The Australian Grand Prix, Round One of what promises to be an exciting 2009 FIA Formula One World Championship, will take place in Melbourne, south east Australia on Sunday 29 March.
The beautiful setting of Albert Park has hosted the Australian Grand Prix since 1996 and the 5.3km (3.3mile) street circuit uses public roads which surround the man-made Albert Park lake, located just south of Melbourne's city centre.
Albert Park is a technically demanding and high-speed circuit. The cars reach top speeds of 300kph (185mph) and average 225kph (140mph) around the 16-turn lap. The track surface is bumpy, particularly in the braking areas, hard on the brakes and slippery at the start of the race weekend due to the use of public roads, which will take a while to ‘rubber in'.
The first race of the year is always a technical challenge as the new cars run competitively for the first time, a task made more difficult for the Brawn GP team as the BGP 001 car has completed just seven days of pre-season testing.
The season-opening Australian Grand Prix will see the culmination of four months of hard work and dedication from the team when the BGP 001 car takes to the track on Friday 27 March for the first of the practice sessions. Drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello are looking forward to the BGP 001's competitive debut with eager anticipation.
How has the team completed its preparations for the Australian Grand Prix in such a short time?
Ross Brawn: "Our ambition has always been to be on the grid for the first race of the season in Melbourne and our planning was specifically tailored towards the achievement of this goal. I am extremely proud that we have achieved our ambition and the Australian Grand Prix will mark the start of an exciting new journey for our team. The BGP 001 car is the result of 15 months of intensive development work and the team have been nothing less than fantastic in their commitment to producing two cars in time for the first race.
"From our short but crucial testing programme over the past two weeks, we have reinforced our view that the BGP 001 is a good car and an excellent platform from which to develop performance over the course of the season. Our focus during the seven days of pre-season testing was on reliability and developing our understanding of the car in race conditions. We are very satisfied with the work achieved and the initial pace seen from the car however we are fully aware that our work has only just begun. The practice running in Melbourne will be crucial and we have to get as much mileage as possible under our belts to allow Jenson and Rubens to refine the set-up of the car to their liking."
What are your thoughts ahead of the first race of the 2009 season?
Jenson Button: "The first race of the season is always an exciting weekend as none of the teams really know where their car is in performance terms until we hit the race track for the first time in competitive conditions. I am a big fan of Melbourne as a city and as the venue for the first race; it's truly a great place to start the season. The race has a beautiful setting in Albert Park and it is a quick and fun circuit to drive with some very technical corners. I have always enjoyed driving there, particularly in qualifying where you can really get on it and nail a flying lap.
"I will be arriving in Melbourne on Saturday to ensure that I have a few days to acclimatise to the time zone. I'll be doing some fitness work with my physio in preparation for the race weekend, hopefully in the sunshine along the coast. We will also be linking up with some local triathletes to train with them and catching up with my former physio who is now based in Australia and some of the V8 Supercar drivers that he is working with for another intense training session.
"I'm really looking forward to getting to Australia and the challenge of getting the best out of our new car over what looks to be a very exciting race weekend."
What are the particular challenges of the Albert Park circuit?
Rubens Barrichello: "The Australian Grand Prix is one of my favourite races on the calendar and the atmosphere at Albert Park over the race weekend is always fantastic. It will be really exciting to go back this year with our new team and a competitive car behind us for the start of what will be my 17th season competing in Formula One. After the tough winter that we went through, I am so motivated to get racing again and I am really looking forward to the challenges ahead.
"The Albert Park circuit is quite technical and the relatively high top speeds for a street circuit mean that you need to run quite a high level of downforce which in turn compromises your grip through the slower second-gear corners. The lap has some very quick changes of direction and you can gain a lot of time through the quick chicane at Turns 11 and 12 if you get it hooked up well. You need a car with a good front-end to make the most of these corners.
"As the circuit uses public roads, there are a lot of bumps under braking and if your car is prone to rear-locking, you have to be careful that these don't unsettle the car enough to throw you off the circuit. It's reasonably difficult to overtake around the circuit with Turns 3 and 13 offering the best opportunities."