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How the F1 teams will approach the Australian Grand Prix
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Posted By: James Allen  |  12 Mar 2013   |  8:46 am GMT  |  324 comments

The 2013 F1 season kicks off this weekend with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. Testing indicates that it will be close, but also that managing tyre degradation will be of paramount importance.

So here is our guide to the considerations the teams will make when deciding the all important strategy for qualifying and the race.


Track characteristics

Albert Park Circuit; 5.303 kilometres. Race distance: 58 laps = 307.574 kilometres; 16 corners in total, none particularly fast.

Aerodynamic setup – Medium/high downforce. Top speed 318km/h (with Drag Reduction System on rear wing) – 308km/h without.

Full throttle – 65% of the lap. Total fuel needed for race distance: 152 kilos.

Time spent braking: 13% of the lap. 8 braking zones. Brake wear: High.

Loss time for a Pit stop = 20 seconds

Total time needed for pit stop: 25 seconds.

Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried): 0.34 seconds


Form Guide

Winter testing is a notoriously unreliable guide to the pecking order in the opening race and this was never more true than this year. The field looks to be very closely matched, with the top five teams hard to separate.

Red Bull is believed to have a small edge, but Mercedes, Lotus and Ferrari showed speed and consistency in the tests and have clearly improved from their 2012 performance levels while the new McLaren is a more adventurous design, so may not be a front runner at the first race, but is likely to develop strongly as the year goes on.

McLaren won the Australian Grand Prix last season and also won the season finale in Brazil.

The midfield battle looks very close once again, but with the top five teams looking strong, it could be hard for the midfield teams to qualify in the top 10 and score points as readily as they did in 2012. There will be opportunities, however, and results are likely to be dependent on good race strategy planning and execution.

McLaren has won two of the last four Australian Grands Prix and Jenson Button is a three-time winner. Of the current drivers Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso have all won once. So all five F1 champions in the field have won this race.

* For further insight into the form from Mark Gillan, who ran Williams’ strategies last year, click HERE

Weather forecast

The forecast for Saturday and Sunday is for a warm dry day with temperatures around 21-22 degrees and only 20% chance of rain on Saturday.


Likely tyre performance

Pirelli tyre choice for Melbourne: SuperSoft and Medium.

Pirelli has changed the tyres for 2013 and they are taking some getting used to; the teams will still be learning about them in Melbourne. It’s the first time that Pirelli has brought the softest compound in the range for Melbourne. They hope that the step between the compounds will ensure a performance gap of around 1 second per lap between the cars that will increase the importance of strategy.

As recent years have seen cool temperatures at this race, the two compounds chosen are the ones which have a lower working temperature range. The medium operates at 90-115 degrees and the supersoft at 85-110 degrees. If it is very hot in Melbourne we are likely to see tyre blistering.

It could be warm in Melbourne; the city has experienced a heatwave in the build up to the race. However the forecast is for it to drop to the low 20s just before the race weekend.

The key to these tyres is to get the fronts warmed up quickly, for grip on turn-in to the corner. But it’s vital to get the temperature balanced between the fronts and rears. In the race, keeping the rear tyres cool is essential otherwise performance drops off sharply. There is more lap time to be gained from mastering this than there is from any of the aerodynamic developments the teams spend millions on in the wind tunnel.

The tyres often experience graining at Albert Park. Graining is where the rubber shears away from the top surface, caused by a high level of sliding at high loads, both lateral and longitudinal. Lateral comes from sliding in corners, longitudinal comes from acceleration and braking.

Temperature has a lot to do with it, probably more than any other factor. If the tyres are being used below their operating range the rubber will be less compliant and will shear off more easily.

The track surface at Albert Park is quite old and has low micro and macro roughness, which basically means that the stones in it are small. The result of its age and smoothness is that the surface is very low grip and this means that the tyres grain laterally here because the car slides in the corners.


