Circuit Profile – 2014: Australia, Melbourne, Albert Park – Round 1

Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Alistair Hunter

The Rolex Australian Grand Prix is held on the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, street circuit located three kilometers south of the central business district of Melbourne around Albert Park Lake. The circuit is also referred to as Albert Park by most people in Formula 1.

History

Albert ParkThe race was announced in 1993 after campaigning by the government and local businessman Ron Walker to move the race from Adelaide to Melbourne. The capital of Victoria looked to showcase itself to the world, and as their Olympic bid was unsuccessful for 1996 in comparison to Sydney’s successful 2000 campaign.

Therefore, they were looking at the Formula One race as a way of complimenting the appeal of other major sporting events in the city such as the Melbourne Cup horse race, the Australian Open tennis tournament, and the AFL Grand Final (described as Australia’s most important sporting event in 2006).

While it is often claimed that money does come in due to the large numbers of people attending the race weekend, opponents have cited that the money would be better spent on other things. They argue that the benefits of hosting the race are much smaller than previously considered as accurate attendance numbers are not available.

Having said that, a claimed 120,000 spectators attend on race day in the hope of an Australian victory at Albert Park and up to 2013 this has not happened yet. Will Red Bull new boy Daniel Ricciardo deliver something special and take the chequered flag?

Circuit in Numbers

2014 Australian Grand Prix FIA Facts

A 5.303 kilometer circuit runs clockwise around Albert Park Lake, and consists of 16 corners – 10 right hand corners and 6 left hand corners. This prompts the cars to undergo 56 gear changes per lap and to be driven at full throttle for 65% of the lap.

Maximum speeds of around 300 kilometers per hour are expected on the main straight, while the average speed is closer to 225 kilometers per hour.

DRS sectors will be the same as those used in 2013. Activation One is 762m before Turn One, Activation Two is 510m before Turn Three. They share a single detection point, located 13m before Turn 14.

Main challenges of Albert Park for the Power Units

The high number of low speed turns, which will put the focus on low speed driveability through correct turbo response. Heavy braking will also need effective engine braking from the ICE to support the new brake-by-wire system. Short bursts of acceleration between the turns compound the challenge, while massively increasing fuel consumption.

Main energy recovery points

Heavy braking will give opportunity for the MGU-K to cover energy, particularly in turns three and four and the last complex through turns 14, 15 and 16 coming back onto the straight and recovering as much energy as possible here is crucial to minimizing lap time. Short straights don’t give huge chances for the MGU-H to recover from the exhaust, but there are several of them so it should be sufficient to keep the battery charged.

Difficulty rating

One of the tougher races. Fuel consumption is the second highest of the year, and the mechanical challenges add to the difficulty – Melbourne is in the upper half of the table.

A lap with Lewis Hamilton

Pirelli and Melbourne 2014

Following three pre-season tests during which the teams tried out their radical new cars for the first time, the 2014 Formula One season begins in Australia with a complete range of new tyres. With a far-reaching set of fresh regulations in 2014, this is the fourth brand new range of Formula One tyres in as many years from Pirelli, underlining the Italian’s firm’s unprecedented emphasis on technological development.

Pirelli has nominated the P Zero White medium and P Zero Yellow soft compounds this weekend, which are best suited to the Melbourne street circuit. Like all the tyres in the 2014 range, the medium and the soft are slightly harder and more durable than their equivalents last year, but without compromising performance.

Paul Hembery © PirelliPaul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: This is the most radical rules shake-up of the modern Formula One era, so we’ve had to create a completely different set of tyres for the brand new dynamics presented by the 2014 cars. Pre-season testing has shown just what a big challenge these new rules are for everybody, but we have worked very hard throughout last year and the winter to come up with an entirely fresh range of tyres specifically designed for these latest-generation cars, featuring new compounds and constructions that actually cut down on degradation while maintaining the same level of performance.

As a result, we’re still expecting between two to three pit stops per car in Melbourne, although we’ll be able to make some more exact predictions after we see the cars run in free practice. The first race of the season is always unpredictable but this will be the case more than ever in 2014.

Jean Alesi © PirelliJean Alesi, Pirelli driver consultant: I’ve always liked Albert Park: for a driver it has some elements of a street circuit like Monaco and also some elements of a more traditional circuit such as Barcelona.

But this year Melbourne will be even more challenging. With the return of turbos, Formula One undergoes a radical transformation both in terms of technology and driving style. There is more torque under acceleration and out of the corners, which means that the tyres have to be even more resistant to wheelspin and lateral accelerations. Drivers will have to think about all this, as well as making sure that they don’t accelerate too hard and spin the car.

