Reports

Australian F1 Grand Prix

2016 AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX – SET UP

PREVIEW

Circuit Stats
2015 winner Lewis Hamilton, 58 laps, 1:31:54.067s
2015 pole position Lewis Hamilton, 1m26.327s
Name Albert Park
First race 1996
Circuit length 5.303km/3.295 miles (12th longest track of the year)
Distance to Turn One 350m/0.217 miles (longest of season: Barcelona, 730m/0.454 miles)
Longest straight 860m/0.534 miles (longest of season: China, 1.17km/0.727 miles)
Top speed 305km/h/190mph, on the approach to Turn One (fastest of season: Monza, 350km/h/217mph)
Pitlane length 280m/0.174 miles, estimated time loss 21s (longest of season: Interlagos, 380m/0.236 miles)
Full throttle 61 per cent (highest of season: Monza, 75 per cent)
DRS zones Two, on the approaches to Turns One and Three
Key corner The Esses at Turns 11 and 12. The minimum apex speed is 225km/h (140mph) and negative camber at the exit makes it easy to run wide.
Fastest corner 275km/h (171mph), Turn Eight
Slowest corner 84km/h (52mpg), Turn 15
Major changes for 2016 No changes to layout, but a few alterations to kerbing, run-off and Astroturf
Fuel consumption 1.7kg per lap, the third highest of the season due to the amount of acceleration bursts from low speed
ERS demands Medium
Brake wear High, there are seven big stops from more than 230km/h (143mph)
Gear changes 56 per lap /3248 per race
Circuit facts
History lesson A permanent fixture on the F1 calendar since 1996, Albert Park did in fact host grands prix many decades earlier. It was home to the non-championship Australian GP in the ’50s, a race twice won by Stirling Moss.
What makes the track unique The bumpy pit straight. These bumps create severe pitch oscillation, which makes the car challenging to set up. The aerodynamicists want to run it hard; the engineers want to run it soft and a compromise has to be reached for best overall performance.
Grip levels Low. This is a street circuit, used just once a year, and it’s very slippery until some rubber gets laid down during practice. Drivers need to be wary of the negative camber, particularly at corner exit.
Run-off Substantial, but mistakes are punished because there’s a mix of grass and gravel awaiting errant cars. Remember Martin Brundle flying through the air in his Jordan in ’96?
Watch out for… Sunset. The 16:00hrs start (local time) means the sun gets low and into the drivers’ line of vision towards the end of the race.

THE DRIVERS ON...THE CIRCUIT

#14 Fernando Alonso

“It’s been a very long winter – the longest I can remember without Formula 1 – so I’m really looking forward to getting back in the car. This track is always exciting to drive, partly because of its street circuit nature – tight run-off areas, a bumpy surface and low grip – but also because everyone is impatient to go racing again.

The important thing is to get a good start – usually everyone is eager and it’s quiet common for there to be some drama off the line in the first race. This year, it’ll be interesting to see how everyone’s tyre choices play out, and the strategy each team picks, but it’s only on Sunday afternoon that we’ll get to see where we really are. On Friday and Saturday, we’ll be working hard to predict the track’s characteristics on race day, and focusing on setting up the car in its final specification. It’ll also be interesting to see how the improvement in the power unit deployment pans out on this tricky circuit, too.”

#22 Jenson Button

“I’m so excited to go racing again! Albert Park is always a great season-opener – I love Melbourne as a city, and the track is pretty good, too. The warm weather is a welcome change and the higher track temperatures than we’ve been used to in testing always pose a bit of a challenge.

 

“In Australia it’s always a new slate each day in terms of set-up, as the track starts off very green on the Friday and wears in more and more as the weekend goes on. We are planning to bring some updates to this race, so we’ll be working on configuring those into our set-up right from FP1. Albert Park is a tricky place to start the season at – it’s an unforgiving, technical, bumpy street circuit, so it really gets you going after a few months off from racing, but that’s why we love driving there.”

