Arai - Chief Officer of Motorsport, Honda R&D Co Ltd
"I am truly excited to see how our season and the new era will begin.
“The winter testing felt very short, and we did not have enough time to test how our newly developed power unit will fit the track. However, every day we gained essential feedback from the power unit, and it has been evolving ever since Jerez to Barcelona, and now to Melbourne.
“We look forward to testing ourselves on track, and seeing what we can achieve."