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By John Floyd

Motorsport columnist

FLOYD ON F1: Plenty to ponder as racing returns to Australia

Schumacher and Vettel back behind the steering wheel as Mercedes looks to stop the bleeding.

March 2020 was the last time the Formula One teams were scheduled to grace Australian shores for the season opener at Albert Park, Melbourne. Sadly it was not to be.

Just before the race weekend, a member of the McLaren team was diagnosed with Covid-19, which led to the cancellation of the event, before the rapid global spread of the virus resulted in a hugely shortened season.

In 2021, the race date was moved to November, and again cancelled due to the continuing pandemic.
But this weekend, the F1 Australian Grand Prix returns.

During the two-year hiatus, the circuit underwent a few upgrades with the aim of improving the racing.
Turns one and three have been widened to allow more overtaking opportunities and the chicanes at turns nine and 10 have been removed. According to local authorities, Albert Park will now be quicker.

Making his return following a high-speed crash in Jeddah will be Mick Schumacher. It is hard to believe he will be in the same chassis he occupied when his Haas argued with a very solid barrier and the VF-22 literally broke in half.

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Team chief Guenther Steiner confirmed the side impact structures would be replaced, having served their purpose, but the chassis is race-ready – testimony to the enormous strides made in F1 driver safety in the last few years.

Also returning following a bout of Covid-19 will be Sebastian Vettel, hopefully to open his and Aston Martin’s account for 2022.

It is going to be an interesting weekend for the Mercedes team and all others using the German power unit, which has yet to show the performance we have come to expect since the introduction of the F1 hybrid era.

But it is not just the motive power creating an issue, particularly for the factory team, but restrictions on maximising the use of available power.

Watching the bouncing heads of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, matched by McLaren’s Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, plus Vettel replacement Nico Hülkenberg and Lance Stroll in the painfully slow Aston Martin, it is apparent a large part of the problem is aerodynamic.

The “porpoising” effect on the straights is very obvious, but the chassis dynamics through the slow corners is another issue, according to those in the know.

The loss of championship points must be of real concern. There is still a lot of season to run, but this year looks set to be a close one and no team can afford to forfeit F1 constructors’ points. Midnight oil back at the factories is doubtlessly being consumed in copious amounts.

Into round three, and Ferrari heads the table on 78 points with Mercedes second on 38 and Red Bull with 37 in third. Fourth is Alpine with 16 points.

The Renault engine has improved but has reliability issues. Alpine’s Fernando Alonso will take his third engine, as a water pump failure in Jeddah damaged the engine. Do possible penalties await?

To see the F1 driver’s standings, click here.

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