2006 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix
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Engine reliability is key!
Engines aside, the first two races showed us that the Renault's are in front with Honda a bit behind. Ferrari weren't as strong
in Malaysia as they were in Bahrain and the same applies to McLaren although Kimi was out of the race early so we can only go by
So we now head to Australia and those with engines from Malaysia will be worried!
Albert Park (track
Layout) is a medium to high downforce track that will be dirty and slippery on the first day as the track is comprised of public
road but the conditions improve over the course of the weekend. Unlike previous years when the event is held in early March, this
year temperatures are expected to be cooler which will be welcomed by the teams.
Most teams conducted testing last week in Europe. Renault, McLaren, Sauber and Toyota were at Paul Ricard where Renault test
driver Heikki Kovalainen topped the times on the three days Renault were present. Most of the teams had impressive reliability with
many drivers covering over 150 laps per day. Kovalainen on one of the days covered a massive 213 laps!
Here is a team by team preview:
Renault: They are having a dream start to the season with 2 wins from 2 races. They appear to be competitive on any kind
of track and there is no reason why they shouldn't be strong in Melbourne. They will be aiming to have both cars on the podium.
Drivers: Fernando Alonso finished second in Malaysia after starting 7th with a very heavy car due to a re-fuelling problem in qualifying. He showed that he can adjust to the conditions he is facing and turn it into a great performance. He will have a fresh engine and he has to be one of the favourites to win.
Giancarlo Fisichella drove a great race in Malaysia winning from Pole. When everything is going well for Fisichella he will be tough to beat. If he has no problems in Melbourne expect a close race between him and Alonso but remember that his engine will be the same used in Malaysia. Podium possible.
Ferrari: They have to sort out their V8 engine. They changed Massa's engine twice, Michael's once and Coulthard's engine
on the Red Bull (who also run the same engine) expired at the end of the Bahrain race.
Drivers: Michael Schumacher finished behind his team-mate in Malaysia. That is something that neither him or anyone else is ever used to!. He will want to quickly re-gain his edge within the team. You cannot discount him from winning in Australia but given the team's form in Malaysia and the fact that he'll be racing with his engine from Malaysia, expect a conservative approach and points finish with a podium a possibility.
Felipe Massa had an impressive race in Malaysia starting from the back and ending up in front of his team-mate. That was a big confidence boost for him and if he can keep the momentum and keep the car on the track, he will be the toughest contender Michael has faced at Ferrari. He is in a similar situation to Michael though with regards to his engine. Points likley.
McLaren: It is hard to gauge their performance so far especially that Kimi was out of the Malaysian race early and Montoya
struggled on his way to finish in 4th place. We may get a better idea in Melbourne especially that both drivers will have fresh
engines however last year they struggled in Melbourne as so their car may not be suited to this track.
Drivers: Juan Pablo Montoya has had 2 races now where he hasn't really impressed. He has finished both races in the points but never appeared to be fighting for a position. He will have a new engine in Melbourne and we'll see if his form continues as in the first 2 races. Points likely.
Kimi Raikkonen didn't complete the first lap in Malaysia after being hit from behind by Klien. With a new engine for Melbourne he will be hoping for a trouble free weekend. Podium possible but a win will be hard.
Honda: They have a quick car but they need to know how to win and the longer it takes them to win, the harder it will get.
Drivers: Jenson Button finished third after starting from second so while a podium is always a good result, to Jenson, he went a step back instead of maintaining his place or taking the win. The fact that he had more fuel on his first stint than Fisichella implies the poor race form of the package. Allowing Alonso to get ahead after the second stop was frustrating to the team to say the least. He will have a fresh engine in Melbourne and that will help. Points possible with another podium a possibility.
Rubens Barrichello is now under a lot of pressure to perform. Honda's 11 points are all by Button. He is seriously struggling, by contrast Massa who took his place at Ferrari is matching Michael. Barrichello needs to improve and in Melbourne he will have the added pressure of running the same engine from Malaysia. Points possible.
Williams: They were strong in qualifying in Malaysia but that seems to be due to a lower fuel load. Sadly both cars
retired early and we couldn't see if they would have kept Montoya and the Ferraris behind them.
Drivers: Mark Webber had another good qualifying performance in Malaysia but was too light. Being stuck behind Alonso early in the race didn't help but as it turned out he retired shortly after his first pit stop. He will have a fresh engine in Melbourne and that is good for his chances at his home race. He will qualify well, possibly on Pole but the package is unlikely to win the race. Points likely though.
Nico Rosberg continues to impress. Matching Webber in qualifying in Malaysia on a track that he never raced on before was impressive. If his car lasts (and he will have a fresh engine), he'll be close to Webber at the end of the race. Points likely.
BMW Sauber: Another team that is having engine problems. In Bahrain it was Villeneuve and in Malaysia it was Heidfeld. The
team has reasonable pace but the engine troubles will hurt them.
Drivers: Jacques Villeneuve scored the first points for the team thanks to the many retirements in front. He will run the same engine from Malaysia and that will be a concern. Points possible only if many in front retire and his engine lasts!
Nick Heidfeld was running in the points when his engine failed in Malaysia. He will have a fresh engine in Melbourne and a point or two may be possible.
Toyota: They scored a point in Malaysia but that was due to the many retirements at the front. They still have a long long
way to go!
Drivers: Ralf Schumacher scored a point for the team despite starting from the back following an engine failure in qualifying. That was a good result for him. In Melbourne he will have to use the same engine from Malaysia and that won't help. Points difficult.
Jarno Trulli is struggling with a poor performing car and he continues to show that he is a good qualifier but a rather average racer. He will benefit from a fresh engine in Melbourne but don't expect points!.
Red Bull: From a good race in Bahrain to a disaster in Malaysia. Both cars retired early in the race. They will have to
sort out their problems soon!
Drivers: Christian Klien had a bad race in Malaysia hitting Kimi Raikkonen and damaging his rear suspension. His own race didn't last much longer either. He should bounce back in Melbourne but will need a lot of luck and retirements at the front to score a point or two.
David Coulthard retired early from the race in Malaysia. He will have a fresh engine for Melbourne but points will be hard even though he usually does well in Australia.
Toro Rosso: Had 1 car finish ahead of the two MF1 Racing cars as well as Super Aguri. Running the restricted V10 helps but
it looks like those three teams will have a close fight.
Drivers: Vitantonio Liuzzi finished 11th in Malaysia and that isn't a bad result. Expect a similar performance in Melbourne.
Scott Speed retired in Malaysia but prior to that he had a decent race running up as high as 9th at one stage. He'll be gaining more experience in Melbourne.
MF1 Racing: Finished both their cars in Malaysia 2 laps down. They need to do better than that.
Drivers: Christian Albers started 15th and finished 12th in Malaysia and that was due to attrition. He actually lost a place later in the race to Liuzzi in the Torro Rosso. Expect a similar performance in Melbourne.
Tiago Monteiro finished the race in 13th place and that is what you'd expect.
Super Aguri: Actually impressed by the improvement they displayed in Malaysia compared to Bahrain. Takuma Sato wasn't
exactly racing a few laps behind everyone. He actually raced Liuzzi in the Toro Rosso as well as Monteiro in the MF1 Racing before
finishing 14th and 3 laps down. Once they get their own chassis running reliably, they have a real chance of getting ahead of both
MF1 and Toro Rosso.
Drivers: Takuma Sato had a good race in Malayasia. Lets hope that continues and he stays out of trouble.
Yuji Ide will continue to show his lack of experience at this level. Qualifying 1.7 seconds behind Sato isn't too impressive!.
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