Preview 10: Australian Grand Prix

Wednesday 12th March 2014

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Definitely last year's model...

Definitely last year's model...

There are so many things to watch out for in F1's opening race, but we've picked 10 to keep an eye on...

How many cars are going to finish?
It could be the closest we've got to the Whacky Races in years. No-one is sure how many cars will finish or in what order. It may be as low as the eight that were classified in 2002 - and that included Pedro de la Rosa's Jaguar which was five laps down (Ralf Schumacher's spectacular accident took out eight cars on the opening lap).

Can Daniel Ricciardo handle the pressure?
The easy-going Daniel Ricciardo has the mother of all team debuts for Red Bull in Melbourne. Not only is he stepping into a car alongside a four-times World Champion for the first time, he is doing it at his home grand prix, and with a car which is not fully sorted. Each one of those elements is pressure enough, but the combination of them is enormous. The rest of the season's going to be a bit of a gift after this.

Tyres are still going to be very important
Apart from watching the fuel gauges, all eyes will be on the tyre wear at the first race. Pirelli have supplied Medium and Soft tyres, with more durability built in than 2013. However the 2014 cars have a lot more low down torque and without traction control, it is a lot easier to spin the tyres up and overheat them, which can cause serious wear problems.

Aussie GP Stats
This will be Jenson Button's 14th Aussie GP and he's won it three times. Fernando Alonso's been on the Melbourne podium the most of the current grid, five times. The lowest winning grid position was 11th for David Coulthard, (McLaren) in 2003. The best finish by an Aussie was Mark Webber (Red Bull) who came fourth in 2012.

A historic livery returns
The Williams FW36 will be appearing for the first time in its new Martini livery having spent testing decked out all in blue. The last time Martini were serious sponsors of an F1 car it was a Brabham B45 and Bernie owned the team. None of the drivers on the grid had been born.

Daniil Kvyat's debut won't be easy
Toro Rosso new boy Daniil Kvyat faces a baptism of fire in Melbourne. The Russian was preferred over the more experienced GP2 driver Antonio Felix da Costa and will have to contend with a car that is not fully race proven. What's more he'll be on a grid full of cars that are still relative strangers to most of their drivers. He'll be hoping not to have an early Maldonado/Grosjean incident and get to the end - Toro Rosso need the mileage.

Ferrari can dispel the rumours
There have been rumours floating round the F1 paddock since testing that although the Ferrari engine is fast and more reliable than the Renault, that it's not particularly fuel efficient. There will be a lot of eager ears listening to the Ferrari team radio over the course of the GP to see if Kimi and Fernando are turning the mixes down.

Will the BBC's coverage be as awful as their season preview?
Sky Sports chief Martin Turner won't be quaking in his boots after the BBC's lamentable attempt at a pre-season preview. They lined up David Coulthard, with Ben Edwards and Allan McNish in a room that looked straight off the set of Downton Abbey and imparted all the excitement of sloth racing. In the past, one of the hallmarks of the BBC coverage has been their epic video compilations to music and their brilliant pre-GP films. Looks like they used up all the budget last year.

And where's Gary Anderson when you need him?

Will the new torquey engines provide more places to overtake or less?
We are going to see if the new engines can provide more overtaking opportunities. Because it is now a much trickier job getting the power down smoothly out of corners, if anyone messes up then cars can be through quickly. But then again, the small time gap between the car in front being able to put the power down might be all that they need to stay in front.

Red Bull's practice times will be scrutinised...
...like no time before. F1 folk are, of course, the nosiest neighbours. But there will be a great interest to see if there are signs of recovery and a resurgence. Everyone knows it will come, but when...?

FH

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