Australian Grand Prix Preview | The season’s curtain raiser

The 2016 Formula One season is about to begin, read on to preview Round 1 – The Australian Grand Prix.

The clock is ticking down until Formula One is racing in 2016. The year where Haas make their debut, Ferrari aim to topple Mercedes and not many new faces are entering the paddock in Australia. But when the lights go out and racing begins down under, who will come out with the biggest smile?

When smiles and Formula One drivers are mentioned in the same sentence, Daniel Ricciardo’s beaming face always springs to mind. But while he will be beaming from ear to ear, his chances of victory on home soil are rather slim. Even making a podium will be a tall order for the Aussie, with Renault’s TAG Heuer badged power unit in the Red Bull still not strong enough to see Ricciardo win his home race – or even be the first Australian to take a podium at home.
Daniel Ricciardo - Credit: Renault Sport 2014

The men on the podium will more than likely be the same trio as a year ago with 2016 billed as the year Vettel and Hamilton finally battle it out for the Drivers’ Championship. Of course Rosberg’s name will still be in the hat but after two years as second best, will Nico have it in him to topple his team-mate and lead Mercedes to victory?

If you go by the end of the 2015 season, then the answer is yes! After Lewis wrapped up the title in America, Nico went on to end the year with a clean sweep of victories in Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi. And not forgetting when the hybrid power units came into Formula One back in 2014, it was Nico who claimed the Silver Arrows’ first victory of the era while Hamilton retired from the race.

Should 2016 gets off in the same way as 2014, Rosberg could find himself in a great situation if (or when) Mercedes go to him to discuss a new contract with his current deal set to expire at the end of the season. Ricciardo along with many others also find themselves in similar positions when it comes to contracts so the drama off the track may be as good as the action on it. With potential seats opening up at all of F1’s perceived top teams: Ferrari (Raikkonen), Mercedes (Rosberg), McLaren (Button) and Red Bull.

Nico Rosberg of Mercedes-Benz AMG Petronas Formula One Team

Looking back at pre-season testing, the billing of Hamilton vs Vettel seems to be on track. As Mercedes opted to focus on tallying an impressive laps total, with their car proving to be reliable and wont be slow given the previous instalments performance. As for Ferrari, they appeared to have taken another step forwards with their car from where they left 2015 – the Italian outfit even claimed the fastest testing lap time.

Elsewhere, the season looks to have a solid midfield competition with the teams all making progress of their own. McLaren, after a torrid 2015, may also be able to regularly score points and continue to make progress with their Honda power unit that hindered them throughout the season.

MELBOURNE GRAND PRIX CIRCUIT - Copyright Formula1.com

The first round of the year sees us return to Albert Park, with this years race the 20th anniversary of the city hosting the Formula One Grand Prix, after the race was moved to Melbourne from Adelaide in 1996.

The street circuit around Albert Park utilises a host of short straights and quick chicanes, calling for a car with a good steering rack and power unit to suit. Making it a perfect blend of speed, challenge and racing opportunities. Those opportunities however mainly come at the end of the two DRS zones at the start of the lap.

This year’s race will again consist of 58-laps around the 5.3 kilometre circuit. But more importantly, the race will be the first chance to see how the new Formula One elimination qualifying format will work after the World Motor Sport Council announced that it will be in operation from the off.

Channel 4 presenting line up - Copyright Channel 4

This year’s season opener is also a big deal in terms of the UK’s broadcasting rights with the Australian Grand Prix the first to be covered by Channel 4 – following the BBC’s sale of the free-to-air TV rights. C4’s coverage of the round will consist of qualifying and race highlights while Sky Sports F1 continues with their exclusive coverage of the curtain raiser. BBC meanwhile will continue to cover the season via radio.

Thursday March 17
04:00 – Drivers’ Press Conference – Live (Sky Sports F1)
20:15 – Drivers’ Press Conference – replay (Sky Sports F1)
20:45 – Paddock Uncut: Australia (Sky Sports F1)
21:00 – Classic F1 – 1996 Australian GP (Sky Sports F1)
21:00 – Australian Grand Prix Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Friday March 18
01:00 – Australian GP Practice One – Live (Sky Sports F1)
01:25 – Australian GP Practice One – Live (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
05:15 – Australian GP Practice Two – Live (Sky Sports F1)
05:25 – Australian GP Practice Two – Live (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
07:30 – Team Principals’ Press Conference – Live (Sky Sports F1)
08:00 – The F1 Show – Live (Sky Sports F1)
09:30 – Australian GP Practice One – replay (Sky Sports F1)
11:15 – Australian GP Practice Two – replay (Sky Sports F1)

Saturday March 19
02:45 – Australian GP Practice Three – Live (Sky Sports F1)
02:55 – Australian GP Practice Three – Live (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
05:00 – Australian GP Qualifying – Live (Sky Sports F1)
05:55 – Australian GP Qualifying – Live (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
10:00 – Australian GP Qualifying replay (Sky Sports F1)
11:10 – Ted’s Qualifying Notebook (Sky Sports F1)
12:10 – Australian GP Qualifying replay (Sky Sports F1)
12:30 – Australian GP Qualifying highlights (Channel 4)

Sunday March 20
03:30 – The 2016 Australian GP – Track Parade – Live (Sky Sports F1)
04:00 – The 2016 Australian GP – Pitlane – Live (Sky Sports F1)
04:00 – The 2016 Australian GP – Race – Live (BBC Radio 5 Live)
04:30 – The 2016 Australian GP – Race – Live (Sky Sports F1)
07:30 – The 2016 Australian GP – Paddock Live (Sky Sports F1)
10:00 – 2016 Australian GP highlights (Sky Sports F1)
11:00 – Ted’s Race Notebook (Sky Sports F1)
13:00 – The 2016 Australian GP – replay (Sky Sports F1)
13:30 – The 2016 Australian GP highlights (Channel 4)
16:15 – 2016 Australian GP highlights (Sky Sports F1)
19:00 – Ted’s Race Notebook (Sky Sports F1)