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Australian Grand Prix - Technical Analysis

FEATURE BY MATT SOMERFIELD
20/03/2013

Months of waiting over, the teams completed their pre-season tests in Jerez and Barcelona and made their way to Melbourne. The pecking order seemed blurred as they tried to hide their form from one another heading into the first race; but as we all know, when the flag drops the bullshit stops.

The teams complained throughout pre-season testing that the tyres weren't performing, it wasn't a criticism levelled at Pirelli for the root cause lay in the weather. Poor temperatures in Barcelona made for inaccurate data as the tyres couldn't operate correctly making it as difficult for the teams to understand where they were as it was for the rest of us.

So surely in Melbourne we would see a more realistic formation of the grid? Well, as it transpires we didn't. It makes for better reading of the teams' form going forward but the weather once again put paid to an accurate assessment. Saturday afternoon's qualifying session proved to be a washout with only Q1 taking place and Q2 and 3 postponed leaving us with just as many questions as answers… the Mercedes still looking strong especially in the hands of Nico Rosberg.

Consequently, not for the first time, qualifying had to be completed on a Sunday morning in order to form the grid for the race later in the day. Whilst the rain had abated the track was still damp for the first part of Q2 and so it seemed it was a case of who would make the first move onto slicks. McLaren made the move first but will now rue the decision (easy in hindsight) as both drivers lost time trying to make the slicks work on a track that simply wasn't ready for them. The trouble with using slick tyres on a damp track is temperature, if you can't work the tyres enough the temperatures and pressures drop giving both a mechanical and aerodynamic disadvantage. The latter being that the lack of pressure will result in a lower than desirable ride height which plays havoc with the aero setup of the car.

With an ever evolving track the drivers crossing the line at the end of the session stood the best chance of squeezing through to Q3 with Felipe and Jenson on the winning side of that particular battle.

For Q3 we saw some of the teams post exploratory / banker laps early in the session once again on the Intermediates but this lead to a quick change for all the teams onto the Super Softs as the Top 10 battled for position.

Albert Park, as we know, is a street circuit and so by nature the track surface isn't as abrasive as we find at the permanent circuits on the calendar, therefore I believe it was a good call by Pirelli to take the Super Soft and Medium compounds to Australia with a view to increasing the strategic element.

Overtaking was up on 2012 with 59 passes completed compared with 41 last year, making for some even more interesting racing than we have seen in the past as it is a track that has historically yielded low overtaking numbers.

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