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Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix: All Irish viewers need to know from scheduled start time to track, standings and stats


Formula 1 has touched down in Melbourne this week to race for the first time in nearly three years at the Australian Grand Prix.

The Covid-19 pandemic saw the Australian government opt to close its borders with all arriving passengers being placed in a two-week hotel quarantine.

The teams and drivers were sent home in 2020 as the Covid situation worsened, and ongoing travel rules made it virtually impossible to feature the Aussie race on the 2021 season calendar.

During the nearly three-year hiatus, updates were made to the Albert Park Circuit – with vital input from the drivers – including an entire resurfacing, amended corners, and a new DRS Zone – all in a bid to promote faster racing.

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These changes will add all the more excitement to the weekend ahead as the drivers continue to settle into their new machinery with the added task of coming to terms with an updated track.

Following the heart-racing Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, fans are eagerly awaiting the next on-track battle after reigning world champion Max Verstappen used every inch of the Jeddah Corniche circuit to get around the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc in the final laps of the race – sealing his first win of the season.

Proceedings kicked off today with the first Free Practice taking place in the middle of the night (4:00 am), followed by another early morning run three hours later, while Qualifying for the main event will begin tomorrow at 7:00 am.

So, if you’re new to following Formula 1 or just want a refresher ahead of the first Australian GP in almost three years, here’s everything you need to know:



Everything you need to know about the Australian Grand Prix as Formula 1 returns after three-year hiatus

The track

Located three kilometres south of central Melbourne, the Albert Park Circuit has hosted many memorable races since its inaugural Grand Prix back in 1996.

Sunday’s battle will take place over 58 laps across a total distance of 306.124 km from lights out to the chequered flag.

The track has undergone major changes ahead of the 2022 Grand Prix, including full resurfacing, modified corners and a new DRS zone with race officials labelling it a much improved, more aggressive track with better overtaking opportunities and the potential for speeds of up to 330km/h.

The Albert Park circuit is now 5.278 km long and features 14 corners and 4 DRS detection zones.



Everything you need to know about the Australian Grand Prix as Formula 1 returns after three-year hiatus

Turns 9 and 10 were completely redesigned – so where they used to form a right-left chicane with a heavy braking zone in the run-up, there is now a much faster right-left combination, according to officials.

This was done to allow for higher speeds on the approach to turns 11 and 12, meanwhile, several other corners were reprofiled to allow for more overtaking – like at turn 13, where the track was widened to create additional racing lines.

The main straight and pit lane were also changed, with the pit lane wall moved two metres closer to the track so that the edge of the circuit sits directly next to the wall.

2019 race

Valtteri Bottas won the last Australian GP in 2019 for Mercedes after an impeccable race start sealed his fate.

He overtook his then-teammate Lewis Hamilton – who started on pole – on the opening lap and had left everyone in the dust by the chequered flag.

The Finnish driver crossed the line 20.886s ahead of the pack, with Hamilton in second.

Bottas also secured the fastest lap for Mercedes that year, bringing home a perfect 26 points.



Everything you need to know about the Australian Grand Prix as Formula 1 returns after three-year hiatus

Meanwhile, Max Verstappen ran in the top three at Albert Park for the first time in 2019, and despite his troubling pace in the RB15, he landed the final step on the podium – marking Honda’s first since 2008.

Daniel Ricciardo will be hoping for better luck this time out with McLaren after his 2019 home race and debut for Renault got off to a nightmare start.

He launched his car over the grass verge at the pit exit as he tried to squeeze past Racing Point’s Sergio Perez at lights out and ripped the front wing off his R.S.19.

The Aussie driver then capped off his Renault debut with the team opting to retire the car with a suspected issue.

Driver stats

McLaren and Ferrari are tied with the most wins at the sunny street circuit Down Under, while Michael Schumacher holds the record for most wins with four.

There are four past Aussie Grand Prix winners on the grid this weekend in Fernando Alonso (2006) Lewis Hamilton (2008, 2015), Sebastian Vettel (2011, 2017, 2018), and Valtteri Bottas (2019).

Michael Schumacher to this day holds the record for fastest lap in 1:24.125s – which hasn’t been beaten since 2004.

Meanwhile, the DHL Fastest Pit Stop Award was handed to Red Bull for the Australian GP in 2019 after Pierre Gasly’s impeccably quick tyre switch in 2.19s.

Weather



Everything you need to know about the Australian Grand Prix as Formula 1 returns after three-year hiatus

Weather is arguably one of the most important strategy-deciding factors when it comes to racing.

Each team’s list of potential strategies is intricately designed to cope with any conditions that could be thrown their way and are based on reams of historical data collected by engineers for each individual circuit.

This weekend in Melbourne, forecasts show rain won’t be an issue, but rather the heat and its effects on the new range of 18-inch Pirelli tyres.

Across the weekend, air temperatures are due to range from 23°C to 26°C, and although this sounds pleasant for those in attendance, it will be an entirely different story for the cars on the grid.

Track temperature is a critical parameter in Formula 1 tyre performance due to the fact that the asphalt of a Grand Prix circuit soaks up heat from the sun, so it can be much warmer than the air temperature – by 10°C or more.

Hotter track surfaces cause more tyre wear, and this means that the soft tyres will last considerably fewer laps, so harder tyres may be the more optimal choice.

Championship standings

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc leads the driver’s standings heading into round three of the 2022 Formula 1 Championship season with 45 points and is followed by his teammate Carlo Sainz with 33.

The prancing horses have been dominating the season so far, as Red Bull plays catch up after two DNFs in Bahrain followed by a win in Saudi Arabia.



Everything you need to know about the Australian Grand Prix as Formula 1 returns after three-year hiatus

Max Verstappen is currently in third with 25 points and is just ahead of the struggling Mercedes men. George Russell is in fourth with 22 points and Lewis Hamilton remains in an unfamiliar fifth with 16.

Fourteen drivers have managed to score points this season already, including Alfa Romeo rookie, Guanyu Zhou, who scored his first point in Bahrain after a momentous debut drive.

Ferrari leads the constructor’s standings with an impressive 78 points, with Mercedes in second with 38.

However, the silver arrows will likely drop to third following this weekend as they continue to struggle with performance, while Red Bull is just one point off second with a so-far better-performing piece of machinery.

Favourites

According to the bookies, Max Verstappen is the favourite to win in Australia on the back of his Saudi Arabian triumph.

The battle between the Dutchman and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc is fast becoming the main rivalry of the season, however, there are many unknowns this weekend, with corner changes, newly added DRS zones, and the entirely new generation of cars to promote closer racing.

Mercedes, who have had a problematic start to the season, were due to arrive in Melbourne with an updated low downforce wing and a new floor on their W13, however, it has now been reported that these updates won’t be seen until Imola.

They’re currently running around half a second behind the front runners as the charging bulls threaten to demote them in the standings this weekend.

Schedule

Given the time difference, the first Free Practice session took place this morning at 4:00 am Irish time with FP2 taking place at 7:00 am.

On Saturday, April 9, the final practice session begins at 4:00 am followed by Qualifying at 7:00 am.

Lights out for the Australian Grand Prix will then be at 6:00 am on Sunday, April 10, 2022.

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