The circuit from a tyre point of view

Melbourne, which has hosted the Australian Grand Prix since 1996, is low grip and generally quite slippery. This increases wheelspin, which leads to a greater degree of tyre degradation.

Braking is another important element at Melbourne. There are a number of heavy braking areas where the deceleration force peaks at 5g. This can cause wheels to lock up and flat-spot the tyres, which will lead to an imbalance and uneven wear.

This year, there is a new brake by wire system, which adjusts the braking pressure supplied to the rear wheels to compensate for the effect of the new energy harvesting systems. This too has a certain effect on the rear tyres.

There are nine areas of full acceleration on the track, when the cars are trying to put all their power (around 760 horsepower) onto the ground. This often causes more wheelspin, and consequently degradation.

Pirelli Australian Grand Prix Infographic

Aerodynamic downforce has been reduced this year and this also has an effect on the tyres. More sliding can cause uneven wear and graining – although from what has been seen during pre-season testing, graining has been reduced and blistering has disappeared, despite this loss of downforce.

The left-rear tyre is worked hardest in Melbourne, with 10 right-hand corners and six left-hand corners. The longitudinal forces on the tyres are more significant than the lateral forces.

Last year, Kimi Raikkonen won the race from seventh on the grid using a two-stop strategy: starting on the supersoft tyre and then completing two stints on the medium. This was decisive to his win, with the remainder of the top six all stopping three times.

Expected tyre behaviour in 2014

Melbourne with Brembo

Australia 2014 - Turn 1 most demanding on braking system ©Brembo

Australia 2014 – Turn 1 most demanding on braking system ©Brembo

Melbourne is an urban track that winds its way through the Albert Park streets. It is a fast track and quite demanding for the brakes. The 9 braking zones on the track are all medium-high level difficulty for the braking systems and are characterised by variable Stopping distance decelerations.

Because it is a non-permanent track, during the race weekend it is gradually rubberised, which causes an increase in deceleration and brake stress in terms of wear and temperature.

Race Facts and Statistics

The winner of the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne has gone on to become World Champion in the same season on 11 occasions, a figure equally matched by the number of drivers starting from pole position who became World Champions in the same season (65%). The winning constructor in Melbourne has gone on to win the Constructors Championship in the same season on 12 occasions (71%).

Michael Schumacher and David CoulthardThere are only 3 people who have won multiple races at Albert Park; Michael Schumacher (4), Jenson Button (3), and David Coulthard (2), while the most successful teams are McLaren and Ferrari with 6 victories each. 9 of the drivers who started from pole position have gone on to win the race (53%).

On average, 42% of drivers starting the race have not been classified (including disqualifications) as finishers.

Memorable Moments
David Coulthard honored a pre-race agreement with team mate Hakkinen in 1998 by switching position with two laps to go which allowed the Finn to win. In 2002 Michael Schumacher won the race after eleven drivers retired on the opening lap!

This race was also Mark Webber’s début in Formula 1 where he managed to bring his Minardi home in 5th place, scoring the team’s first points in three years and no doubt made his Australian team owner Paul Stoddart very happy!

Mark Webber celebrates 5th palceLewis Hamilton became the first driver to finish on the podium at his début race for 11 years in 2007, while the 2009 edition saw Brawn GP get the first one-two finish for a team making their début since Mercedes in 1954 French Grand Prix

2014
The 2014 race will be the 20th edition of the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne as part of the Formula One World Championship, and the twenty first Australian Grand Prix to be held at Albert Park after including the two non-championship races held in 1953 and 1956.

Ever since it moved from Adelaide in 1996, it has occupied the first slot on the calendar for all but two seasons.

Three drivers make their Formula One debut this weekend. Toro Rosso have Daniil Kvyat (19) driving the STR9. The Russian won the GP3 title in 2013 and Formula Renault 2.0 Alps in 2012. Sweden’s Marcus Ericsson (23) will drive for Caterham. Ericsson is a former champion of Formula BMW UK and Japanese Formula 3. At McLaren Danish driver Kevin Magnussen (21) takes part in his first grand prix.  Magnussen is the 2013 World Series by Renault Formula Renault 3.5 Champion and a former champion of Formula Ford Denmark.

The event will be supported by the Mazda3 Celebrity Challenge, the MSS Security V8 Supercars Challenge and the Porsche Carrera Cup.

