This weekend is the start of the 2018 Formula 1 season in our very own, Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne. Pirelli’s tyre choices for the circuit are actually the same as last year on paper – soft, supersoft and ultrasoft, but in reality the compounds are all a step softer in 2018.
In pre-season testing, this provided more grip and increased performance, so potentially we could see the lap record fall. Unfortunately Pirelli isn’t bringing the new Hypersoft compound to Melbourne, we have to wait till Canada for that.
After a break over Christmas, its time to see what the new cars, new drivers, and crazy weather brings, but Melbourne always puts on one hell of a show and is well known for being unpredictable.
Above is a representation of the Melbourne circuit from a tyre point of view. It places a number on the types of forces and surfaces the rubber has to deal with. Those attributes can be summed up by the following:
- Albert Park is a semi-permanent street circuit that’s not used extensively during the year, so the track can be particularly ‘green’ and slippery at the start of the grand prix weekend.
- It’s generally made up of short to medium straights, and low to medium speed corners.
- Traction is key in order to get a good drive out of the many corners onto the short straights.
- Wear and degradation is on the whole quite low: most cars stopped just once last year, with the most popular strategy – used by the top three – being ultrasoft to soft. Softer compounds this year could mean different rates of wear and degradation, so more pit stops.
- There’s a reasonably high chance of a safety car: the 2006 race featured four safety cars.
- Lateral forces are not particularly high: total energy going through the tyres is about average.
- Pit lane time loss is around 25 seconds; there are no major changes to the track since 2017.
What’s new in 2018?
- There is a new start time of 16.10 (local time), with all the races this year starting at 10 minutes past the hour, in order to accommodate television schedules.
- The new Formula 1 two-seater car is scheduled to make its debut in Australia, based on an updated version of the original 1998 Tyrrell design, with Pirelli tyres.
- Minimum starting pressures (slicks) 22.0 psi (front) | 19.5 psi (rear).
- Camber limit -3.75° (front) | -2.00° (rear).
While we don’t know the full tyre selection for the whole season, we do know the first 6 rounds as indicated by the graphic below.