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Verstappen Leclerc round three at revamped Albert Park? - What to expect from Australian GP

Verstappen Leclerc round three at revamped Albert Park? - What to expect from Australian GP

F1 News

Verstappen Leclerc round three at revamped Albert Park? - What to expect from Australian GP

Verstappen Leclerc round three at revamped Albert Park? - What to expect from Australian GP

The Australian Grand Prix returns after an enforced two-year absence due to the coronavirus pandemic but with a revised layout and new faces at the front of the order.

F1's last visit to Australia in 2020 is one that damaged the sport at the time after the event was initially postponed at the 11th hour on Friday ahead of first practice due to a McLaren team member contracting Covid.

But that is in the past, with the present day painting a considerably brighter picture with battles throughout the field, including the fight between Red Bull and Ferrari at the front.

As we head into another busy weekend of action, here is what you can expect from a revised Albert Park circuit.

New Melbourne layout to boost overtaking

The Australian Grand Prix Corporation has certainly not been idle over the past two years.

Conceding to being all too aware of the criticisms aimed at the venue for a lack of overtaking and general entertainment, a number of corners have been altered or widened.

You can find a full rundown of the changes here, but it is safe to say the alterations, including the removal of the old turns nine-10 chicane to allow for a fourth DRS zone, on initial inspection appear to be for the better.

Ferrari v Red Bull round three

Given its regular position as the season opener and the difficulty of shipping new parts to Australia, Melbourne is very rarely a race where teams debut big upgrade packages.

Add the budget cap into the mix, and this only makes it even less likely.

With this in mind, it would be a very bold prediction to suggest anything other than a continuation of the Red Bull-Ferrari battle at the front.

Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen have served up some thrilling action so far this season and after the "cat and mouse" DRS games of Saudi Arabia, all eyes will be on how the pair manage a remarkable four zones this weekend.

Hamilton hoodoo to continue

Following on from the last point, Lewis Hamilton is not expected to feature in the fight at the front this weekend - you can almost count on one hand how many times that has been said across his entire F1 career.

Not only is this because of the so-far-underwhelming Mercedes W13, but it is also down to his comparatively poor record at Albert Park with just two wins since making his debut in 2007 with McLaren.

The successes came in 2008 and 2015, with Hamilton's current four-race, six-year barren spell his longest at any current track on the calendar.

Perez to increase Red Bull headache

In the past, Red Bull has predominantly only had to focus on one driver - Verstappen.

The seat alongside him has been viewed as somewhat of a poisoned chalice, with Pierre Gasly, Alex Albon and Sergio Perez last year in his first season with the team unable to match the Dutchman.

In the new era, though, Perez has shown he is perfectly capable of proving the equal of Verstappen, notably taking his first career pole in Saudi Arabia and then controlling the race from the front early on until an unfortunate safety car wrecked his victory bid.

It is now a case of Red Bull needing to adapt to the demands of not just one driver anymore, which may yet prove problematic.

F1 midfield lottery continues

Whilst the top three teams in Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes have been established, predicting the pace of the remainder of the field is an increasingly difficult task this year.

Yes, Williams, Aston Martin and McLaren would rank as the bottom three teams on most lists at present, but it would come as no surprise if any created a development that catapulted them firmly into the Q3 picture.

As for Haas, Alpine, AlphaTauri and Alfa Romeo, the top 10 shootout is as realistic a proposition as a Q1 exit - it really is that close!

All four teams have been represented in Q3 in the first two races so far and, widening the picture, only Aston Martin and Williams have yet to trouble the scoreboard.

F1 promised a shakeup of the order with the new era of technical regulations and so far it has delivered.

Daily poll

Lewis Hamilton has scored a record-equalling eight poles in Melbourne but only won twice. Will he add to his victory tally this weekend?

Will Hamilton end his Australian GP curse with victory?

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