The traditional season-opener, the Australian Grand Prix, held at Melbourne’s Albert Park, is a fitting race to start the new season. The part street circuit layout provides an interesting challenge for the drivers, and the weather is almost always perfect given the fact that the Aussies, this time of year, are enjoying their end of summer.

Of course, the weather in Melbourne can be quite changeable, especially with the track being less than a mile from the sea, but right now conditions are looking good throughout the weekend. Sunday’s race should be held under partly cloudy skies, with peak temperatures currently forecast to hit a mild 66 degrees F (19 degrees C). Some rain could eventuate, though only after the race.

This being the only race held at the track, the surface is very slippery to begin with. Conditions improve as the tires—Pirelli has nominated its soft and medium compounds—leave their mark. Low grip from the slippery surface as well as the high downforce and heavy braking at Albert Park mean the tires get a serious workout.

Pirelli has developed a new structure for the rear tires this season, which boosts traction and helps drivers get onto the power earlier: a factor that should lead to faster lap times this season. After the initial practice session on Friday, Mercedes AMG is showing that the winter break hasn’t affected its performance whatsoever, with current world champion Lewis Hamilton and his teammate Nico Rosberg setting the fastest times of the day.

Rosberg was the fastest on Friday with a 1:29.557, followed by Hamilton with a 1:29.586. Williams’ Valtteri Bottas was the third fastest, albeit more than a second behind Hamilton with his 1:30.748. Hopefully the likes of Ferrari, Infiniti Red Bull Racing and Williams can spring a surprise or two this season to keep Mercedes AMG on its toes.


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