Albert Park in a nutshell
The everyday parkland roads are invariably covered in dust and grime when the Formula One drivers venture out for the season's opening practice session. Cars consequently slide a lot, so soft, potentially vulnerable tyre compounds are best left unused until the track surface has been coated with the grippy rubber residue that comes with usage. The pit lane is short (typical stops are the season's quickest, at 23-24 seconds from entry to exit), but the best strategic acumen can be undone by Safety Car interruptions… which tend to be quite common.
Average turn angle indicates the average angle of a circuit's corners expressed in degrees. The higher the average turn angle, the more acute corners in the circuit configuration and hence the greater propensity for understeer to compromise lap time. At Albert Park, the average turn angle is 850, against a season average of 1100, ranking as the circuit with the 3rd lowest average turn angle across the Championship. As a consequence of the circuit's physical layout, an understeering car balance will have a relatively less punitive effect on lap time.
The end of straight (EOS) speed at Albert Park was 303kp/h in 2008. Albert Park ranks as the 10th fastest EOS speed in the 2008 calendar, and this is one indicator of the wing level typically selected to optimise the downforce/drag ratio.
Pitlane & Refuelling Strategy
The pitlane length and profile (ie corners in the pitlane entry) contribute to the determination of the optimum fuel strategy. The pitlane loss at Albert Park is 19.6 seconds, the 9th most penalising pitlane in the Championship.
The winner's preferred strategy in 2008 was a two-stop (L Hamilton, laps 18 & 43). To complete a normalised distance of 5km around the Albert Park circuit requires 2.48kg of fuel against an average of 2.42kg per 5km across all circuits this season, making the circuit the 12th most demanding track of the year in terms of fuel consumption.
Another key contributor to the determination of race strategy is the likelihood of safety car deployments, which are influenced by weather considerations, the availability of clear run-off areas that allow racing to continue while recovery takes place and the circuit profile, especially the character of the entry and exit into turn one at the start of the race. Since 2002, there have been 9 safety car deployments in seven Grands Prix at Albert Park, ranking the circuit as 1st in the season's league table of tracks most likely, based on historic data, to induce Safety Car periods.
Temperature, Pressure & Humidity
It is a long observed tradition that drivers arriving at Interlagos complain about a lack of grip and an absence of engine power. Having become acquainted with a baseline of engine and aerodynamic performance during the season, the climb to 750 metres above sea level for one of the final races can, courtesy of the reduction in air density, rob a Formula One car of engine power, aerodynamic performance and cooling. The losses can come close to double digit percentages and thus have a very real impact on car performance. Air density is a factor of the prevailing ambient temperature, which varies most significantly by season, air pressure which is closely linked to altitude and, to a much smaller degree, by humidity. Thus if races are run at the same time each year, the factor that tends to have the greatest bearing on air density is elevation. Albert Park is only 10m above sea level and has the highest average pressure (1015.77 mbar) of any race venue in the 2009 Championship based on data recorded over the past nine seasons. As a consequence, the circuit's ambient characteristics will be the most beneficial for engine performance of any track all year long.
What the Drivers Say
On Albert Park
Nico: "I'm really looking forward to getting out onto the Albert Park track. I had a great race in Melbourne in 2008 and I am determined that we will have a similarly strong start to this season. In character, it's a very challenging semi-street circuit which usually suits our car well."
Kazuki: "It's the right place to start the year – it just feels like the natural beginning to the season."
Kazuki: "What can I tell you, I love Australia. I am doing what I did last year, dropping in on Sydney for a few days and I expect to do some good training there – it's a great sports nation."
Nico: "I think Australia is great. The country is so varied and the people are cool, very relaxed and welcoming. I would come more often if it wasn't so far away!"
On the FW31
Nico: "Winter testing has been good, but I think we are not where we want to be just yet. However, the potential for development is huge because of the new rules, so we will be looking to making strong progress throughout the year to get closer to the podium."
Kazuki: "We have a good car, one that will allow us to compete, that's certain, but where it will take us this year – well, that is part of the excitement to see how it all turns out."
On the new regs
Kazuki: "The competition is closer, that's for sure. Whether we will get the better overtaking we are all hoping for, really it will be an improvement, but by how much we will only know after 58 laps of Albert Park next Sunday."
Nico: "I think the regs are all good. It is very likely that they will improve overtaking and ramp up the excitement in the sport for everybody's benefit."