The Australian Grand Prix, Round One of what promises to be an exciting 2009 FIA Formula One World Championship, will take place in Melbourne, south east Australia on Sunday 29 March.
The beautiful setting of Albert Park has hosted the Australian Grand Prix since 1996 and the 5.3km (3.3mile) street circuit uses public roads which surround the man-made Albert Park lake, located just south of Melbourne's city centre.
Albert Park is a technically demanding and high-speed circuit. The cars reach top speeds of 300kph (185mph) and average 225kph (140mph) around the 16-turn lap. The track surface is bumpy, particularly in the braking areas, hard on the brakes and slippery at the start of the race weekend due to the use of public roads, which will take a while to 'rubber in'. The first race of the year is always a technical challenge as the new cars run competitively for the first time, a task made more difficult for the Brawn GP team as the BGP 001 car has completed just seven days of pre-season testing.
The season-opening Australian Grand Prix will see the culmination of four months of hard work and dedication from the team when the BGP 001 car takes to the track on Friday 27 March for the first of the practice sessions. Drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello are looking forward to the BGP 001's competitive debut with eager anticipation.
ROSS BRAWN, TEAM PRINCIPAL
Q. How has the team completed its preparations for the Australian Grand Prixin such a short time?
"Our ambition has always been to be on the grid for the first race of theseason in Melbourne and our planning was specifically tailored towards theachievement of this goal. I am extremely proud that we have achieved ourambition and the Australian Grand Prix will mark the start of an excitingnew journey for our team. The BGP 001 car is the result of 15 months ofintensive development work and the team have been nothing less thanfantastic in their commitment to producing two cars in time for the firstrace.
"From our short but crucial testing programme over the past two weeks, wehave reinforced our view that the BGP 001 is a good car and an excellentplatform from which to develop performance over the course of the season.Our focus during the seven days of pre-season testing was on reliability anddeveloping our understanding of the car in race conditions. We are verysatisfied with the work achieved and the initial pace seen from the carhowever we are fully aware that our work has only just begun. The practicerunning in Melbourne will be crucial and we have to get as much mileage aspossible under our belts to allow Jenson and Rubens to refine the set-up ofthe car to their liking."
Q. What are your thoughts ahead of the first race of the 2009 season?
"The first race of the season is always an exciting weekend as none of theteams really know where their car is in performance terms until we hit therace track for the first time in competitive conditions. I am a big fan ofMelbourne as a city and as the venue for the first race; it's truly a greatplace to start the season. The race has a beautiful setting in Albert Parkand it is a quick and fun circuit to drive with some very technical corners.I have always enjoyed driving there, particularly in qualifying where youcan really get on it and nail a flying lap.
"I will be arriving in Melbourne on Saturday to ensure that I have a fewdays to acclimatise to the time zone. I'll be doing some fitness work withmy physio in preparation for the race weekend, hopefully in the sunshinealong the coast. We will also be linking up with some local triathletes totrain with them and catching up with my former physio who is now based inAustralia and some of the V8 Supercar drivers that he is working with foranother intense training session.
"I'm really looking forward to getting to Australia and the challenge ofgetting the best out of our new car over what looks to be a very excitingrace weekend."
Q. What are the particular challenges of the Albert Park circuit?
"The Australian Grand Prix is one of my favourite races on the calendar andthe atmosphere at Albert Park over the race weekend is always fantastic. Itwill be really exciting to go back this year with our new team and acompetitive car behind us for the start of what will be my 17th seasoncompeting in Formula One. After the tough winter that we went through, I amso motivated to get racing again and I am really looking forward to thechallenges ahead.
"The Albert Park circuit is quite technical and the relatively high topspeeds for a street circuit mean that you need to run quite a high level ofdownforce which in turn compromises your grip through the slower second-gearcorners. The lap has some very quick changes of direction and you can gain alot of time through the quick chicane at Turns 11 and12 if you get it hooked up well. You need a car with a good front-end tomake the most of these corners.
"As the circuit uses public roads, there are a lot of bumps under brakingand if your car is prone to rear-locking, you have to be careful that thesedon't unsettle the car enough to throw you off the circuit.It's reasonably difficult to overtake around the circuit with Turns 3 and 13offering the best opportunities."
Albert Park Stats
Circuit Length: 5.303km Race Distance: 307.574km Number of Laps: 58
Full Throttle: 69% Brake Wear: Medium /Hard Tyre Compounds: Super Soft / Medium Downforce Level: High8/10 Tyre Usage: Easy Average Speed:225kph (140mph)
Race Weekend Schedule (all times are local)
Friday 27 MarchPractice 1: 1230 - 1400 Practice 2: 1630 - 1800
Saturday 28 MarchPractice 3: 1400 - 1500 Qualifying: 1700 - 1800
Sunday 29 MarchRace: 1700