Australian Grand Prix 2015 preview: A new year, a new beginning

Formula One’s back in action and the cars are about to hit the track for the Australian Grand Prix, 2015. With a slightly altered grid of drivers and one less team, it’s a new begging but the action down under at Albert Park still promises to be as good as ever.

One year ago we had the new engines leaving a wake of uncertainty behind them, but now we head to Melbourne expecting flat out, lights to flag action from the 20-men behind the steering wheels of fresh Formula One cars.

Out front Mercedes are expected to pick up right were they left 2014 and dominate straight away after their pre-season testing appeared to leave them around a second quicker than their nearest competitor, and with a reliable car to match the pace.

But the chasing pack of Ferrari, Williams and Red Bull all looked to make their own gains over the winter, which should give us some exciting racing. Even if it is just for the final spot on the podium.

Even further down the grid however we will find Marussia after the team survived a turbulent winter of administration and will make their return to the grid. A driver line up of Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi will sit in the hastily made cars but given what looked to be a bleak future for the team, to see them back racing should put a smile on every racing fans face.

For Will, it wont be his first Grand Prix after appearing in Caterham’s farewell at the 2014 title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix where Lewis Hamilton went on to win his second world championship. As for Roberto Merhi, the Australian GP will be his F1 racing debut after he was announced as Marussia’s driver but only for the ‘opening rounds’ of the 2015 season. Merhi also has experience in Formula One, after driving for Caterham in three FP1 sessions during the 2014 season.

Unfortunately for Caterham, Will’s debut in the Abu Dhabi GP also appears to be their farewell race after a new owner has yet to be found and the teams assets have been put up for auction.

This weekends race also falls during turbulent times for Sauber after the team lost their court battle with former test driver Giedo van der Garde. The Supreme Court of Victoria decided to enforce the decision made by the Swiss Arbitration stating Giedo should drive for the team after Sauber offered him a race seat for 2015 midway through the 2014 season before signing Ericsson and Nasr. Since the decision was made by the Australian court, Sauber have appealed the decision but the clock is ticking before the cars roll out for FP1 on Friday.

But back to the new season and the start of a fresh fight between Hamilton and Rosberg for this years drivers title. Unless one of their closest competitors have come up with a miraculous solution since the final test.

Albert Park street circuit diagram - Credit: Formula1.com

The first round of the year sees us return to Albert Park in Melbourne during the closing stages of the Australian summer. This years race will be the 20th held in Melbourne after it switched to the street circuit n Melbourne back in 1996.

Albert Park may be a street circuit but it’s short straights and tight corners makes it a perfect blend of speed, traction and need for talent. Some of the many reasons the seasoner opener has opened the audience’s eyes over the years. And given the race start time will be 5am on Sunday morning in the UK, some eyes may well need to be opened.

Now for some important information on this years race. It will consist of 58 laps, with each consisting of 5.303km and 16 corners (10 right & 6 left-handers). The race will also utilise two DRS zones located on the first two straights & share a single detection point. This can lead to a driver gaining the necessary ground on the man ahead, before making the move stick on the run down to turn three or allow the driver to pull away after gaining the position on the pit straight.

For the season opener Pirelli will be providing the teams with the medium (white-branded) and soft (yellow-branded) tyres. For this year Pirelli have also redesigned the rear tyre construction. Now they are “designed to distribute forces and temperatures more evenly” according to Pirelli when they revealed the tyre choices for the opening four rounds.

Caterham F1 - Australian GP 2014

If we take a short look back to 12 months ago, Lewis Hamilton’s season took a poor start as his Silver Arrow faltered causing him to retire and instantly find himself 25-points behind Nico. In that race Kevin Magnussen also made his Formula One debut and secured McLaren a podium spot. This year the team will struggle to find themselves anywhere near the podium slots in Australia but Magnussen will find himself behind the wheel of the newly powered Honda car, despite being dropped for Fernando Alonso to make his McLaren return. However after a crash during the second test, and doctors advise, Fernando will sit out the first race of the year as part of his recovery.

Last years result: Rosberg, Ricciardo, Magnussen, Button, Alonso, Bottas, Hulkenberg, Raikkonen, Vergne, Kyvat, Perez, Sutil, Gutierrez, Chilton, Bianchi (unclassified), [Grosjean, Maldonado, Ericsson, Vettel, Hamilton, Massa, Kobayashi (DNF)]

If you wish to watch this year’s season opener live on TV in the UK, it is available exclusively live on SkySportsF1 with coverage of every session from lights to flag starting on Thursday, March 12th.

Thursday, March 12th
04:00 – Drivers’ Press Conference – Live
20:15 – Drivers’ Press Conference – replay
20:45 – Paddock Uncut: Australia
21:00 – Classic F1 – 1996 Australian GP

Friday, March 13th
01:00 – Australian GP Practice One – Live
05:15 – Australian GP Practice Two – Live
07:30 – Team Principals’ Press Conference – Live
09:30 – The F1 Show – Live
11:40 – Australian GP Practice One – replay
14:00 – Australian GP Practice Two – replay

Saturday, March 14th
02:45 – Australian GP Practice Three – Live
05:00 – Australian GP Qualifying – Live
10:15 – Australian GP Qualifying replay
13:00 – Ted’s Qualifying Notebook
15:00 – Australian GP Qualifying replay

Sunday, March 15th
03:30 – Australian GP 2015 – Track Parade – Live
04:00 – Australian GP 2015 – Pitlane – Live
04:30 – Australian GP 2015 – Race – Live
07:30 – Australian GP 2015 – Paddock Live
09:45 – Australian GP 2015 – highlights
11:30 – Australian GP 2015 – replay
18:00 – Australian GP 2015 – highlights
19:00 – Ted’s Race Notebook