AUSTRALIAN GP FACTS & STATS

Event stats
Start time 16:00hrs local / 05:00hrs GMT
Race distance 58 laps (full world championship points will be awarded after 75 per cent distance/43.5 laps)
Safety Car likelihood 48 per cent, relatively high
When to press record The start! The drivers haven’t raced for 15 weeks and some might be too anxious to get things underway. Remember 2003, when eight cars were eliminated in a pile-up at Turn One?
Don’t put the kettle on When the race reaches laps in the early teens and late 30s. These were the two pitstop windows during last year’s race
Weather conditions now 27 degrees and sunny
Race forecast 19 degrees, patchy cloud. Being a coastal location, Melbourne’s weather can change quickly.
Tyre choices Supersoft/Soft/Medium
Event facts
First Australian Grand Prix Adelaide 1985
Slogan “It’s a great place for the race”
Australia’s F1 heritage The Australian Grand Prix has been staged at two different venues: Adelaide (1985-’95) and Melbourne (1996-present). There have been 13 Australian F1 drivers since the inauguration of the World Championship in 1950 and two Australian World Champions – Jack Brabham and Alan Jones. Jack remains the only driver in history to win the world title in his own car.
Smallest winning margin 0.702s, in 1998. Mika Häkkinen came home just ahead of McLaren team-mate David Coulthard.
Sporting legacy As well as the Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne hosts the Australian Open tennis championship, the Melbourne Cup horse race, surfing world championships at Bells Beach and, just 50kms (31 miles) down the road at Philip Island, the Australian MotoGP race.
Did you know? McLaren is the most successful constructor at the Australian Grand Prix, having won the race 11 times and taken 26 podiums
Don’t forget No Australian driver has ever finished on the podium in Australia
Fan zone Sarah, aged 17, from London. “Any advice on the best strategy to watch the race”? McLaren’s answer: To stay awake, or to get up early? That is the question. For the super-fans, get up early, drink a cup of Segafredo coffee and watch the race!

THE DRIVERS ON...THE EVENT

#14 Fernando Alonso

“One thing is for sure, the fans are always very loud and it’s always a great feeling in the first race of the season. Apart from that, we can’t make any predictions of results or make comparisons as we don’t yet know much about the form book from winter testing. The same teams look to be strong this year, but everyone is holding their cards very close to their chest, so it will be interesting to see how the weekend unfolds.  

“Usually the track conditions change quite dramatically from the start of FP1 on Friday to the end of the grand prix, so it’s a race in itself for the drivers and engineers to keep on top of it and make sure they have the right set-up ahead of each session, or risk losing out. The new qualifying format will surely make things a bit unpredictable for the teams and the fans, as every time a new regulation comes in each season it always take a little bit of time to get used to it. I’m looking forward to landing in Australia, getting back in the car, putting my visor down and getting back on track, then the season will really begin. I’m so ready!”

#22 Jenson Button

“The Australian Grand Prix is always a fascinating unknown because you’re never sure where you are in relation to your competitors. Although we’ve finished pre-season testing, we’ve not had much time on track before the season starts, so this is the first chance for us to compare ourselves on similar set-ups. We’ve been concentrating heavily on our own development and processes, so I’m looking forward to seeing where we are on a level playing field.  

“We’re working hard behind the scenes to develop the car and bring new updates at every possible opportunity. Melbourne will certainly be a challenge, but our package definitely feels like a step forward from last year. There are so many more variables this year – new qualifying format, new tyre regulations, and Australia usually produces unpredictable races, so anything could happen!”

HEAR FROM THE MANAGEMENT

Eric Boullier

“It’s been a very long winter, and I know that I can speak on behalf of the whole McLaren-Honda team when I say that we can’t wait to go racing again! There’s been an incredible amount of hard work done over the winter, and we’re all itching to get back on the grid to see where we are for this, our second year of the McLaren-Honda partnership.  

“We are certainly a step ahead of where we were this time last year in terms of preparation – we have much more mileage under our belts and we’ve performed most of the necessary system checks that we were still working on during race weekends in 2015. That said, we didn’t manage to complete our final configuration and set-up work for the first race, so we go to Melbourne with a number of unknowns. It won’t be an easy start to the weekend in that sense, since we’ll need to concentrate on setting the car up for each session and readying the final specification of our package as soon as we get to Albert Park. Since the final pre-season test, there’s been a huge effort back in Woking to bring new parts to Australia and it’ll be good to finally get to the track on Friday and see how we fare.  

“Until the other teams fully show their hand in the same conditions, we won’t have any idea where we stack up in comparison, but our priority is to focus on extracting the most out of our own performance, while still maintaining reliability. It’s a difficult balance to strike, but as usual we’ll work hard, in the hope of faring better in Australia than we did last year. We are always greeted by a warm welcome, and it’ll be fantastic to hear the cheers from the knowledgeable Aussie fans in Albert Park. We’re all counting down to the green light on Friday so we can get out on track and start the season proper.”