Number and likely timing of pit stops

As the pitlane in Melbourne is the longest of the season (just a fraction more than Singapore) because of the 60km\h limit it is not desirable to make multiple stops, even if the tyre degradation is very high.

Based on this, and all the above considerations, plus tyre performance data from testing, the expectation, before any practice running has been done, is that the teams will intend to make up two or possibly three pit stops in the race, with some who are gentle on tyres having an advantage. A safety car could help teams to get away with one less stop. Last year we saw predominantly two stops. Sebastian Vettel used race strategy and a piece of fortunate timing with a safety car to steal second place away from Lewis Hamilton.

In recent years there have been some advantages for a fast car qualifying outside the top ten to start the race on the harder tyre and do one stop less than the others, as Sauber’s Sergio Perez did in 2011, moving from 13th on the grid to 7th at the chequered flag. Last year he did it again, driving to 8th from the back of the grid.


Chance of a safety car

The chance of a safety car at Albert Park is 57%, although there have been safety cars in four of the last five years. The average number of safety car interventions for the race is 1.7 (in 2006 there were four).

Recent start performance of drivers and teams

Starts are a critical part of the race and strategy can be badly compromised by a poor start, while good starts can make strategists change their plans in the hope of a good result.

As this is the first race of the 2013 season – no start data has been established yet.

The UBS Race Strategy Briefing is prepared by JA on F1, with input and data from several F1 teams and from Pirelli

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1

well really i might choose the MSI Gt bike 70 as opposed to this mobile computer, which offers a twice SSD raid config for something similar to 300 much much more us dollars. nonetheless unsure what pc substitution to acquire thou. everybody appears to have positives and negatives as well as for that cost i want to strike the possible while not having to repent about this.

2
Craig in Manila

Bags are packed (including raincoat AND sunblock) and am killing time before going to the airport and heading down to Melbourne.

Even after reading much of the expert predictions, I still have absolutely no idea whatsoever re the likely results from quali or the race.

Personally, I’m hoping for a RBR/TR 1-2-3 (in any order) on Sunday as that will mean that at least one Aussie got onto the podium.

3

That would be nice to see 🙂

Regardless, hope you enjoy it down here 🙂

4
Tornillo Amarillo

My prediction:

Pole: ROSBERG

WIN: ROSBERG

Just in case:

2nd: ROSBERG

3rd: ROSBERG

I said it first here in JAonF1.

5

I agree. Rosberg will claim all 3 places. Not even Vettel or Schumi have done that 😉

6
Spinodontosaurus

Which one is Keke?

7
Tornillo Amarillo

No, I’m serious.

8

So is he.

9

You neglected to cover the remaining seven points slots for Rosberg so I’ll claim them for him – thanks!

Just in case:

DNF too

10

Good thinking. I’ve got 11th – 22nd – the odds are in my favour! 🙂

11

James,

Can you have a fantasy league for us fans? Thanks.

12

A lot of people are already complaining that F1 is artificial and you want to turn it into a fantasy league?

Not a bad idea though James 🙂

13

There is a good competition over on http://www.f1pick6.com

But I agree that it would be a great addition to JAonF1, too.

14

Dear JAMES ALLEN, I NEED YOUR HELP ASAP,. TO WAIT ON THE FORMULA ONE SEASON TO BEGIN IS ONE THING,BUT TO FIND OUT ALL THESE YEARS WATCHING THE RACE ON THE SPEED CHANNEL IN THE STATES LIVE I WILL NOT BE ABLE TO SEE THE RACE LIVE IS SAD TO HEAR… THERE IS NO LISTING FOR PRACTICE QUALIFYING ARE THE RACE ON NO NETWORK. WHERE DO I GO TO SEE ALL THE F1 EVENTS FOR A FORMULA ONE WEEKEND???? PLUS SEE IT LIVE IS THE ONLY WAY TO GO SO PLEASE HELP ME JAMES SOON ASAP…..

17

NBC acquired a full time sports channel formerly called Versus. Now re-branded NBC Sports Channel.

