Christian Klien believes the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne's Albert Park is a clear favourite with drivers as the starting point for the FIA Formula One World Championship; the combination of the street circuit-style track, the Australian...
Christian Klien believes the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne's Albert Park is a clear favourite with drivers as the starting point for the FIA Formula One World Championship; the combination of the street circuit-style track, the Australian fans, good weather and the people-friendly paddock giving it a unique atmosphere.
Christian has raced in Albert Park on three occasions, starting in 2004 when he made his Formula One debut for Jaguar Racing one month after celebrating his 21st birthday. His best result came in 2005 when he qualified his RBR-Cosworth 6th and finished the race in 7th, but the current BMW Sauber F1 Team Test and Reserve Driver remembers what it was like for a young driver making his debut in Australia.
"I remember my first weekend very well because I had been testing all winter and finally I arrived here for my first Grand Prix. I liked the circuit immediately and remember the first time I drove my car out onto the track for free practice; that was a very special moment. I also remember being amazed to see how many fans there were, and being surprised also that everyone knew who I was; that is something you don't expect!"
Regarding the track itself, Christian knows the 5.303kms circuit with its 16 turns intimately, the 25-year-old Austrian regarding it as one of his favourite venues.
"Albert Park is basically a street circuit. They only have a race here once a year, and the rest of the time most of the roads are either being used by the public or else closed. As a result there is no grip at all. It is very slippery, particularly on Friday and Saturday, and this means that from Friday to Sunday the track conditions will change every day. As a driver you have to work closely with the team in order to adapt the car to the circuit as it changes. Also, the track is not just slippery in terms of the surface, but because of the large number of yellow and white lines used to mark out the public roads - you have to be very careful on the lines, particularly if the track is wet."
"Another challenge is that, because the roads are used by the public, the track is very bumpy, so again the set-up has to take this into consideration. Overall it's a medium speed track with only one high-speed corner, the chicane at Turns 11 and 12, and this leads into a good overtaking opportunity at the entry to Turn 13. It's easy for drivers to make a mistake at the exit of Turn 12 and put the wheels over the kerb, and this gives the driver behind the chance to overtake."
Christian will be working this weekend with the BMW Sauber F1 Team at a race for the first time, joining the engineering meetings alongside race drivers Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica as he provides support for the team's 2008 Formula One campaign.