The latter will give Grand Prix crowds the opportunity to see the all new 2014 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car. Round 2 of the Championship will see Carrera Cup master Craig Baird defend his 2013 round win.
2014 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
Previous Results

Year Driver Constructor Location
2013 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault Albert Park
2012 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes Albert Park
2011 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault Albert Park
2010 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes Albert Park
2009 Jenson Button Brawn-Mercedes Albert Park
2008 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes Albert Park
2007 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari Albert Park
2006 Fernando Alonso Renault Albert Park
2005 Giancarlo Fisichella Renault Albert Park
2004 Michael Schumacher Ferrari Albert Park

11 responses to “Circuit Profile – 2014: Australia, Melbourne, Albert Park – Round 1

  1. “Having said that, a claimed 120,000 spectators attend on race day in the hope of an Australian victory at Albert Park and up to 2012 this has not happened yet. Will Red Bull deliver a car for Mark Webber this year or could Daniel Ricciardo spring a surprise and win the race in a Torro Rosso?”

    Thanks for making me feel a year younger 😉

  2. “Will Red Bull deliver a car for Mark Webber this year or could Daniel Ricciardo spring a surprise and win the race in a Torro Rosso?”

    It’s like a time machine!

    LOL

    • in fairness, it would be a huge surprise if Ricciardo jumped back into a Toro Rosso

    • Well that’s a relief!
      I read that over and over trying to get some point that kept flying right on by.

  3. So the tyres are like 2012 then, as 2013 they were a ‘little bit’ softer than 2012, even when construction changed the compound remained unchanged. So logic dictates, that if this year’s tyres are a ‘little bit’ harder than last, then we are back to 2012, same Kevlar belt, the works, that’s not pushing new technology, that’s back-tracking to the point before they had their brain fart and when nobody way giving them too much grief.

    Is it me or does Paul Hembury look and act more and more like a mental patient as the seasons pass. You watch him closely if he’s interviewed during coverage this weekend. Dazed and confused would be a good description. Or perhaps that was just last year due to all the free RedBull he got to help get the tyres changed……? LOL

    The track guide says that this GP is the second heaviest on fuel consumption. That’s a big ask for the first GP of these regulations. This means, IF, they can complete this GP within fuel allowances without having to drive like you are on a sight seeing outing for 30 laps, then we can expect that they will be able to push harder in all but on of the rest of this season’s races as they have historically needed less fuel, so as all but the Monaco race are 305km or there abouts and the fuel load remains 100kg, then now what used to mean ‘less fuel’ is now changed into ‘can drive faster’. That is something I do like, plus I guess as they fine tune the cars they will squeeze more and more energy out of their fuel allocation and as a consequence will be able to use every little bit of the extra energy to simply get quicker and quicker. hope the regs stay fairly stable for quite a while now

    • “So the tyres are like 2012 then…”

      From what we saw in Bahrain, this 2014 compound doesn’t suddenly “drop off the table” in performance. If I recall correctly, back in 2012 the teams were having to deal with that big performance drop.

      These 2014 compounds appear to be different.

      • I playing ‘devil’s advocate’ a little with that statement if I’m honest. Just thinking how a casual or budding fan would take it. All this “one step softer” and then “1 step harder”. I thunk the tyres will still turn out to be fragile as the drivers have nothing to really compare the cars too, where as when Pirreli 1st started they were in the same cars pretty much as they had when using Bridgestone tyres, so Bridgestone was the bench mark. By the end of the season the drivers will be complaining about tyres mote than fuel. Hence why I believe that is why Merc want to test early in the season, to show Pirreli the tyres will need beefing up mid season due to very rapid development of the cars in both engine and aero. Also I think they want to get the debate for bigger rear tyres going strong again as if it’s deemed to be necessary early on in the season to impliment the change for next year then the teams wont have the excuse that it’s too far on in the design phase to change rear tyre dimentions now, as they did when it was suggested last season and only Merc were open to it. It has Ross Brawn writen all over it in my view, I think he said he would still be available if they wanted an opinion or advice, for the near future anyway.

  4. “..There are only 3 people who have won multiple races at Albert Park; Michael Schumacher (4), Jenson Button (3), and David Coulthard (2)…”

    Might I ask why Kimi is not in this list,as he has 2 victories (2007,2013)??Even the list at the end tells that..

    Year Driver Constructor Location
    2013 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault Albert Park
    2007 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari Albert Park

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