I always look forward to the season opener. Melbourne is a fantastic city and Australia is an exciting country all round. It’s a great place to start the year and you can always have lots of fun here. The fans are incredibly friendly and laid-back but they are also very enthusiastic and mad about sport. The food is pretty great too! I always fly in a week in advance to get over the jet lag. This year, after completing the final test in Bahrain, I returned to the factory at Brackley for final preparations in the simulator and went straight on to Melbourne from there. Overall, I think our winter testing programme went better than expected. Having said that, the first Grand Prix is the first real opportunity to judge how well we have done against our competition. Pre-season doesn‘t tell the full story, especially this year with the new regulations. I‘m really looking forward to getting the season underway and can’t wait to be back in the car again.
Nico's Track Guide
The circuit at Albert Park is not a permanent race track. Outside of the Formula 1 week, parts of the circuit are used by ordinary traffic. Consequently, the surface is generally very dirty and greasy on the first day of practice and it takes a while before it develops the right amount of grip. It’s also essential to take it steady over the kerbs.
In principle, overtaking around the Albert Park Circuit is difficult. This year, however, there should definitely be more opportunities thanks to the boost provided by the two electric motors. For a period of 33.3 seconds per lap, we have an additional 160 horsepower available. That gives you plenty to play with. The best place to try it is through the corner at the end of the home straight. It’s possible to pull off some great overtaking manoeuvres there. At Turn One, you put the driver ahead under pressure, then you finish the move at Turn Three. Apart from that, Turn 12 in Sector 3 can also be a key point. This is the fastest corner on the track, and it is especially exciting for spectators watching the race there.
Another factor is fuel consumption, which is relatively high in Melbourne. Managing the new 100 kg maximum fuel allowance this year will play an important role. My engineers have told me that this new fuel limit will be a real challenge at Albert Park. Fuel economy is not just a matter of engine settings; much will also depend on individual driving styles. We have to drive efficiently, which means, for example, coming off the gas at the end of the straights, even before you’ve reached the actual braking zone.
One special feature of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne is the late afternoon start time. Up until the middle of the race, the sun is so low in the sky that you’re staring right at it on some of the straights and you’re in danger of not seeing the braking points. This is something that complicates the race even further.