A great place for the race. That's what the billboards around Melbourne say and no one in Formula 1 would disagree. The Australian Grand Prix is one of the most popular races on the calendar, both for its vibrant atmosphere and the challenging circuit made up of predominantly public roads.
The 5.3km Albert Park track is one of the few street circuits on the calendar and therefore used by everyday road traffic when F1 isn’t in town. As a result, drivers are faced with minimal grip during the race weekend’s opening sessions, combined with the ban on traction control, the circuit’s limited run-off areas may claim some unprecedented victims over the weekend before grip levels improve as rubber is put down on the racing line. The large number of support races helps this but it can take until Saturday’s qualifying session for the track to stabilise.
The track blends a testing mix of short straights (on which the drivers will reach speeds in excess of 300km/h and spend 70 percent of the lap at full throttle), interspersed with slow and medium speed corners, which will demand nearly 3,500 gear changes during the race.
The drivers have to be very committed and precise, and their jobs are made more difficult in the race by the setting sun. The race has a delayed start time of 5pm to fit in with European TV audiences and that creates several blind spots at sundown.