To finish first Melbourne, 26th February - When the 2002 FIA Formula One World Championship kicks off in Melbourne, March 3rd, Scuderia Ferrari-Marlboro will be looking for nothing short of a win to launch their hat-trick hopes of a third ...
To finish first
Melbourne, 26th February - When the 2002 FIA Formula One World Championship kicks off in Melbourne, March 3rd, Scuderia Ferrari-Marlboro will be looking for nothing short of a win to launch their hat-trick hopes of a third consecutive World Championship title.
Ferrari will also be defending their 2001 victory at the Australian circuit that saw Michael Schumacher take an impressive win in last year's race. With 17 races throughout the season, early points scored in the first three fly-away races at the start of the year can often make or break a season for a team. Reliability in the opening races is a vital ingredient to a successful season, which is why Ferrari have decided to race last year's 2001 Championship winning car rather than their latest 2002 challenger launched just a few weeks before the start of the season.
Despite impressive initial testing results and a new lap record at Fiorano with the new car, which features and all new gearbox system as well as many other detail improvements, the difficult decision to race last year's car in the opening event has been made for several reasons.
New testing regulations that have limited the amount of testing time over the winter period, which has meant less testing time available for the new car and its components. Also, the fact that the 2001 car is still capable of running competitive lap times against its main opposition, has made the decision to leave the new car at home an easier one.
Running last year's chassis should also make things a bit easier for the team in the opening races. They have a full year of successful race data to fall back on when it comes to setting up the 2001 car for qualifying or the race. It should also be easier for the team to tune their cars into the latest Bridgestone tyre development, which has made big steps forward since the car last appeared in Australia.
Although Melbourne's Albert Park circuit is a "street" track, it has many of the attributes of a permanent track with an interesting mix of high and low speed corners which makes it quite a technically demanding track to prepare for. Good mechanical grip as well as aerodynamic grip is vital for good performance through the slower sections of the track, while good straight-line speed is essential to have any chance to overtake on this hard-to-pass circuit.
Similar to Canada's Montreal's circuit, the cars brakes are particularly solicited around the Melbourne track and a lot of attention has to be paid to brake preparation during the two days of free practice before the race. Another point which the Ferrari engineers will also have well in hand for this opening race is the possibility of high temperatures. For many teams it will be their first opportunity of running their new cars in high ambient temperatures, which can cause a lot of cooling related problems. Once again, the 2001 chassis has experienced all kinds of operating conditions in the past 12 months and should hold no surprises for the team.
Although winning races is never easy, Ferrari are hoping to increase their chances of taking their first win of the season by eliminating a lot of the unknowns that running a new car in its first race can create. The old motor racing saying, "To finish first, first you have to finish," still rings as true today for Ferrari as it did 50 years ago.