What to Watch Out for at the 2023 Australian Grand Prix: Overtaking Mercedes and more in the mix

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An ever-increasing risk from Mercedes on the grid from Purple Bull drivers; and from Alex Albon casting extra Melbourne magic to the distinctive challenges on this monitor, Chris Medland highlights some key areas to keep watch over when the lights exit in Albert Park…

1. Mercedes emerges as Verstappen’s greatest downside

After all of the discuss how Mercedes must make radical adjustments to its 2023 automobile, together with Toto Wolff’s staff, you would be forgiven for considering that the Silver Arrows are at the moment struggling to get out of Q1.

As a substitute, after a crushing efficiency in Bahrain, progress continued in Jeddah this weekend, with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton ending second and third on the grid. Russell was simply over 0.2 seconds from Max Verstappen’s pole time and the Mercedes couple actually appeared to come back alive within the ultimate a part of qualifying.

That places them each forward of Fernando Alonso and in a greater place to try to beat Aston Martin for the primary time this season.

READ MORE: ‘We should go to win’ – Russell and Hamilton ponder victory over their ‘dream’ Melbourne qualifying

However with just one Purple Bull forward of them, if Mercedes drivers have the pace to remain in contact, then they’ll attempt to separate methods to provide themselves an opportunity to beat the championship’s first lead.

Whereas Verstappen has had loads of apply attempting to come back again from pole, that is additionally a brand new take a look at of Aston Martin’s enhancements to see if Alonso can beat a minimum of one of many vehicles forward to take care of the rostrum row. to begin the season.

George Russell and Lewis Hamilton begin simply behind pole-sitting Max Verstappen

2. Perez with all the things to do

Verstappen might have been busy with the likes of Mercedes and Alonso at first, but when Purple Bull had the efficiency benefit of the final races, then teammate Sergio Perez’s failure to set a time in qualifying made his life a lot simpler.

Perez was in a recreation with Verstappen in Jeddah and was only one level behind within the early championship standings, however has been off the monitor a number of instances in current apply and duly sailed straight into the gravel on his first timed lap at Flip 3, leaving him in twentieth place. and finish on the grill.

READ MORE: Upset Perez assured Purple Bull can repair ‘technical subject’ after Albert Park finishes qualifying on gravel

After the incident, Perez disclosed a technical subject that brought on his brake steadiness to maneuver violently ahead when he hit the brakes throughout Saturday’s run, Purple Bull thought they’d fastened the issue after 3 apply, however the Mexican quickly found they hadn’t been profitable.

Perez is assured the issue might be fastened in a single day and can let him take a struggle on Sunday, however he is preventing an enormous struggle from the again row on a infamous monitor that is onerous to beat (although we’ll get to that later) in his fingers.

2023 Australian GP Qualifiers: Perez to race in Q1 after crashing his Red Bull on gravel

2023 Australian GP Qualifiers: Perez to race in Q1 after crashing his Purple Bull on gravel

3. Fourth for Albon Williams

Melbourne has fond reminiscences of a sensational drive in 2022 the place William and Alex Albon completed the race virtually fully on one set of onerous tires after an early pit cease in 2022 and managed to carry their first level of the season.

What made all the things much more spectacular was that Albon was positioned final on the grid because of being disqualified from qualifying for not having the required quantity of gas samples.

READ MORE: ‘Actually blissful’ Albon praises Williams for executing ‘recreation plan’ after eighth in Melbourne

Nicely, he is made his job that a lot simpler to date this yr with a surprising efficiency that secured eighth on the grid, beating Williams because the fifth quickest staff in a lap.

The place the automobile is especially sturdy is in a straight line on account of its low-drag configuration, as Albon set the quickest mid-sector within the third quarter. That bodes nicely for the race as a result of – like right here a yr in the past – it ought to be robust to cross due to his prime pace, nevertheless it must also give him the chance to take place when wanted.

The previous Purple Bull driver has already scored one level this season after ending tenth in Bahrain, however he has an opportunity so as to add to his tally on Sunday.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 01: (23) Thai Alexander Albon driving Williams Fw45

Albon was in nice form on Saturday and can hope to proceed that in Sunday’s race.

4. A singular tire problem

One of many points Albon and Williams have been proper about in qualifying was tire preparation, the place the smooth tire was the quickest on a lap, however tried to heat up in colder circumstances. This meant that some riders took a number of prep laps to get the tires into the right working vary, whereas others have been capable of go on a flying lap immediately.

In each instances, lap instances continued to lower with every further timed lap with out altering tires, because the monitor started to supply extra grip after the rain lowered the quantity of rubber on the floor.

QUALIFICATION REPORT: Verstappen takes Melbourne’s first pole as Russell begins from the highest spot

In terms of racing, it means drivers must be cautious to not overstrain the tires in colder-than-expected temperatures, as roughing can change into a problem on softer treads. That is when small items of rubber break the tire after which instantly stick again to the floor, lowering the contact space with the monitor and subsequently the grip ranges.

The absence of a future within the second apply on account of rain implies that groups don’t have regular knowledge to enter the race, so some might battle with their tires greater than others.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 30: Scuderia AlphaTauri team tire tires along the paddock

Greater than ever, understanding tires can be essential on race day in Melbourne

5. Extra overtaking

Albert Park is a good place for a race monitor, however given how troublesome it may be to overhaul on the monitor, it is a structure that does not all the time yield a considerable amount of overtaking. Vital adjustments and progress have been made to enhance issues on the monitor a yr in the past, however a tried-and-true additional DRS zone was solely utilized in apply in 2022.

This yr, this additional zone can be used in the course of the race, so there are actually 4 monitor sections the place DRS can be utilized.

HIGHLIGHTS: Watch what occurs in Australia from qualifying as Verstappen beats Russell to pole place after Perez slipped out of the race

There are solely two detection factors – one for the 2 zones straight and outdoors of Flip 2 within the pit, and the opposite for the segments on both facet of the 9/10 chicanes – so a trailing driver will get double the increase each time. The automobile in entrance is in a second.

It ought to open up extra alternatives to cross and hold the courtroom shut collectively, nevertheless it will not be simple for somebody who nonetheless must go quick, for instance Perez from the again line.

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