Robert's guide to Albert Park
I’m really looking forward to this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix. It’s the first chance to see where we really stand compared to our competitors, so it’s quite an interesting race. Of course, I won’t be in the car, but I’ll be doing my part to help Kimi, Antonio and the team in our engineering meetings.
Albert Park is a very challenging circuit, one of my favourites. Melbourne is a great city, the fans create a truly special atmosphere for all of us – and I got a podium here in 2010, so good memories!
It’s a very demanding track to master and the conditions are constantly changing across the weekend. You have to be very precise and stay on the clean line, and that applies to the whole circuit. Track evolution is significant: the track is really green on Fridays, so you have to leave some margins as it’s quite easy to run wide. There’s not much in terms of run-offs here, one mistake and you’re in the wall. However, you feel yourself going quicker and quicker with every run as the track rubbers in and you gain confidence: you can finish FP3 several seconds quicker than at the start of the weekend.
The grip levels are quite poor, so driveability is a key aim when choosing a set-up. The surface is quite bumpy, especially the first chicane and the entrance to turn six, and finding the required braking stability is important.
These are not the only challenges from the Australian Grand Prix: tyres are, as always, a crucial element and, between the smooth surface and the cold temperatures, it can be hard to get the set-up right. And of course, weather is always a question mark here – you can have the full four seasons in a day.
There aren’t many good overtaking places around this circuit, and every move risks putting you on the dirt, off the racing line. Turn three is perhaps the best corner to make a pass, if you can take advantage of the car ahead coming out poorly from the first chicane.
In the end, this is a place where you need all your fighting spirit. The race often turns into an attrition battle: between start-of-season reliability issues and the unforgiving track, it’s not unusual to see a high number of retirements. Just making it to the end of the race gives you a good chance to be in the battle for the points.