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Five things to expect at Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Melbourne Park

Australian Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of McLaren F1 Team in action during the first practice session of the Formula One Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne, Australia, 8 April 2022. Picture: Simon Baker/EPA

Australian Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of McLaren F1 Team in action during the first practice session of the Formula One Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne, Australia, 8 April 2022. Picture: Simon Baker/EPA

Published Apr 8, 2022

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Johannesburg - Formula One returns to Albert Park Circuit after an absence of two years. Here, Morgan Bolton takes a look at what to expect from the Australian Grand Prix.

5 Merc upgrades still a downer

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It has been a horrible, terrible, unpleasant, hurtful, offensive, rotten, wretched start for the Silver Arrows this year, if the general consensus is to be believed.

Nevertheless, after two races, the Silver Arrows are second in the constructors’ standings, thanks to a bit of luck, and many will agree what they have so far served up, is not good enough. Mercedes are expected to bring a couple of upgrades to Melbourne this weekend which they hope will buffer them from further disappointment.

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A new rear wing is anticipated, with possible chances to the floor, as they try to negate the porpoising of their car. However, don’t expect a miracle this weekend – the W13, at the moment, is just not good enough to compete against Ferrari and the Red Bulls.

4 Seb is back

After Covid-19 laid him low, Sebastian Vettel returns to take up his ride at Aston Martin, with Nico Hulkenburg vacating the seat.

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Hulkenburg did a more than adequate job in his absence, even embarrassing Lance Stroll by finishing ahead of the Canadian at the Saudi Arabia GP. Vettel, meanwhile, might realise that it would have been better for him if he remained ill as the AMR22 has been pretty darn average in the opening two races.

Seb is a great driver, but expecting him to extract a result out of such a poor car at the moment, and with limited time in the cockpit, is probably asking too much. However, he is vastly experienced, so maybe, just maybe, he can score the first points of the season for Aston Martin.

3 Where in the world is Danny Ric?

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It has been established that I am no fan of Daniel Ricciardo, but even I feel a tinge sorry for him. Not much, but just enough for it to register.

McLaren are another team that are nowhere so far this season. As they say in Afrikaans, hulle boer agteruit (they have taken one step forward, but two steps back). This is Ricciardo’s home race, of course, and after last year McLaren would have hoped that they had a fighting chance for consistent podiums with their drivers – which includes Lando Norris - when kicking on this season.

Alas, that has not happened and it is Ricciardo who is bearing the brunt of it. Since leaving Red Bull, the Aussie hasn’t really achieved anything of significance. Sure he won at Monza last year, but for a driver with championship ambitions, his time to build a lasting legacy is quickly running out.

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2 You get DRS, and you get DRS, and you get DRS! Everyone gets DRS!

The Australian GP was the first casualty of Covid-19 two years ago and while it has been off the calendar, the organisers took the opportunity to modify it.

Turn 1 of the circuit has been widened to assist overtaking, as has Turn 3, 11 and 13. Further down the track, Turn 6 has been remodelled from a corner where drivers had to slow down to 149km/h, to one where they will attack the apex at 219kh/h. The chicane at Turn 9 and 10 has been removed, extending the straight to 1.3km and speeds anticipated at 330km/h.

The pitlane has also been widened and the speed limit increased to 80km/h there, but perhaps the most ludicrous change is that the track now has four, yes four, DRS zones with two detection zones.

Previously, the Aussie GP could be a bit of a procession, but if the changes work, we will be in for one helluva race on Sunday morning.

1 Charlie and the Ferrari factory

The duel between Chalres Leclerc of Ferrari and defending world champion Max Verstappen has been fantastic so far this season.

It hasn’t been chef’s kiss good – it has only been two races, after all – but so far the new rules and regulations have given us exactly what we wanted: Wheel-to-wheel action until the final lap, leaving the result in doubt until the very last corner.

The Scuderia and Bulls are by far the best teams, so expecting anything less than another hotly contested race is not the ramblings of a madman. Leclerc has been calm and collected so far, while Verstappen has been brilliant, if not overly hysterical at times.

At the moment there is a lot of respect between the two in how they are battling each other, but the cynic in me believes it won’t be long until there is an incident between the two.

With the track design now rigged for overtaking, and consistent pressure, will we see that happen this weekend?

Yes, no, maybe, I don't know. Can you repeat the question?

@FreemanZAR

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