Yusuke Hasegawa


"As a season-opener, the street circuit of Albert Park is a strenuous track for the drivers, car and the power unit, so it will no doubt be a difficult race. The circuit is flat, narrow, slippery and fast, which makes the whole weekend unpredictable.

 

“That said, we are eager to see what the package is capable of out on track. During the short winter months, we worked hard to address the issues encountered in 2015, and during the two weeks of testing in Barcelona, we were able to confirm the fundamental power unit set-up for 2016. The logical next step is to test and show our progress on track, which will begin to shape the course of our development for this year.

 

“Last year, the team was given a warm welcome by the enthusiastic fans, as well as fantastic support from our Honda Australia peers. We hope we can show our appreciation through our efforts on the track during the grand prix weekend."

2016 AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX – FREE PRACTICE

“We definitely made the best of today”
Friday March 18

Frequent showers, blustery winds and generally changeable conditions on the first day of practice made it difficult for anyone to obtain an accurate read on overall performance. Nonetheless, the McLaren-Honda team demonstrated its adaptability, experience and efficiency by consistently running competitively as it drilled through a series of evaluative tests and checks during the afternoon.

Given the washed-out nature of today’s running, we will put our learning to best use overnight as we prepare for a busy FP3 tomorrow afternoon and what is set to be an unpredictable and exciting qualifying session three hours later.

Fernando Alonso

MP4-31-01
FP1 1m33.060s (+3.335s) 11 laps 7th
FP2 1m39.895s (+1.054s) 16 laps 6th
FP3 1m27.263s (+1.639s) 20 laps 11th

“I think we’re feeling quite happy after today.

“It’s nice to be back here in Melbourne: sometimes, when you come away from testing and go to a different circuit, you receive a pleasant surprise… or an unpleasant surprise. Well, today, we received a pleasant surprise.

“We more or less completed our programme – there were a few things we couldn’t quite accomplish, because we didn’t have enough dry running, but it was the same for everyone and we’ll hopefully run through our braking and ride-height checks tomorrow.

“Looking ahead to qualifying tomorrow, we have a clear and structured plan. Because we’ll be running both cars at the same time, we’ll need everything to be organised and synchronised between the two pit-crews so that they can focus on both cars simultaneously.

“Nevertheless, it’s a new system, and some teams will inevitably make mistakes with it during these early races, but I hope McLaren-Honda won’t be one of them.”

JENSON BUTTON

MP4-31-03
FP1 1m33.129s (+3.404s) 16 laps 8th
FP2 1m40.008s (+1.167s) 13 laps 7th
FP3 1m27.341s (+1.717s) 20 laps 12th

“This wasn’t the easiest day on which to run race cars – even if it had been dry, those 50km/h winds made things very tricky, and the early rain made them trickier still. In fact in conditions like we saw today, when it’s wet and windy, you can lose control of the car very easily, so I hope tomorrow will be a lot calmer to be honest.

“Having said that, we still managed to trial some engine and ride-height settings. We’d like to have tried even more more, but there was little point in such bad weather conditions. All in all, though, I definitely think we made the best of today.

“For qualifying tomorrow, I think it’s important that the fans know what’s happening. The fans are a big part of this sport, and it’s important that they understand the reasons for the change.

“I reckon some teams and drivers will make mistakes in quali during the next few races, but I think we’re well prepared.”

ERIC BOULLIER

“Our positions in both today’s sessions underlined the team’s experience and competence in dealing with unexpected and difficult conditions. It would have been easy to make mistakes, or to have missed out on useful running, but, in fact, we did the opposite; gathering plenty of good data whenever the track was clear, and getting a thorough understanding of the direction we need to adopt for the remainder of the weekend.

“So it’s been an extremely encouraging day. We know there’s work to be done, but today has shown that we’ve made real progress – both in terms of reliability and in terms of performance. Given the unpredictable and changeable conditions facing us for both Saturday and Sunday, therefore, we’re well placed to maximise our potential this weekend.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

“The first day of the season opening race was hampered by gusty winds and temperamental rain, so unfortunately we were unable to confirm the full performance of the car. Thankfully, our two drivers' patience and good laps in these tricky conditions enabled us to gather enough data for the day.

“We have combined today’s power unit data with that gathered in Barcelona two weeks ago, and successfully prepared ourselves for tomorrow's running. Hopefully, we will be blessed with better track conditions tomorrow.”

2016 AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX – QUALIFYING

“The car was fantastic today."
Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button will start tomorrow’s Australian Grand Prix from 12th and 13th respectively after demonstrating the pace and potential of the MP4-31 package in qualifying this afternoon. 