Live coverage of both practices, qualifying, and the race, with repeats of qualifying and the race.

More than Speed used to carry.

18

It’s on NBC SPorts. I’m sure some American readers can supply exact details

19

James,

I am sure the information you have about the availability of NBC Sports vs. Speed (and thank you for the gentle correction–I don’t know who took over my body and typed “ESPN”). I do know that my sample (n=2) of local cable companies both have Speed and not NBCSports. So, I am out of luck but the broader coverage they offer will be great for US F1 fans.

It is clear that NBCSports has made a number of excellent decisions. Keeping the Speed F1 group together as much as possible was one and having more coverage was another–seeing the practice sessions will be wonderful. They have also apparently spent a lot of money beefing up programming. I rather suspect that my local cable company may pick them up later in the year and I will then resubscribe. F1 is about the only thing I watch on cable.

I started following F1 in the 60s and at the time, one saw an occasional, heavily-edited rerun of the odd race here or there on TV and a few months later an article in one of the car mags. I have found it easy to forget my joy at better and better TV coverage and the ability to see races all over the world live. So, I will be patient until the happy day NBCSports is available locally.

Meanwhile, I will rely on your excellent posts and the comments from the knowledgeable community which has assembled here. To you and to them: thanks for so much informative commentary. This is the premier F1 site.

drdata

20

thank you thank you thank you james allen i owe you brother look me up this year at austin gp. looking to see you there. ps,f1 life is forever…..

21

Sadly, the news does not seem to be good.

A bit of background. Both NBCSports and ESPN are available via cable. When ESPN was bought by Fox, some races appeared on local over-the-air Fox channels. There would be about 4 a year or so. And, if I may say, a bit dumbed down from the ESPN broadcasts because a less informed audience was watching, in infer. And, too, the broadcasts were not live but later in the day and were edited to fit the time slot.

Now, we are going to NBCSports with the same good crew that was on ESPN for so many years with the substitution of Leigh Diffey for Bob Varsha who will stay with ESPN. Diffey substituted for Varsha on occasion so he will be familiar with regulars.

NBCSports as I understand it, will broadcast most over their cable channel and 4 races through local NBC affiliates and one on another of the NBC cable channels.

However, NBCSports is not available on anything I can get and from what I can tell, it is not that widespread via cable. If you check the NBCSports Web page…good luck finding anything about F1 because it seems very much an afterthought for them. I saw NBCSports listed from one satellite provider for a premium. I can’t guess how this will shake out but I would welcome more information.

I have heard that it can be streamed from SKY but I can’t see how–without buying a big TV package and even then, it is not clear to me that it will work in the US.

I think after many, many years, most US fans are SOL.

Thanks, Bernie.

James, great, great site. Thank you.

drdata

22

NBC F1 producer sitting next to me in media centre says that it’s available on most cable systems. It’s a lot more widely available than Speed Channel.

FP2, Quali and Race always live with commentary

FP1 and FP3 live streamed online without commentary.

For Australia, running FP1 tape delayed at midnight EST, after college basketball, that will run on into FP2, ending at 3am.

The website is a little impenetrable, I have to admit, having just looked at it now!

Be sure to send us your feedback after the first race.

23

@ Ronbruce

Aah hadn’t realized F1 had raced at Albert Park before.

But from what I have seen on Wikipedia, F1 didn’t race at Albert Park in the 60s but only in 1956 and 1953 and won by Moss and Whiteford respectively.

Apparently, these races weren’t part of the F1 championship

24

You don’t mess with the goferet

25

Mercedes have gone Red Bullesque!

Other teams garages are open in Melbourne, but Mercedes have high gates to firmly BLOCK all view!

Hmmmm!

http://img2.auto-motor-und-sport.de/Mercedes-Formel-1-GP-Australien-13-Maerz-2013-19-fotoshowImageNew-e11bd620-669063.jpg

26

I saw behind the screen. Lewis was sunbathing topless. Nico’s pit is wide open.

