Guide to the track
The Australian GP was held in Adelaide from 1985 until 1995, before switching to Melbourne. It then became the first rather than last race of the season to avoid a clash with the famous Melbourne Cup horse race, held each November. The only year Melbourne was not the first race of the season was 2006, when the Commonwealth Games caused it to move to third in the calendar and an April slot.
The 58 lap race is run through private parkland on a temporary street track through Melbourne's largest public park, which was originally a swamp, and for thousands of years was a meeting point for the indigenous Wurundjeri people. The park is home to a 300 year old river red gum tree that was one famous meeting point.
The arrival of the Grand Prix in 1996 inevitably created some opposition from those who thought motor racing was not compatible with Albert Park's heritage. However many overlooked the fact that at various times it has been a city dump and an army camp, and in fact the Grand Prix contributed to its rejuvenation.
"Australia is a good place for me personally. I won the race in 2005 and started in second place in 2006 and with a car that was not as competitive as we would have liked, I finished in fifth in 2007. For these reasons, it's a fantastic track for me, but it's also a great track to drive.
"With a combination of short straights, second and third gear chicanes, this 16 turn track requires medium to high downforce and good traction is essential, particularly early on in the weekend when the track is 'green'. It is very slippery on the Friday as it doesn't get used very much over the year, and then conditions just get better and better for the race.
"There are a few chicanes in third gear so you need to have a good car under braking, but don't brake too much so you can still get into the chicane with a good speed. Turns 11 and 12 are quite quick and it's quite hard for the brakes, and the last corner is quite interesting. It's important to be quick but there is always a lot of understeer and the car slides on four wheels.
This year the race will start a bit later at 17:00, so it may be a bit darker at the end of the race, but I don't think this will change a lot for the drivers. In Singapore we raced under the lights and it didn't seem to make a lot of difference from our perspective."
VIEW FROM THE PIT WALL
Chief Race Engineer
The culmination of winter development and car build effort makes Melbourne an exciting and technically challenging race. The Albert Park circuit is hard on brakes and, being a temporary construction, has a constantly changing grip level. The weather offers plenty of variety some for the teams to deal with, from 40deg. heat as in 2008, to rain disturbances from the southern oceanic region.
For the first time ever the race this year will be an evening event, potentially leading to cooler track conditions, however Bridgestone's softer tyre will almost certainly struggle to resist graining and degradation.
One very important fact to remember at this circuit however is the seemingly annual first corner accident where nearly five months of anticipation can be over in a few seconds. We have often seen safety cars in Melbourne, and it could figure again in this year's race, and the change to the regulations could particularly mix things up.
VINTAGE AUSTRALIA MOMENTS...
The first Australian GP in Melbourne in 1996 saw Jacques Villeneuve take pole for his first ever F1 start, although in the race he had a problem and handed victory to team-mate Damon Hill. However the race is perhaps best remembered for the spectacular accident that saw Martin Brundle's Jordan roll out of the race on the first lap.
-credit: force india