The track was dry for the quali session, for the first time this weekend, and the team maintained the promise it first showed yesterday. Both drivers comfortably graduated through Q1; in the second session, they set solid initial times, but, without any fresh sets of Supersofts remaining, they were unable to challenge thereafter, choosing not to run again. 

After an inconclusive winter test, both Jenson and Fernando declared that the MP4-31 had made a significant step forwards in terms of pace, giving them both the confidence and belief comfortably to push it to the limit. Benefitting from much improved deployment, we go into tomorrow’s race hopeful of showing further promise and potential.

FERNANDO ALONSO

FP3: 11th 1m27.263s (+1.639s) 20 laps 

Q1: 3rd 1m26.537s (on Options)

Q2: 12th overall 1m26.125s (on Options) 

Q3: -

“The car was fantastic today. “I felt very comfortable and very happy with the performance of the car all weekend. We didn’t expect to be too fast here because our car is still limited in performance in certain areas. But we were more competitive than we anticipated, have some new things coming for in the next few races, and we’re looking to be stronger in the future. 

“Perhaps we need to give the new qualifying system a bit more time. However, I believe it favours the strongest teams and is a bit unfair towards the less competitive teams. 

“Because we’d used two sets of Supersofts in Q1 – where I finished third – we only had one chance to run in Q2. On my first run I felt competitive, I was 10th, running under the same conditions and on the same rubber as everyone else; I was only 1.2s off the Mercedes, which was a nice surprise, but then I had to sit in the garage and watch how quali developed, which was a bit sad. 

“Of course, the top teams don’t need to use both sets of Supersoft tyres in Q1, so the onus is on us to get back to being a top team again, and only use up one set of Options in Q1. But maybe we should do what Moto GP did in qualifying last year – where the less competitive teams could use softer tyres in qualifying. In Formula 1, we’ve chosen to do the opposite. 

“Tomorrow will be interesting – hopefully we can get both cars into the points.”

JENSON BUTTON

FP3: 12th 1m27.341s (+1.717s) 20 laps 

Q1: 7th 1m26.740s (on Options)

Q2: 13th overall 1m26.304s (on Options)

Q3: -

“Twelfth and 13th on the grid is slightly better than we expected before we came here. 

“The car didn’t feel too bad, although I think people struggled with the drop in temperature between FP3 and qualifying. I enjoyed driving the car, although, at the end of Q2, we didn’t have any Supersoft tyres left, and weren’t quite quick enough. 

“The only problem we encountered with the new qualifying regulations was in the pit-lane: the four cars behind us were being wheeled backwards into the garage at the same time as we were trying to stop in the box, change tyres and run again. It’s quite a narrow pit-lane here, so it turned into a bit of a mess. 

“Winter testing was positive in terms of mileage, but less so in terms of pace, so we’re all positively surprised with how close we were to Williams and Force India. I actually believe we have a better race car than a qualifying car – which is a turnaround from last year – and our deployment is almost as good as anybody else’s, which will benefit us more in the races. 

“Today isn’t too bad a starting point – much better than where we were this time last year.”

Eric Boullier McLaren-Honda Racing Director

“Today’s qualifying hour was exciting for the first few minutes of Q1, but it then petered out very disappointingly.   

“Like many of my opposite-numbers within other teams, on behalf of our sport, I have to say I’m saddened that the new qualifying format produced such a lacklustre spectacle.   

“As regards our own form, well, 12th and 13th isn’t much to write home about, but, having qualified in the middle of Q2, we have freedom of choice re tyres for tomorrow, so we’ll now move on from a day that did our sport no favours and crunch data in an effort to optimise our race strategy.   

“Encouragingly, both our drivers reported that our car felt very nice, and that its balance allowed them to push it in the way that all racing drivers hope for of a good racing car. So MP4-31 is clearly well conceived, and its development will continue apace.   

“In the meantime, as I say, let’s see what tomorrow brings.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA - HONDA R&D CO LTD HEAD OF F1 PROJECT & EXECUTIVE CHIEF ENGINEER

“Today's performance shows great progress from our results in the Barcelona test, and we had a good, solid run from this afternoon's FP3 through to qualifying. The new qualifying format and the tyre allocation made it tricky for us to strategise, and, although we may have had the potential to move on to Q3, we finished the session in P12 and P13.  

“Both drivers are satisfied with the car, which is a positive for the team, and hopefully we can be in a position to score some points at the end of the race.”

2016 AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX – RACE

“I got out quickly so my mum could see I was okay!”