27

Nothing to do with the car – Ron Dennis was there to thank them in person for taking L-‘data-tweet’-H of his hands.

28

Being the number 5 of last season, I would suspect you just don’t do this unless you mean serious business (this might be wishful thinking though).

29

Lets hope they really mean mean serious business. It will be good for the sport and for Lewis.

I believe they might have been tinkering with their suspension or some other hidden gizmo. It wouldn’t make sense for them to hide parts that’ll be visible come Friday, its got to be something internal.

30
Tornillo Amarillo

Because we have 5 top teams in 2013 and in theory they can get all the 10 positions with points, any drive for a midfield team that reaches one of those 10 positions could be considered a “victory”.

I am thinking about Hulkenberg, Sutil, Maldonado, Ricciardo, for example.

If they do that, they will be seen as material for the top teams.

Inversely, IMO any driver who don’t achieve the top 10 could be seen as a worrying weak drive.

31

Good point. Some drivers are going to feel the pressure…

32

None more than LH.

33
Tornillo Amarillo

Correction: “Inversely, IMO any driver FROM THE 5 TOP TEAMS who don’t achieve the top 10 could be seen as a worrying weak drive.”

34

Were looking at a wet Gp fellas!

Just had one of the longest heatwaves on record and now, typical Melbourne weather, decides it will most probably rain on both Saturday and Sunday.

35

Thus my prediction that all ten drivers will be on inters in Q3 😉

I’m in Sydney and even I can see from here that it is gunna rain in Melbourne. I’ve been there like 50 times on business and it rained 49 times. And when it rains it doesn’t much about 🙂

36

Its great to have F1 back! No Schumacher but it should be a cracking season. Expecting big things from Lotus and Mercedes this year.

Shaping up to be a cracker!

37

No Schumacher, No Glock, No De La Rosa, No Kobayashi, No Senna, No Petrov.

When was the last time that so many drivers were fired in a season?

38

Forgot Kovi, No Kovalainen

39

What I would like to see is just how fast would cars dive into the pits for fresh set of rubber…. from a spectacle standpoint the faster the degradation the better, the more the pit stops the better.

Common, the amount these drivers are paid they ought to stop complaining about tires and concentrate on racing for the spectacle can only enhance through uncertainty…. since, the circuits have become extremely safe, this I feel is needed to elevate the spectacle of the sport without compromising on someone’s safety.

So a big thumbs up to Pirelli and 2013 tires.

Bring it on.

40

I have a gut feeling that Mclaren will be the fastest car in Melbourne with Perez throwing up a massive surprise.

Ferrari according to me is the best package on the grid.

Redbull always sandbag and after A.Dhabi and Brazil, only a fool will discredit Vettel.

Mercedes the Dark Horse with the most lethal driver line-up on the grid.

Lotus…. I don’t think they will repeat their 2012 campaign…. but with Raikkonen at its wheel…. anything is possible for he is the most lethal driver on the grid.

41

James you say none of the corners are particularly fast, but aren’t turns 11 and 12 mighty quick?

Just asking because thats how it feels when I drive around in F1 2012. Powering out of the Clark chicane, surely using KERS and its just a dab on the brakes and one cog down and turn into turn 11 and follow through into 12. Feels awesome when you get it right.

43

Is this a real F2012? …and can I borrow it? 😀

44

As several drivers pointed out. All this talk about degradation is waste of breath as testing conditions have close to zero correlation with that is going to happen during the season -tyres wise.

Unless they start doing winter testing in warmer climate, winter testing going to be just a systems check and reliability test – which are questionable cause race conditions are not present.

45

I want Michael to race again.

I’m saddened that the season is now starting.

I miss Michael

46

Great as always!

One suggestion, though. Maybe include a track map.

Thanks as always James.

47

Would just be duplication … use the FIA’s Race Previews for a track map:

http://www.fia.com/news/2013-australian-grand-prix-preview

48

I realize I can find a track map elsewhere. I’m not interested in opening another website while I’m reading the story here. It was just a suggestion to help visualize the track while it’s being discussed.

