This is the moment race fans all around the world have been waiting almost four months for, the start of the 2013 Formula One World Championship at the Australian Grand Prix.

The Australian Grand Prix has been F1’s curtain raiser for 15 of the last 17 seasons, and on each occasion the race has been staged at the Albert Park street circuit in the city of Melbourne.

Not a great deal has changed since 2012’s nail-biting finisher in Brazil: Red Bull Racing and its star driver Sebastian Vettel are still the world champions, the look of the cars and the regulations they were designed to are virtually the same, and most of the top drivers are still with the same teams.

The only notable exception is Lewis Hamilton now driving a Mercedes AMG and his seat at McLaren filled by Sergio Perez. At the same time, F1 legend Michael Schumacher will no longer be on the grid.

The 2013 season also has one less team (HRT is out) and one less race.

The Australian Grand Prix is one of the most exciting on the F1 calendar as it’s the first time that we get to see how the drivers perform, some new to the sport and others with new teams. The 16-turn track’s length is 3.3 miles, and with a combination of short straights, second and third gear chicanes, it requires medium to high downforce and good traction.

Ambient temperatures can be very high, fuel consumption is high and there is increased brake wear during the 58-lap race. The ambient temperatures in Jerez and Barcelona during initial testing is quite different to what teams face in Australia, so they’ll be looking very closely at tire degradation.

Sole tire supplier Pirelli is bringing its P Zero White Medium and P Zero Red Supersoft tires for the race, which is a more extreme combination than last year and is aimed at boosting performance.

What can one expect of the teams’ performances this year? Predictions are difficult but let’s hope we see a mix of different drivers on the podium like we did for most of 2012. One interesting factoid: 60 percent of Australian Grand Prix winners in the past decade have gone on to become World Champion.

Stay tuned for our complete coverage of the race, including a weather forecast tomorrow, qualifying report on Saturday and full race results coverage on Monday.