Autralian Grand Prix, Melbourne The Australian Grand Prix sees the start of the 2002 FIA Formula One World Championship and a new phase in Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda's development. This is the first Grand Prix with new Team Principal David...
Autralian Grand Prix, Melbourne
The Australian Grand Prix sees the start of the 2002 FIA Formula One World Championship and a new phase in Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda's development. This is the first Grand Prix with new Team Principal David Richards at the helm and he is very clear about the team's new direction.
It was at the Albert Park circuit back in 2000 where the team secured its first World Championship points with Jacques Villeneuve finishing in fourth place. Since that time, the team have enjoyed two podium finishes but have yet to reach their ultimate goal of a race win.
Jacques Villeneuve, who celebrates his 100th Grand Prix start this weekend, is no stranger to success in Melbourne. He drove in his first Grand Prix here in 1996, starting from pole, finishing second - despite leading for 51 of the 58 laps - and setting the fastest lap of the race. Olivier Panis also made his team debut here in 2001 but was disappointed to finish just outside the points in seventh. Jacques, Olivier and the test drivers covered over 7046kms in pre-season testing, so the team are confident they have done as much as they can to prepare for this first race.
David Richards, Team Principal
"It will be a couple of years before we have all the ingredients in place to consistently beat the top teams. It is too early to say exactly how we will perform this year but it is our clear objective to demonstrate that we can compete effectively against the top three teams. As we strengthen our resources, I would hope to begin battling for wins next year, and to be a title contender in 2004.
"The only way that we will achieve these ambitious objectives is with a close co-operation with Honda. They share our vision for the future and we are jointly pushing ourselves to the limit. The fruits of our collaboration will become more apparent as the year progresses.
"In the same way, we have a golden opportunity with Bridgestone to capitalise on their increased focus this year. It is only through partnerships such as this that the team can raise itself to a new level of competition."
Jacques Villeneuve on the Australian Grand Prix
"It's exciting to get back into the season. After all our testing the car feels a lot better and we have found that we can attack the corners and carry speed into them, whereas last year that wasn't possible.
"I like Melbourne a lot. The circuit is difficult to drive and quite technical with some interesting corners. It's also quite long at over 5kms."
"Although Melbourne has some happy memories for me, I was deeply affected by the tragedy of last year. Throughout the weekend, our thoughts will remain with those involved."
Olivier Panis on the Australian Grand Prix
"The winter testing and my own training regime have been tough, but fun - I have only had one week off since the end of last season. All the hard work in testing seems to have paid off because the new car has better grip. Mechanically, it is a big improvement for low-speed and high-speed circuits. I feel more confident with the car so I can push harder. We also have a completely new engine from Honda who have made a big effort over the close season.
"I don't think the circuit is the best we visit as it is very slippery, especially on the first day. It is only used for the one race a year so Friday is never an easy day for finding a good set-up."
Race Distance - 58 Laps. 191.158 miles (307.574km)
Circuit Length - 3.296 miles (5.303km)
Race Start - 14.00 local time (03.00 GMT)
This will be the seventh Australian Grand Prix at the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne, although the race's history goes back to 1985 when the first of eleven races were held round a street circuit in Adelaide, South Australia Only seven of the current Grand Prix drivers raced in Adelaide and Olivier Panis was one of them. He has good reason to remember the races there in '94 and '95 as he finished fifth and second respectively.
Melbourne is another street circuit and, although the track itself is not amongst the drivers' all time favourites, the venue certainly is. The track is to the south of the city and only a few minutes drive from the sea and white sandy beaches. The Australians always know how to welcome the Grand Prix circus, however, this year, they have special reason to be excited - for the first time since 1986 there will be an Australian driving in the Australian Grand Prix as Mark Webber makes his debut.