49

Hi James,

Just wondering if you had seen this report…. It has been published on an Australian website and has come at a great time for Marks confidence going into his home race and this season if this is accurate. Especially after Dr Marcos comments earlier this year.

http://motoring.ninemsn.com.au/cars/motoraction/8625500/red-bull-boss-webber-our-number-one-vettel-free-to-leave

Can you heard and confirm this is accurate information??? Would love to get your opinion.

Thanks

50

It is an Australian website, so it’s understandable it would be a little biased toward Mark.

I did find this funny though:

“It is difficult for him to come up against Sebastian, but the team guarantees equal material and treatment for both drivers.

So that’s why Mark got to keep his new front wing after Vettel broke his own at Silverstone?

51

Saw this story on Autosport … looks like the story’s been torqued in that piece.

52

Great look into what is know so far as usual James, will be eager to read your reports & seeing you on ONE HD this year. .(Mark Gillan is definitely a great asset to JA F1:)

As Mark says Tyrer’s, Tyrer’s, Tyrer’s, Tyrer’s, I agree.

As I see it we will get the normal Q3 runners with maybe more of Kimi and Romain up there….If you can do that 1 fast lap, switch on the tyres quicker than the others and the car is set up right, makes for a place in the front 5 after the 1st lap manage your tyres and have good pit stops & strategy (A lot of luck) you will be the one to beat :))

A lot of drivers in non winning cars will be aiming to show what they are made of for that RB seat next year and will make for some great racing this year in the pack.

looking forward to see Daniel Ricciardo really step up as he says he will, showing what’s got him this far so far.(nothing less than a WDT within 5 years I read)

Cant wait till Q3 – like a child waiting for xmas morning to see what santa brought…(to see what the true grid is for 2013)

53

Goferet wrote that the Aussie GP has only been going in Melbourne since 1996.

I watched Stirling Moss win the Australian Gran Prix there in the sixties.

Jack Brabham also won there.

54

It’s only been part of the F1 World Championship since 1985, and only been held at Melbourne since 1996.

55

Unusual coming to feret’s defence but he did refer to Melbourne

56

I use windguru internet weather forecast as it is pretty good. They give Sat in Melbourne at 17:00 local time (qualifying) as 17 degrees, and 2mm rain per 3 hours, which could be scattered showers. For Sunday at 17:00 16 degrees and 0,3mm rain, which means virtually nil. The very cold temperatures will likely cause considerable tyre graining problems, from what we have been told.

57

Hope my team Williams have a great year(fingers crossed) Cannot wait for the season to begin.

58

I love Williams as well, look out for Bottas (and Maldonado is mighty quick as well)!

59

yeah got high hopes for Bottas and Pastor is super fast. just hope he stays out of trouble a little more this season..

60

This year is one WDC less than last year 😉 nevertheless the winner will certainly deserve WDC title as last year and as forever. Cheers and have a nice F! year..

61

Tires, tires, it looks to be all about the tires. Too bad in my view. I think the best race last year was the race in Austin Texas where the tire wear played a small role. Watching Lewis stalk Seb for what was it, 20 laps was the best racing of the year.

62

A car with a much higher top speed overtaking a car with the lowest top speed after being slowed down by a backmarker.

Yeah, so amazing…

63

Yeah well, Lewis still had to get close enough to Seabastian in order to overtake him.

It was a long and amazing hunt (20 laps might be true)because the DRS-zone where Lewis overtook Sebastian came after a series of corners where the RB was definitely faster than the Mclaren + being within a second of Sebastian at the beginning of the DRS-zone wasn’t enough to overtake him, he needed to be as close as within 0.7 to be able to overtake him. It was close (Lewis had only 1 real shot), so for a lot of people it was an amazing hunt down (but that’s really a matter of personal taste).