Today’s race was overshadowed by Fernando’s accident with Esteban Gutierrez at Turn Three on lap 16.  

Despite the violence of the crash, Fernando was able to extricate himself from the car unaided, and was then taken to the circuit medical centre for routine checks, before being declared okay by the doctors. His car fared less well – both the chassis and the power unit were heavily damaged, and the resulting debris was scattered so extensively that it prompted a red-flag stoppage to clear up the mess. 

After the restart Jenson adopted a different strategy to the majority of runners, but failed to capitalise on it, finishing 14th. 

Nonetheless, there were positives to take from the weekend – our competitive package looks healthy, and both drivers ran strongly on the fringes of the top 10 before the red flag. 

We will head to Bahrain optimistic of maintaining that strong momentum.

PU14: Fernando Alonso

MP4-31-01

Started: 11th  

Finished: DNF – accident (16 laps)  

Fastest lap: 1m32.553s on lap 14 (+3.556s, 11th)

Pit-stops: One: lap 12 (2.68s) [Opt-Pri]

“I’m thankful I’m alive and that nothing serious happened – it was a big shunt. 

“A combination of factors caused Esteban [Gutierrez] and me to end up crashing. I was in the car flying and bouncing around – I could see the sky, then the ground, then the sky again. Then, when the car landed, I saw a little gap and I got out quickly to make sure that my mum, who was watching the race on TV at home, could see that I was okay! 

“It was a racing incident – I’m very happy we’re both fine, which is the most important thing. 

“But, soon afterwards, my thoughts switched to frustration and disappointment, because we missed an opportunity to get some points in the first race of the season, and we probably lost a power unit too because the car is more or less completely destroyed. 

“We risk our lives every time we get in a Formula 1 car: these things happen, but I’m extremely happy to be okay. The reason I’m still alive is probably thanks to all the fantastic work the FIA has done over the past 10 or 15 years to improve safety, work they continue to do. And I’m also grateful to everyone at McLaren, who built me such a strong and safe car.”

PU22: Jenson Button

MP4-31-03

Started: 12th

Finished: 14th 

Fastest lap: 1m31.684s on lap 33 (+2.687s, 8th)

Pit-stops: Three: laps 15 (3.36s), 18 (changed at restart) and 30 (2.60s) [Pri-Pri-Opt-Back-Up]

“I’m really glad Fernando was able to walk away from that accident – I’m sure he’ll remember that one for a few weeks. 

“It’s amazing how far these cars can be catapulted when they touch tyres; under braking, it can all happen very quickly when it goes wrong. But the fact that his car survived shows how far the sport has come in terms of safety. 

“My car wasn’t too bad, but I think we made some imperfect strategic calls this afternoon. Also, the red flag hurt us because we’d already made our first stop. Then, after the restart, we ran the Supersoft – which lasted about 10 laps – and then fitted the Back-Up, which everyone else had been on since the restart. Around here, you can catch up but you can’t easily overtake, so we ended up at the back of the queue after making our stop.”

Eric Boullier: McLaren-Honda Racing Director

“Before I say anything else, I want to praise two things: the structural integrity of modern-day Formula 1 cars, and the safety features of modern-day racetracks. Fernando’s shunt was a big one, and the fact that he was able to walk out of his car after such a heavy impact is impressive indeed.   

“He visited the FIA medical centre immediately after the accident, and was formally okayed by the doctors there.   

“He’d been driving extremely well at the time, and we believe he may well have scored points had his race run its normal course.   

“Moving on to Jenson, ironically, it was the Safety Car and then the red flag triggered by Fernando’s accident that compromised his race strategy, preventing him from being able to drive for a points-scoring finish himself. Tyre degradation was also a problem for him this afternoon.   

“However, all in all, despite the fact that we scored no points here in Melbourne today, we’re quietly encouraged by the progress we’ve made over the winter, and we firmly believe that, given a less confused qualifying session and an incident-free race, we’ll be in a position to score points in grands prix to come.”

Yusuke Hasegawa: Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer

“First of all, I am relieved that both Fernando and Esteban walked away uninjured from their accident. 

“Our overall pace during the race was solid, but unfortunately Jenson lost out to the red flag caused by the crash. As the majority of drivers switched tyres during the track clean-up, sadly Jenson had already pitted four laps before. Unfortunately he struggled with his tyres throughout the race, and was unable to regain any of the positions. 

“I am pleased that throughout this weekend’s practice sessions and qualifying, we were able to see the improvement of the whole package. However, it was a disappointing to not be able to prove our progress through race results.”