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    Ross
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    Melbourne preview

    Post by Ross on 25th March 2009, 15:35

    Teams gearing up for Melbourne
    Article written by Ross




    Just three days until the lights go out for the first Formula One race of the season, teams have arrived and are unpacking their essentials ready for the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. There is a buzz around the paddock, and no doubt in the home of every F1 fan across the world - the wait is finally over.

    And what a wait it's been; very few Formula 1 seasons in the past have been anticipated this highly, and what's to come when those lights do go out is above anyone's head. What we do know, however, is that it's going to be exciting, whatever it is. Hype over the new regulations for 2009, including the Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems that will play such a big part in lap times this season, has shot back up to that of when they were announced. The cars have reduced aerodynamics and adjustable front wings, which, coupled with KERS, should reduce turbulence that a following car would have endured in 2008 and, theoretically, increase overtaking.

    It just would not be F1 if there wasn't a huge technical debate going on, and this month's is that of the dubious rear diffusers Toyota, Williams and BrawnGP have all fitted on their cars. Red Bull will be spearheading a bid for clarification of the diffuser regulations to the FIA on Thursday, with other teams including McLaren and Ferrari expected to protest aswell. It is likely that the sport's governing body will deem the three manufacturers' cars legal, in which case Friday will bring an official complaint from many other teams, which could be an ongoing debate.

    Technical aspects aside however, the story of testing has been Brawn GP and its apparent dominance over a single lap. The team - bought from Honda just three weeks ago - jumped straight into a week's testing at Catalunya in Spain to top three of the five days' timesheets.

    We all know where that ended up, with sheer domination of the final test at Jerez, and Felipe Massa, Frank Williams, Fernando Alonso, Robert Kubica, Lewis Hamilton and Mario Theissen have all labelling them as their biggest rivals.

    Another interesting development was McLaren's downturn in pace, and despite slight improvements, Hamilton and Kovalainen fans shouldn't get their hopes up, as it appeared in the final test when compared to Williams, the team's lap times over a distance appeared to drop off.

    Ferrari are looking fast but fragile, and Brawn GP aside who seem to remain an unknown quantity, there is no clear leader of the midfield. Toyota and Renault have both shown bursts of speed, particularly at Jerez, whereas Red Bull has been consistently quick, just not as quick as the other two on their good days.

    Williams set stellar pace over the final week of testing, and on the last day clocked the fastest time of the entire 2009 test for the Jerez circuit, in the hands of Kazuki Nakajima. However that was their first showing of truly competitive pace, and up until then, while still appearing to be in the midfield, they look to have been lapping in the lower-half of the grid.

    BMW are also worth a mention, they have been lapping well and very consistently, their long runs seem more impressive than their single lap pace, hence their lack of headline-grabbing over the winter.

    Robert Kubica is expected to be leading the team, and that's the evidence from testing, however both drivers aren't too far apart. The team are having about as much influence on the timesheets as they were this time last year, only then it was as an improvement, this time it's just BMW Sauber, competitive but not ground-breaking.

    Toro Rosso will suffer without Vettel. He was a big influence on the team, and if nothing at times a motivational tool. They now have Sebastien Bourdais and rookie Sebastian Buemi, Bourdais more unlucky than slow, despite his poor season last year, and Buemi a faithful Red Bull tester with a good rapport with the team. They were the last team to reveal their challenger, it's already looking pretty speedy, although nothing special.

    And then there are Force India, who have improved by a huge margin from last year, but are still some way behind everyone else. Sutil and Fisichella are arguably one of the weakest driver line-ups on the grid, so they will still be fighting to get into Q2.

    And that brings us to Melbourne, in what is forecast to be sunny Australia. It's the ideal place to host a season-opener, which is why it has done for 12 of the last 13 years. Only three teams have won there in the last 10: Ferrari, Renault and McLaren. This year could be different, many think it will be thanks to Brawn, but, again, we won't know until we get the cars setting whatever quick lap times they can on Friday.

    Every driver, team principal and race team member has landed: the wait is over, there's no turning back, each team will line up on the Albert Park grid on Sunday with just one aim. Preparations are going ahead, drivers walked the track on Wednesday, and the traditional celebrations have gotten underway. Renault's drivers have been photographed playing football and karting, the Toro Rosso pair shared a friendly game of tennis, and everyone is making the most of their final days before the battle begins.

    This is it then, after months of toil and hard work, we will see who it has paid off for. The beginning is nigh.


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    Ross,
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    ross@turntwo.co.uk
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