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Albert Park is again the setting for the 2012 Australian Grand Prix as it has been since its first running in 1996. The track itself lays a short distance from the city of Melboure and is temporarily built on public roads the surround a manmade lake. The running characteristics of the circuit are of a generally pretty fast flowing circuit with some good corners for drivers to master but does not lend a lot to overtaken in a Formula 1 car.
Crossing the start finish line on a flying lap drivers are faced firstly with the challenging high speed chicane of turns 1 and 2. Drivers approach turn 1 at 300Kph or 188Mph for the imperial reader, making the area leading up to the braking zone for turn 1 the circuit’s top speed. Drivers skilfully guide their cars through the right and left turns of 1 and 2 respectfully and no easy feat as the Albert Park racetrack as a whole is virtually flat with little to no ground level undulations, making spotting corner apexes a real challenge for the drivers at high speed.
Turn 3 brings us a tight and slow right hand turn and marks the beginning of the Car Park section of this street circuit, drivers brake to 105Kph to negotiate this tricky turn and in past races turn 3 has delivered a lot of action between overtakes, attempted overtakes, out braking, spins stalls crashes and Martian Brundel managed to break his Jordan in two pieces here in 1996. My advice don’t blink or look away from the TV on lap one at turn 3! Turn 4 is a slow left bend which comes at the divers the minute they leave turn 3, not a huge amount of glamour about this turn but time can be lost if you run wide. Turn 5 is a quick right hander that marks the exit of the “Car Park” again nothing to set the world alight for overtaken but drivers must get good exit speed or risk been caught for turn 6, turn 5 also holds a surprise for drivers caught napping or been untidy on exit as the grassy section on the left of as they exit has sucked in a few cars in the past which is very much a one way trip.!
Sector one’s trip line is between turns 5 and 6 and turn 6 itself is another medium speed right hand turn, out braking is a risk here as a gravel trap on the exit can easily spell the end should you over shoot. Turn 7 is a gentle left hand curve which leads into turn 8, a right hand curve in which drivers accelerate continuously through all the way to turn 9 a tight right hand corner. Turn 9 has giving us over taking in the past and is also one to watch, an open but tricky curve left forms turn 10 and drivers again use all available power as they blast the long curve left along the wall to turn 11. Turns 11 and 12 are my personal favourite in Albert Park, 11 is a medium left then a short dash just enough to place the car and into turn 12, speeds through here are around 247Kph and drivers pull up to 2G’s as the flick through the high speed left right set up, exit speed on 12 is again very important and drivers who make a mistake while in trying to defend are likely to be challenged or caught on the run down to turn 13.
Turn 13 a tight right see’s the cars slow to 143Kph and has been the scene of one or two incidents of overtakes in past races here, it leads into even slower turn 14 another right which sets the cars up for turn 15 a left hand tight turn at very low speed. The pit entry is to the right on the exit of turn 15 and the final turn 16 of the lap is a right handed corner which opens through it exit, speed on the exit is hugely important here, more so than ever now that DRS is in use.
All in all Albert Park is a fairly good circuit to watch as a fan, and a similar experience for the drivers. A slight lack of overtaken in the past may be the only black mark on this race, but been the first race of the season with teams only finding out where they stand in the pecking order and a high speed characteristic, Albert Park does deliver good racing.
Last year’s fastest lap time : Felipe Massa 1.28.947
Last year Pole: Sebastian Vettel
Last Year Winner: Sebastian Vettel