The 2015 Formula One World Championship kicks off this weekend with the Australian Grand Prix, which once again is taking place at Melbourne’s Albert Park. Despite the new season not even commencing yet, there’s already been plenty of the drama typical of an action-packed season of F1.
As confirmed, McLaren’s new recruit Fernando Alonso will be sitting out the race on the advice of his medical team. The Spaniard suffered a concussion in a crash that took place during pre-season testing, and is sitting out the race in Melbourne in order to limit any factors that could potentially result in him sustaining another concussion so soon after the first one. Replacing him will be McLaren reserve Kevin Magnussen.
We’ve also learned that Marussia, which was disbanded at the end of the last season, will be on the grid, with Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi serving as drivers. Marussia, now backed by businessman Stephen Fitzpatrick, will be using a modified version of the team’s 2014 car.
In other news, Sauber’s driver lineup remains uncertain after an Australian court ruled the team’s reserve driver from last season, Giedo van der Garde, has a valid contract to race for them this year. However, the team has already announced drivers Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson for this weekend’s race. Sauber says van der Garde is “unprepared” for the race, and is currently appealing the court’s decision.
This will be the 20th Australian GP held at Albert Park. The track, a street circuit that runs in a clockwise direction around a lake, has a relatively slow average speed, being made up of predominantly second and third-gear corners. There are 16 turns in total and the length is 3.3 miles.
This being the only race held at the track, the asphalt is very slippery to begin with. Conditions improve as the tires, in this case Pirelli’s soft and medium compounds, leave their mark. Grip levels usually become consistent by the end of Friday’s practice session.
The weather can also be quite changeable here as it's the end of the Australian summer, and with the track being less than a mile from the sea this can have a large effect. The current forecast for Sunday’s race is for partly cloudy skies and a warm 87-degree F (31-degree C) peak temperature.
Last year’s winner of the Australian GP was Mercedes AMG’s Nico Rosberg. He will be fighting harder than ever this season after losing the title last year to teammate Lewis Hamilton, now a double world champion. Mercedes AMG’s car for this season has been quick during pre-season testing but Ferrari has also shown promise with its new design, plus new driver Sebastian Vettel. Infiniti Red Bull Racing, with Daniel Ricciardo now the star driver, also remains a dark horse.