The start of the 2007 FIA Formula One World Championship gets underway with the ING Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park on March 18th. Twenty-one weeks since the 2006 season finale in Brazil, the Australian GP takes place on the temporary street course which has hosted the event since 1996. This season marks a return for the event to the position of season opener after the Bahrain GP started the 2006 season.
As befits a temporary course, grip levels are expected to vary significantly during the course of the event and Melbourne's notoriously fickle weather will add to the unpredictability as all 22 competitors line up on Bridgestone tyres for the start of the first race. After months of speculation and countless miles of testing this is where the reality bites with 58 laps of the 5.303 km track. The two dry tyres which will be used for this event are the soft and the medium compounds, both of which have to be used during the course of the race.
Q&A Kees van de Grint, Bridgestone Motorsport Head of Track Engineering Operations:
Q: What are the most significant changes in terms of tyres and tyre regulations for the 2007 season?
Kees van de Grint: The biggest change is that there is no more competition so all drivers have the same tyre and you can ignore the factor of different tyre performance deciding the race. We are also no longer making tyres for a particular chassis or particular driver. Everybody is the same, so the teams have to adjust the car and the driver has to adjust his driving style, to get the best performance out of the tyres.
Q: What particular challenges does Albert Park present?
KvdG: The challenges are not the same as when we are in a competitive tyre environment. Our focus now is to ensure that the tyres are firstly, safe and secondly, consistent with a wide performance window. We are confident the tyres will perform well this weekend. However, what is always a difficult part of the Australian race is that we are never sure about the weather: it could be quite warm, and it could be cold. Also, as the circuit is not a permanent one it will be quite slippery in the beginning.