Distance: 5.278 kilometres
Albert Park was sped up considerably last year by track modifications. Many of the corners were made wider and a couple were expunged entirely to boost the average qualifying speed to 247 kilometres per hour, making it one of the fastest tracks on the calendar.
The circuit is set to have its fourth DRS zone reinstated along the back straight after it was removed on Friday night last year following safety concerns. The FIA appears confident it can be re-enabled this year, which should boost overtaking at a circuit that has historically featured relatively little passing.
Winner: Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
Charles Leclerc enjoyed one of the most comprehensive victories of his career, winning the race from pole, leading every lap and posting the fastest lap of the race. It was his second win in three races, putting him 46 points ahead of Max Verstappen and giving Ferrari a clear title lead.
But Ferrari’s advantage was exaggerated by some poor Red Bull Racing set-up decisions, and Verstappen slammed on five of the next six victories to set him and his team up for championship success.
Despite Red Bull Racing being one of the three most successful teams of the last decade or so, it has a poor record in Melbourne. The Austrian marque has scored just win, coming via Sebastian Vettel to open his super-dominant 2011 campaign, and only four other podiums.
But the Australian honour roll is a fairly mixed bag. Of the last 10 races in Melbourne four have gone to Mercedes, three to Ferrari and one apiece to Red Bull Racing, McLaren and Lotus (now Alpine).
But the form guide coming into this weekend strongly suggests Red Bull Racing’s luck is about to change. Its domination at the first race of the season was enhanced again in Saudi Arabia, and there’s no reason to think it won’t be the team to beat this weekend again.
The Australian Grand Prix demands both strong top speed and a well-balanced car that can protect the front tyres through its medium–high speed corners. As Red Bull Racing realised too late last season, the car is increasingly front limited as it grips up. The ideal set-up will protect against understeer that triggers front-left graining in particular.
There’s no reason to think the Austrian team will struggle with those demands again after the first two races showed it up as having few relative weaknesses, if any.
But it might bring Ferrari further forward. The SF-75 struggles particularly with rear wear, which is less of a problem in Melbourne. Resultantly, it may find its set-up window broader than in the previous two rounds in the fight for second.
Assuming a close battle between the Italian team, Aston Martin, Mercedes for best of the rest, strategy could be key.
The Australian Grand Prix was an easy one-stop medium–hard race last season, but Pirelli has made the soft compound more durable for this year’s race, which might entice teams to experiment. That might be particularly tempting if the reinstatement of the fourth DRS zone boosts overtaking into the key passing zone of turn 9-10 - given the difficult of moving up the order is a disincentive to making extra stops here.