Want to know where best to see an F1 car in full flight at Albert Park? Mark Webber gives us the inside line
by Matthew Clayton
Whether you’re a first-time fan or a regular visitor to the Australian Grand Prix, there’s nothing like a little inside knowledge to make your viewing experience more memorable.
Here’s our guide to the best of the 16-turn, 5.303km street circuit that will host the opening Grand Prix of 2011 – and a look at what the drivers experience thanks to Aussie star Mark Webber.
Turn 1 (third gear, 145km/h) and Turn 2 (fourth gear, 200km/h)
First corner accidents are commonplace here – who can forget Ralf Schumacher’s Williams taking flight over the back of Rubens Barrichello’s Ferrari at the start of the 2002 race? In practice conditions, Webber says the bumps in the early part of the braking zone can be difficult.
The gravel trap on the outside of the circuit at Turn 1 will likely be busy during Friday practice as drivers get to grips with the new Pirelli tyres and the new-for-2011 adjustable rear wing, which can be used at any time in practice and will see cars at well over 300km/h on the approach into the first corner.
Turn 3 (second gear, 92km/h)
The inside of Turn 3 is a great place to stand with a general admission ticket – the cars will slow from over 200km/h to around 90km/h for the right-hander. Webber says the drivers have found this corner challenging in the latter stages of the race in the last two years with the late-afternoon start time.
“Also, from Turn 2 down to Turn 3, people don’t realise that we go from the right side of the track at Turn 2 across to the left heading down to Turn 3, because there’s a big crown in the track where the underneath of the car touches the ground on the way to Turn 3,” he adds.
Turn 4 (third gear, 145km/h) and Turn 5 (sixth gear, 239km/h)
The inside of the circuit at Turn 5 is one of the better places to watch. There’s a grassy hill to stand on with a superscreen directly opposite, and Webber says the run into Turn 5, with the cars building speed out of the previous corner, is a favourite.
“Turn 5 is very challenging and a corner all the drivers like,” he says.
“There’s not much run-off on the exit to the left, it’s 230km/h plus, and we have to be very accurate.”
Turn 6 (third gear, 134km/h)
It’s only a short blast between Turn 5 and 6, but the cars will be in seventh gear and nudging 280km/h before braking for the corner. Turn 6 is where Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi triggered a multi-car accident last year on the opening lap.
There’s a pedestrian overpass between Turns 5 and 6 so you can sample the action from both sides of the track, and Webber says the variable light poking through the canopy of trees makes braking “pretty tricky”.
“The sun seems to flash through the trees, so the inconsistency of the light makes it tough,” he says.
Turn 11 (fifth gear, 226km/h) and Turn 12 (fifth gear, 233km/h)
The best sequence of corners at Albert Park, and the place to go to truly appreciate the commitment of the drivers at high speed. The approach to Turn 11 is a 290km/h curve, while Webber says the corner itself can really make a lap time.
“Turns 11 and 12 are just a very good part of the track,” he says.
“It’s crucial to get 11 right because there’s a lot of time to be gained there. You see people run wide into Turn 12, but all of the work you do is at Turn 11. You come down two gears into Turn 11, into fifth, and then grab sixth as you exit 12.”
A spot by the fence on the exit of Turn 12, looking back towards Turn 11, is the place to be.
Turn 13 (third gear, 138km/h)
Ask any driver and they’ll tell you that while the speed of an F1 car is impressive, the brakes are what take your breath away. Get a sense of that here by using the pedestrian overpass on the outside of the circuit between Turns 12 and 13 to stand on the inside of Turn 13. From nearly 300km/h on the short straight, the cars will scrub off 150km/h in the last 200m before the corner, their brakes glowing white-hot.
“Turn 13 is bumpy on the kerb for us, so you tend to go in deep because it’s only a short straight afterwards,” Webber says.
Turn 14 (fifth gear, 205km/h), Turn 15 (second gear, 84km/h), Turn 16 (fourth gear, 180km/h)
The inside of the track between Turns 14 and 15 is a spot where you can get close to the cars as they brake for the slowest corner on the track. It’s not uncommon to see drivers out-brake themselves and end up down the escape road or on the grass to the inside of the circuit.
“Turn 14 is pretty quick, open on the way in and tightens on the exit,” Webber says,
“Turn 15 is very, very slow, 80-odd km/h, and then there’s a lot of understeer into Turn 16 as you come back onto the start-finish straight. You rarely see a car with problems on the way into Turn 16, and you don’t want to understeer on the exit there - or you’ll be in the wall.”