Team McLaren Mercedes travels to Melbourne this week for the 2006 Australian Grand Prix. The race, which is being held at the Albert Park track for the 11th time, has moved from its traditional position as season opener to the third race of the...
Team McLaren Mercedes travels to Melbourne this week for the 2006 Australian Grand Prix. The race, which is being held at the Albert Park track for the 11th time, has moved from its traditional position as season opener to the third race of the year as Melbourne was hosting the 2006 Commonwealth Games for two weeks in early March.
Following the Malaysian Grand Prix eight days ago, the MP4-21 race cars were prepared for the Australian race in Sepang by the race team before being freighted to Melbourne late on Monday 20th March. The freight was not delivered to the Albert Park circuit until Monday 27th March due to the Commonwealth Games.
Some members of the team also travelled straight to Melbourne, with others returning to the McLaren Technology Centre in between the two races. Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya spent a few days in Switzerland and Langkawi respectively before joining the team in Australia on Monday 27th March.
Last week saw the test team return to track duties in Paul Ricard in France, with Pedro de la Rosa running a new chassis of MP4-21 and Gary Paffett at the wheel of the interim MP4-20. Pedro continued the on-going development process for MP4-21, whilst Gary worked specifically on the Michelin tyre programme for Australia and San Marino.
"After the first two races, I am really hoping to have a trouble free weekend in Australia, as the car feels good and I think that we can get some good results with it. I am aiming to get a solid points finish at this race to take back to Europe."
"Albert Park is a high downforce track and it has pretty low grip, this is because the surface is always dusty as it is old roads that are not used anymore. But this tends to clean up quickly during Friday running and then the track surface is fairly smooth."
"There are some hard braking zones and sharp bends, which can be tough on the brakes and tyres, such as into turn three, and demand good traction to be fast out of the corners. The Australian race is one of the favourites I think with most people in the sport, and there is always such an enthusiastic atmosphere in Melbourne for the event."
Juan Pablo Montoya:
"It wasn't an ideal weekend for me in Malaysia, but at least I finished fifth and fourth in the last two races. I am now looking forward to racing in Melbourne and hopefully challenging for a podium position. Albert Park is quite a flowing circuit, with long, sweeping bends and quick corners, so it is fun to drive and you can really build up a good rhythm."
"There are some places on the track where you can pass, primarily the right hander of turn one at the end of the main straight, where your speed drops from over 300km/h to around 130km/h, and also as you flow on through the curve of turn two that immediately follows. Another chance is through the left flick of 11, which is taken quite quickly at just over 210km/h in fourth."
Martin Whitmarsh, CEO Formula One, Team McLaren Mercedes:
"Following the Malaysian Grand Prix our test team returned to the track last week, completing four intensive days at Paul Ricard and covering over 3280km as we look to push forward with the performance potential we have in the car. The work completed in France has helped us to further improve the MP4-21 package."
"We are racing in Melbourne a month later than usual and as a result we will be further into the Australian Autumn, so we expect to see cooler ambients than normal at the event, and also than those seen at the opening two rounds of the Championship, as a consequence there will be less impact placed on the cars and the personnel from the heat."
Norbert Haug, Vice President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport:
"The Grand Prix in Melbourne will always be a special one for us. Here we celebrated our first Formula One victory together with McLaren in March 1997 and I will always remember it with great pleasure."
"For the engines, the track is even more challenging than the circuits in Bahrain and Malaysia. More than 70 percent of a lap time at Albert Park will be run under full throttle; this means almost three quarters of a lap. However, the climatic conditions in the Australian autumn are not as extreme as previously experienced in Malaysia."
"In the first two Grands Prix Juan Pablo's engine completed 1,162 kilometres in extreme conditions without problems. Unfortunately Kimi was pushed out in Malaysia on the opening lap as a result of a blameless collision."
"During the preparation for Melbourne at Paul Ricard last week, our test team with Pedro de la Rosa at the wheel of the new chassis no. 4 completed a total of 1,837 kilometres on three consecutive days with one engine. On average this was more than two Grands Prix distances per day that the technical package worked reliably."
"Particularly for Kimi I hope for a race without handicaps before or after the start which he unfortunately didn't have in the first two races without his own fault."