Australian GP: McLaren preview

On Sunday 6th March, the Team McLaren Mercedes MP4-20 will make its race debut at the Australian Grand Prix, the first race of the 2005 FIA Formula One World Championship. Marking the 10th anniversary of Formula One in Melbourne, the event is the...

On Sunday 6th March, the Team McLaren Mercedes MP4-20 will make its race debut at the Australian Grand Prix, the first race of the 2005 FIA Formula One World Championship. Marking the 10th anniversary of Formula One in Melbourne, the event is the first race of the Team McLaren Mercedes team's new driver partnership of Kimi Raikkonen, who is starting his fourth season with the outfit, and Juan Pablo Montoya, with the Colombian making his debut with the team.

Significant changes to the sporting and technical regulations in four key areas: engine lifespan, limitations on tyre use, aerodynamics and race weekend format particularly for qualifying, have heavily influenced the design of MP4-20, which first ran on Monday 24th January in Barcelona. At the test sessions following, the team's 2005 challenger has completed just under 6600 kilometres.

The more visible differences to MP4-20 are resulting from the aerodynamic rule changes. These include the raising of the front wing by 50mm, restricting the height of the diffuser to 125mm and bringing the rear wing package forward by 150mm. Another addition to the aerodynamic package is the roll hoop mid wing, which first ran in Jerez in week six.

Kimi Raikkonen:

"I am really looking forward to the new season in Australia. Everyone within the team has been working flat-out on the test track and back at base in preparation for 2005. The team is motivated and we are all excited to be getting back to racing. The tests during the pre-season were productive, the speed is there and the car is easy to drive, but it is impossible to say where we are until Australia, what we do know is that it will be an interesting year."

"The coming weekend will be the first time we will be racing with the new regulations for tyres, engines and qualifying. We will have to take more care of our Michelins, particularly during second qualifying and the early parts of the race, to make sure you don't damage them under braking for example, which can lead to flat spotting a tyre, with the consequence of losing grip."

"The circuit in Albert Park is quite flowing, with some fast corners and sweeping curves, and it lets you build up a good rhythm. The two best overtaking chances are at the end of the start finish straight and through the left flick of turn 11. The track comprised of closed public roads is dusty and never generates much grip so the tyre wear is low."

Juan Pablo Montoya:

"This year's Australian Grand Prix is more special for me as it is the first time I am racing with Team McLaren Mercedes. We have had a good testing season, I have been getting to know the car, which I am very comfortable in, and the team. You always have the traditional winter testing championship, but we have focused on our own programme and everyone has worked hard to complete it."

"A lot of our time has been spent preparing for the new regulations. The main change for the drivers is that we will have to look after the cars a bit more. It will probably be more important to have a good balance with your car, as if you don't it could have a bad affect on your tyres. The set-up at Melbourne will need to be high downforce, on this low grip track."

"Qualifying will also be quite interesting, as the grid will now be formed by aggregating the times from both the Saturday and Sunday sessions. There is always a great atmosphere at the Australian Grand Prix; the fans are always really enthusiastic, which makes it really fun. For me racing is what it is all about, I love it, particularly when the crowd are enjoying it too, and I can't wait for the red lights to go out on Sunday."

Pedro de la Rosa, Team McLaren Mercedes test driver:

"It is a great challenge for me to be driving the West McLaren Mercedes third car for the Friday session at the first three Grands Prix of the 2005 season, and I am really happy to be back on track in a racing environment. It has been very busy for me and Alex recently; we have both been concentrating on long runs for reliability and also on the tyres because of the new extended use requirements. We completed the final test before this race on Wednesday 23rd February in Valencia."

Martin Whitmarsh, CEO Formula One, Team McLaren Mercedes:

"The Australian Grand Prix once again presents the teams with our first opportunity to run our new cars in a competitive environment, and the anticipation is definitely building. We arrive in the southern hemisphere with our new driver pairing of Kimi and Juan Pablo, they have been working well together alongside Alex Wurz and Pedro de la Rosa and we are looking forward to what promises to be an exciting season."

"Since the Team McLaren Mercedes MP4-20 ran for the first time on Monday 24th January, it has completed just under 6600 test kilometres at the Barcelona, Jerez and Valencia circuits. A key focus of our testing programme has been long runs, with both MP4-20 and our interim 19B car, with all four drivers putting in significant mileage, with 19B completing over 16,000km since the end of the 2004 season. This is primarily as a consequence of the changes we have seen to the technical rules for tyre and engine lifespan."

The Michelin tyres we use in qualifying are required to last for the full race distance. We have been working hard and productively with Michelin this winter to develop tyres that provide longevity and performance. This is just one of the more visible examples of the intensive and constructive work from all members of the team and our Partners."

"Another change for this season is our ability to operate a third car on Fridays, which will enable us to get a much better set of data back out of Friday's session. Pedro will be behind the wheel for the first three races. Although we are fully aware of the challenge, we are hoping to have a strong start to the campaign and are looking forward to competitive action getting underway in Australia this weekend."

Norbert Haug, Vice President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport:

"It has been an extremely hard last four months for everybody in the team, at Woking, Brixworth and Stuttgart. Especially our test team has had a stressful last 12 weeks to achieve the test results essential for a good start into the 2005 season at Melbourne. Taking the results of the pre-season testing into account there should be up to five teams being capable of impressing in Australia."

"During the course of the preparations we put a total of a little less than 6,600 km on the new MP4-20 and we achieved several successful race simulations, and in addition longer runs with the new engines completing up to more than 1,800 km. It was a positive experience to suffer not a single engine failure during the long period of track testing, which we have never achieved in the run up to the season in the years before."

"As a consequence of the new regulation, which allows the engines to be replaced without penalty only after two race weekends, the engine's lifespan is doubled compared to last year. So the focus of our preparation work was on speed as well as on reliability keeping our engine technicians and the team's chassis engineers very busy in the build up to the first Grand Prix at Melbourne's Albert Park."

"The venue of the Australian Grand Prix is a medium fast low grip circuit where the tyre wear is comparably low. About 60 per cent of a lap are run under full throttle, so this will be the first serious check of where everybody is in terms of power and reliability."


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Mercedes , McLaren