Australian Grand Prix preview

After a long winter of waiting, Formula 1 is back for 2011! The cancellation of the Bahrain Grand Prix has delayed the season start, but it has only served to up the expectations of the sport’s avid fans.

With yet another reshaking-up of the rulebook, the season opener looks to be incredibly unpredictable. Here’s a look at the important factors this weekend:

DRS (Drag Reduction System)

DRS, or the adjustable rear wing, is without a doubt the most talked-about innovation in years. It was designed by the FIA to aid overtaking manouvers, by increasing the speed advantage of the car behind.

DRS may be deployed at any time during practice and qualifying, but we’ll get back to that later. In the race, this can only be used on the main straight of a circuit, when a car is less than 1 second behind the car ahead, the corner before the straight.

The rear wing flap adjusts itself to create much less drag for 600 metres, which aids the car behind with an approx. 10-12 km/hr speed advantage. However, if the system makes overtaking too easy, then the 600 metre use of the device will be lowered, and vice-versa.

Also, the rear wing innovation cannot be used within the first 2 laps of the race, or within the first 2 laps after a Safety Car restart.

In Melbourne, DRS may not have a particularly big role to play, as the main straight rarely poses as an overtaking spot anyways. However, use of the device in qualifying will be very interesting. Like the F-duct last year, it will be interesting to see who can deploy their DRS quickest out of the corners, and gain a speed advantage. Those with the best rear grip will benefit most from this type of situation.

107% Rule

This rule re-introduction will have a more profound effect at the start of 2011. In Q1, any driver who sets a time more than 7% slower than the driver in 1st place will not be allowed to start the race. Exceptions are allowed by the stewards, such as if the car was unusually slow, but teams are not allowed to appeal these decisions.

This will be particularly bothersome to HRT this weekend. As they have not turned a wheel in their F111, there is a chance that they may not be able to qualify.

Most other teams should not be fazed by this rule.


Having been mutually dropped by all teams in 2010, Kinetic Energy Restoration Systems return for 2011.

At the time of writing, some teams have not yet confirmed or denied whether they are using KERS in Australia. Therefore, the start will be absolutely crucial for all drivers. Those without the unit (Hispania and Virgin confirmed so far) will be hugely disadvantaged by the loss of 80.5 horsepower at the start.

KERS has also been touted, along with DRS, as the solution to increasing overtaking in F1. A 60kW power boost combined with 10-12 km/h speed gain will be massively beneficial to those who can utilise it. Bear in mind though that the car in front could use more of his KERS supply at the overtaking spot, if he conserves it over the rest of the lap.

KERS may be used anywhere the driver likes, so it is better in some ways to DRS. As well as the main straight, between Turns 2 and 3, 8 and 9, and 12 and 13 will be the main spots for KERS to be deployed.


The rebirth of Pirelli in Formula 1 has turned the formbook on its head in terms of tyre degradation. Bridgestone tyres were too consistent and durable, resulting in certain 1-stop races in 2010. Not any more.

Pirelli are bringing the soft and hard compounds to Melbourne. The general consensus is that a 3-stop strategy is the maximum required this weekend. Drivers have previously complained of up to 4 stops, but Pirelli have disregarded their claims.

Wear on the rear tyres is the main concern at the moment. Drivers with progressive throttle and steering input, like Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, may benefit by prolonging the use of their tyres by up to a handful of laps, which could be crucial in terms of race strategy.

Continuing from last year, drivers must still use both compounds of dry tyres in the race, and Q3 drivers must use the same set of tyres they qualified on to start the race. The latter of these rules seems like a poor decision by the FIA to keep, as it discourages diversity in tyre compound choices at the start of the race.

Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how the tyre reshuffle works out this weekend.

But, with the unpredictable nature in recent years of F1, we will never know for certain until race day. Roll on 2011!

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