Australia once again hosts the opening round of the FIA Formula 1 world championship, starting proceedings for 2011 after the postponement of the originally scheduled season-opener in Bahrain. A fixture since 1985, the Australian GP has launched the season no fewer than 14 times (including this event), since the first race at Melbourne’s Albert Park in 1996. Prior to that, the Australian GP in Adelaide held the season finale every year from 1985-1995.
The Albert Park track poses a number of unique challenges to teams and drivers, on account of its temporary nature and ‘street-circuit’ layout. The track is rarely raced on, so is often dusty and low in grip during early practice sessions, while the famously fickle local climate regularly brings showers during a race weekend, along with sudden changes in temperature and wind direction.
This year, two Australians will be in action: Mark Webber for Red Bull Racing and Daniel Ricciardo, who will drive in Friday practice sessions for sister team Scuderia Toro Rosso. Both are sure to receive strong support in Australia’s ‘sports capital’.
SIGNIFICANT CHANGES FOR 2011
A number of changes have been made to the technical regulations for 2011. Among the more significant are:
- Kinetic Energy Regeneration Systems (KERS), first used in F1 in 2009, return for this season, though their use is not compulsory;
- Rear wings are permitted to have an adjustable element, designed to increase overtaking opportunities. During races, drivers can adjust the wing from lap two onwards, but control
is electronically limited to be available only when a driver is less than one second behind another driver at pre-determined track locations. The system is deactivated when braking. It will be operable at any time during practice and qualifying sessions;
- The so-called F-Duct aerodynamic device has been banned;
- Double rear diffusers have been outlawed;
- Front-rear weight distribution is fixed.
► Pirelli has become Formula 1’s sole tyre supplier, replacing Bridgestone, which had supplied tyres since 1997.
► The ‘107 per cent’ rule returns for 2011. This means that any driver unable to set a qualifying time within 107 per cent of the fastest Q1 lap time will not be allowed to start the race.
► Four rookie drivers are due to start the 2011 Formula 1 season.They are:
25, Belgium (Virgin)
Paul Di Resta
24, UK (Force India)
26, Venezuela (Williams)
Sergio Perez Mendoza
21, Mexico (Sauber)
► Five F1 World Champions start the season:
Fernando Alonso (2005-6)
Jenson Button (2009)
Lewis Hamilton (2008)
Sebastian Vettel (2010)
► No Formula 1 season has started with five active world champions since 1970. That year they were:
Jack Brabham (1959-60, 1966) Graham Hill (1962, 1968)
Denny Hulme (1967)
John Surtees (1964)
Jackie Stewart (1969 and subsequently 1971, 1973)