After all the time back at the factory buliding the new cars and testing in Barcelona, the time for talking is finally here. This weekend Formula 1 returns for real down under at the Albert Park Street Circuit in Melbourne.
Once again this season all eyes will be on Mercedes in the hope that someoene can end the domiance that the Silver Arrows have enjoed since the introduction of the V6 turbo engines. Mercedes have breazed past the compeition over the past 2 seasons, but this year we could be in for a real fight as Ferrari seemily look to have closed the gap to the defending champions.
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 17, 2016
Mercedes were the class of the field in testing, but Ferrari were the team that caught the eyes of many in the paddock with their pace and. The pracing horse managed to top the times on a number of occasions over the winter. Ferrari were looking quick but it was Mercedes that looked the most dangrerous. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg clocked up the most amount of laps during pre-season testing without any trouble. You could almost say that the defending champions had an almost perfect winter.
With every new season comes new drivers that will all want to get off to a flier at the first race. Well new is not really the world I’m looking for. Kevin Magnussen makes his full return to F1 this season at the circuit which he scored his first and only F1 podium at on his McLaren debut in 2014, this time he will be representing Renault as opposed to McLaren.
— Jack Nicholls (@Jack_Nicholls) March 17, 2016
Alongside Magnussen at Renault Joloyon Palmer has been promoted to a race seat Renault. Palmer is no stranger to the team after his years as the test and reserve driver team under their previous guise, Lotus. Esteban Gutierrez makes his return to F1 after spending a year on the sidelines at Ferrari. The Mexican partners the experience former Lotus man, Romain Grosjean at new boys Haas F1 who many are expecting to spring a surprise this weekend on their debut. Mercedes young driver Pascal Wehrlein partners Rio Haryanto at Manor and is the first Indonesian F1 driver
The new rules
Qualfying has been a big shake up in the bid to improve the show on Sunday afternoons. Q1 will last for 16 minutes. After 7 minutes, the slowest car on track will be elimnated. This process will continue every 90 seconds until the time runs out with the remaining 15 drivers progressing to Q2. The 2nd phase of qualifying will run for 15 minutes with the slowest driver being eliminated after 6 minutes and then again every 90 seconds until 8 drivers remain.
The final phases of qualifying has also seen an overhaul. Q3 will run longer than last season at 14 minutes with the slowest driver taking an early bath, after 5 minutes with the last place man being eliminated every 90 seconds until we have just one driver remaining.
As well as qualifying, the tyre rules has also been a big shake up. Teams and drivers have been complaining about the tyres that Pirelli bring to some races, claiming that sometimes the tyre supplier is too conservative with their selection of tyres. This season, the drivers have the choice of what tyres they can use at a race weekend and how many of each compound.
The most surprising tyre selection this weekend is at Mercedes. The defending champions are the only team to split their strategy with Hamilton opting to use one less set of the medium compound in comparsion to teammate Rosberg. It will be interesting to see how the freedom in tyre choice plays out over the course of a season.
The sun usually shines in Melburne, but this weekend this may not be the case. Storms are expected on Friday afternoon and could effect the running in FP1. Thannkfully the rain should hold off for qualifying and the race meaning we will finally be able to see for ourselves the pecking order.