There really couldn’t be a greater contrast between the dry, arid and dusty expanses of Bahrain and the green parkland setting of Melbourne’s Albert Park track, the venue for the second round of the Formula One World Championship. Dare one say it, we are probably all hoping for a similar contrast in the level of track action too.
Despite the very best efforts of its energetic organising team, Bahrain simply failed to put on a show where it matters, on the racetrack. The race never lived up to pre-season expectations, frustrating those hoping for wheel-to-wheel racing.
Bahrain though, is historically never a track where we expect overtaking. With the exception of the end of the long start-finish straight, there are few places where drivers can get close enough to attack. Adding to the difficulty, the less used areas of the track also get a liberal dusting with sand, making any passing zone slippery.
Melbourne should tick all the boxes for action. It offers a short, sharp run from the starting grid to the first corner, the Jones chicane, with drivers braking hard to negotiate the tight and often action packed first turn. There is a repeat of the same at Turn 4, before a mix of slow to medium speed corners, interlinked with short straights.
It is a track which demands lots of hard braking, followed by equally hard acceleration, which could mean that some frontrunners will fail to reach the chequered flag. This year’s heavier fuel loads will place more strain on the brakes and drivetrain, exacerbating the problems caused by the relatively low levels of grip. The track also poses a challenge for engine cooling, due to the reduced airflow at slower speeds.
It could even be that with no refuelling in the race, some drivers may simply run out of gas before they reach the chequered flag. Any road driver knows that thrashing a car at high revs in a low gear causes any engine to gulp fuel. And that is just what the Formula One pack will be forced to do this Sunday.
I suspect Sebastian will be the man to beat again in Melbourne. One cannot however rule out McLaren, who will be keen to lay to rest memories of last year when, a week after the event, Lewis Hamilton was disqualified from his third place.
One cannot also rule out Ferrari or Mercedes as possible race winners in Melbourne and in both cases it is going to be just as fascinating to watch the battle for supremacy between the team-mates.
Catch F1 race commentator Steve Slater on STAR Sports’ coverage of the Formula One.