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Vilardo: 2023 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix Preview

Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez each have a win under their belt and forging a rivalry

Posted on March 30, 2023


  By Stephen Vilardo, SWS | Dane Miller, Series Editor

Traditionally, the Australian Grand Prix was Formula 1’s season opener.

But after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the circuit finally returned last season, albeit as the third race of the year.

That is again where it falls this season.

The 2023 F1 campaign has been owned by Red Bull through two races.

And while the Constructors’ Championship has been one-sided so far, the battle for the Driver’s World Championship has been very tight between the two Red Bull drivers.

Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez each have a win under their belt and the pair are forging quite the rivalry on the track.

The radio messages and interaction in the cool-down room following Saudi Arabian Grand Prix were tension-filled and indicate a legitimate rivalry.

Whether or not it boils over on the track remains to be seen.

I preview the Australian Grand Prix here and give my picks on That American F1 Show podcast.


Television Schedule

Free Practice 1: Thursday, 6:30 pm PT, ESPN News
Free Practice 2: Thursday, 10:00 pm PT, ESPN2
Free Practice 3: Friday, 6:30 pm PT, ESPN News
Qualifying: Friday, 10:00 pm PT, ESPN
Race: Saturday, 10:00 pm PT, ESPN


Australian Grand Prix Quick Facts

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Track: Albert Park Circuit
Track Type: Temporary Street Circuit
Turns: 14
Lap Length: 3.28 Miles
Race Length: 58 laps
Fastest Lap: Charles Leclerc 1:20.260 in a Ferrari, 2022
Qualifying Record: Charles Leclerc 1:17:868 in a Ferrari, 2022
Most Wins by Constructor: 11 – McLaren
Most Wins by a Driver: 4 – Michael Schumacher

As a temporary circuit, the track will be very slippery and lacking in grip at the start of the weekend. But the track should evolve each day and offer more grip as the rubber gets laid down.

As a temporary facility, Albert Park has historically been quite bumpy. But the new asphalt laid down last year has reduced the bumps a bit, arguably contributing to increased speeds.

The circuit itself has a lot of slow corners that require high downforce and mechanical grip for acceleration onto the straights.

Traction is important to get good exit speed onto the short straights and out of the corners, and any cars that struggle under braking will have slower lap times.

Braking and lateral forces on the driver are just average, too, putting greater emphasis on car setup than pure driver talent.

2022 Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park | Loren Elliott/Reuters

The overall traction of the circuit is poor, scoring a two out of five on Pirelli’s traction scale. The left rear tire will get worked the hardest, so monitoring the degradation there will be an indicator of when the tires are in need of a change.

The speeds at Albert Park, on the other hand, could be faster than ever this year.

The FIA has authorized the use of four DRS Zones on the track for the 2023 edition. The Drag Reduction System (or “DRS”) is the part of the rear wing that opens to allow substantially quicker speeds and passing.

The teams could see top speeds approaching 212 miles per hour this year.

Along with the resurfacing in 2022, the layout itself was changed. While the traction rating is still pretty low, the new course last season did offer an increase in overtakes.

A victorious Charles Leclerc at the 2022 Australian Grand Prix | aa.com

The race had 34 on-track passes last year compared to just 12 in the 2019 edition.

The modification reduced the lap distance by almost 92 feet and allowed Charles Leclerc to set new track records.

The second sector of the circuit was the main beneficiary of the redesign. That section produced a higher number of overtakes and should once again be a spot for passing to occur.

A car setup biased towards traction can be particularly helpful on the exit of corners, resulting in increased chances of a successful overtake on the circuit’s short straights. Especially in Sector Two.

And with a high degree of track evolution expected (marked four out of five in Pirelli’s classification), the teams that hit the mark on the first day of practice might not be the ones at the top come to the end of the race.


Speed Points

• In the last 11 Australian Grand Prix, the winner has started from the pole three times.

• Only two times since 2013 has a driver won in Melbourne and gone on to claim the World Championship.

• Red Bull has had consecutive 1-2 finishes for just the second time ever and the first time since 2009.

• This is a true home race for Oscar Piastri. The McLaren driver was born in Melbourne.

• Ferrari has 10 wins in Australia


Recent Race Winners of the Australian Grand Prix

YearDriverConstructor
2022Charles LeclercFerrari
2019Valtteri BottasMercedes
2018Sebastian VettelFerrari
2017Sebastian VettelFerrari
2016Nico RosbergMercedes



—More from Stephen Vilardo—