64
Spinodontosaurus

Hamilton was consistently faster in sector 1, but slower in sector 3. He simply couldn;t make enough time back in sector 1 to counter the chunk he was loosing in sector 3.

65

Phil, Thanks for the info. You stated it the way I saw it. The thing is the tires really didn’t play a part. That’s the point I was trying to make.

66

It was amazing. A superlative drive.

Lewis made the Austin race something to cherish.

67

Most of my life F1 has been a passive interest to me. Living the US F1 is not the most accessible sport.

But last year around Abu Dabi I started catching the F1 bug. Now I am hooked. Bought the game, spending hours on Youtube and sites like this one thirsting for more info. This has been a long hard winter for me with only really 2 races under my belt paying attention.

I don’t have a favorite driver or team yet. But I am so excited about staying up until 1:30 AM Texas time to watch practice.

Can’t wait!!

68

We have t-shirts 🙂

69

Welcome to F1. You are now a Mark Webber / RBR fan. Congratulations 🙂

70

Welcome to the madhouse

71

Your fav driver is Kimi Raikkonen.

72

Not a bad starting point.

If you’re new to F1 mhilgtx, Raikkonen is the guy they call the Ice Man – just to look at him and listen to him in interviews you’d swear he has no personality…BUT DON’T BE FOOLED!

Kimi is hands down one of the coolest drivers on the grid and a great driver besides 🙂

73

These are not the droids you are looking for…

74

No, it has to be Webber. He’s most like a Texan of any of them.

75

Im really bemused by people who think Button is the make all and end all of tyre management given what transpired most of 2012 and given these tyres have a narrower operating range again. 2011 was different because the temp range was slightly broader again so the “sweet spot” was relatively easier to achieve and a smooth driver could hold it in that range for longer. I think these tyres are right up Lewis / Sebastian and Kimis alley because these guys know how to getting heat into them very quickly without destroying them – particularly the fronts which is what they need on a circuit like Australia.

I just very much fear that Ferrari once it gets going is very consistent- it’s single lap pace was very good at Barcelona too. Oh well I will be there cheering the Iceman on – hoping he brings that Lotus name & his -back to their winning glory they so richly deserve.

I will always back a team that does it with far less resources too. I think it’s a real credit for them to even be there, hope we see a jump from Williams too- Im keen to see Bottas become the next big star.

76

No, the tyres have a wider operating temperature this year. But you are right that all the talk about Jensons tyre management is a myth, Lewis tyres kept much better than Jensons for the entire year. If I recall rightly, Jenson had to make an additional stop at Abu Dhabi.

77

Yes that’s right this years tyres are designed to have a wider operating window, and the tyres will be faster for a lap or two, but will ultimately degrade faster. I also agree that Lewis looked after his tyres much better than Jenson last year, but I think there is much more to it than that. I think much of what happened can be laid at McLaren’s door for not achieving the ideal set up on Jenson car for quite a spell, but only occasionally for Lewis. It is easy to be critical but fully understanding the tyres in relation to a particular car is never an easy job, and whenever there is a change the teams are thrown into disarray. – Enter Melbourne 2013. -I suspect the tyres will play a large part in the fortunes of the front runners this year. So I have to ask the question is this really F1 when tyres have such an impact on outcome. It’s all right Hembrey arguing that the fastest guy’s on the circuit are those that keep the tyres in the operating window. – Well of course they are when those outside it are floundering.

78

It should also be said that Pirelli are merely delivering what has been asked for, but these tyres are not good for wheel to wheel racing, and serve to protect the car in front. On top of that all the drivers are mindfull of keeping the tyres in the operating window by not putting too much energy through them so it clearly is a constrained form of racing as there is no latitude for proper catch up just that you have to hope the tyres belonging to the guy in front are in worse shape than your own. – It’s entirely false form of racing that we are stuck with.

79

Everyone I know is upset about the tyres. I wonder what Pirreli is getting out of the situation? Bad press won’t sell more tyres.

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