The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team is taking to the race track this weekend for the first time in its new era. Double World Champion Fernando Alonso and team-mate Lewis Hamilton have completed their pre-season test programme with the MP4-22s covering more than 13,300km before arriving in Australia. Fernando and Lewis completed 10,200km, with Pedro totalling 3,100km.
FOUR FAST FACTS
When did the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team arrive in Australia?
The first section of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team's infrastructure arrived in Australia by sea freight during the week commencing 26th February, having left the McLaren Technology Centre on 10th January. This was followed by the air freight, which departed Woking on Friday 9th. The team members began landing on Sunday 11th March, with Fernando arriving in Melbourne on Monday 12th direct from Europe and Lewis on Wednesday 14th having spent time on the Gold Coast.
What are the main tasks of the team between arrival and the first track action on Friday?
Upon arrival in Melbourne, the first task for the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team is to locate the freight and start the process of setting up the team's garage and office areas. This process begins on Sunday 11th March with an initial recce and is completed by end of play on Monday 12th. The crews for Fernando, Lewis and the T Car arrive on Monday and Tuesday and commence the process of preparing the MP4-22s for the Grand Prix.
The three MP4-22s travel to Australia with the front and rear wings, steering wheels, wing mirrors and side deflector panels removed. A protective wooden floor and sides are built round the car, with a bumper at the rear to protect the gearbox. A travel nosebox and tyres are also fitted. For the drivers, work begins on Wednesday with Pedro attending a Mercedes-Benz event at the Philip Island track. Fernando and Lewis join Pedro for a team event at a beach front restaurant in Melbourne on Thursday, before arriving at the Albert Park track early afternoon to walk the track with their engineers and participate in the first technical meeting of the Grand Prix.
Are there any specific challenges that arise from having two new drivers in the team?
The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team has spent time during the winter season with Fernando and Lewis acclimatising everyone involved to the team and building one integrated unit. There are no specific challenges, it is more a process of learning and having two new drivers has provided an added element of motivation. Both drivers have been working closely with their race engineers, Fernando with Mark Slade and Lewis with Phil Prew, during testing and at the McLaren Technology Centre. During the Grands Prix, Fernando will have Steve Hallam as his contact on the pit wall, whilst Lewis will be speaking with Richard Hopkirk.
What are the key characteristics of the Albert Park Circuit?
The track is located in Melbourne's Albert Park in a city centre location and is part permanent race track part public roads. The track is partly lined with concrete walls, meaning precision is key. The grip levels are low at the start of the Grand Prix weekend, improving as the dust is cleaned up. With 16 corners, the track has a stop / go nature and is as tough on brakes as Monza. Downforce levels are medium to high. Overtaking opportunities include Turn One and the flow through into the second bend.
"Having spent the winter getting to know my new team and new car, I feel really at home and am very motivated to start racing. I always enjoy Australia, there is a great atmosphere and I am excited to get out there and see where we are compared to the other teams."
"There are a lot of new things in the sport this season such as new rules, all teams running on Bridgestone Potenzas, drivers changing teams. Everyone is starting from zero and it is going to make things very interesting. Am I going to go out at Albert Park and win my first race with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes? We are certainly going to push hard to try."
"Taking to the grid Australia is the end of one journey for me and the start of an even bigger one. I have been working incredibly hard towards this moment over the past few months, testing, physical training, working with the engineers at the McLaren Technology Centre and studying the regulations. I feel I have the experience I need and I definitely feel ready to get out there."
"This year will be a learning curve for me, Albert Park is one of the seven new tracks I'll be racing on, but it is not a huge problem more an exciting challenge. I have always enjoyed street circuits, so it is great to start my career in Formula 1 with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes here."
Martin Whitmarsh, CEO Formula 1, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes:
"Building up to this race, everyone within the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team has been pushing through a concentrated period of learning and development with the MP4- 22. We have completed over 13,300kms over 36 track days with the car. Pre-season testing has been productive, but it is always difficult to determine the true competitive performance and the eagerness to get the car racing within the organisation is palpable."
"This is also felt by our Partners, their technology and support as we have approached this season has been vital. The race also marks the Grand Prix debut with our new Title Sponsor Vodafone. It is going to be an exciting championship and we intend to play a major part in it."
Norbert Haug, Vice President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport:
"At the start of the season in Australia we have a lot of new things to offer. The World Champion of the last two years, Fernando Alonso, is now driving for our team. Lewis Hamilton is a very talented young man who as an up-and-coming driver has been an integral part of our system for almost ten years. The team's new Title Sponsor Vodafone is a great partner and a global player, which has the same objectives as we."
"However, prior to the start of the season, 'new' does not mean untried, as the team has tested more intensively than ever before and has completed more test kilometres than before every other season opener so far. During the past six months, the technicians and mechanics for both chassis and engines had to cope with great challenges."
"Their efforts to prepare for a successful season were as exemplary as the work of test and race teams during the 19 test days between 17th January in Valencia and 1st March in Bahrain. I thank all involved for their great commitment. It's obvious what would be the best reward for all these efforts and it would be even better to receive it already in the first race of the season in Melbourne, as it has happened already three times before."