Coming into Australia Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull will be looking to carry on where they left off from. In Charlie Sheen's words "Winning". Last season Australia should have been Vettel's race had he the car not lost torque thus gifting the lead to McLaren's Jenson Button. This year the team will be hoping that the reliability problems of 2010 will be behind them. Mark Webber probably feels he has to prove something going into Australia. Last season he had lead the season for a long period of time but in the end it was Vettel, his younger team mate, that took the championship. As he heads to home soil he will be wanting to set the team straight and let them know he can fight just as hard as Vettel. Whilst testing has to be taken with a pinch of salt, it has to be said that the Red Bull is looking very good indeed both with reliability and speed. It would take a very brave person to bet against the Red Bull's this season and especially in Australia as Red Bull aim to set everyone straight, they want to give the message that "We are going to be the ones to beat again this season."
McLaren have previously run well in Albert Park. Button has taken the last two races here and will desperately looking to make it a treble. Again Button may feel he has something to prove after finishing second to Lewis in the team last season and will be pushing extremely hard to get off in the same way he did last year. Whilst the car did not look brilliant through testing I still would not bet against Button and McLaren in Australia. McLaren have been around the block a few times and they know what needs to be done. If these new upgrades that they are bringing to Australia (in the form of a new exhaust system and floor) work then Martin Whitmarsh believes they can gain a second. The new Pirelli tyres should also play into Button's smooth driving style, if it all slots into place then Button could well be looking at a treble. He will have to watch out for Lewis Hamilton though who will be coming into this race all guns blazing. Hamilton has now had two championships slip through his fingers and he will not be willing to let that happen again. He made some mistakes last year but he will have learnt from them and will fight very hard to win in Australia.
Ferrari throughout pre-season testing seem to have the strongest package heading into Austrlia. The F150th Italia has run the longest distance of any other car doubling McLarens. It has also consistently been at the top of the time charts. Ferrari are a very frustrated team who have started the last two seasons slowly. This time they will not make that mistake. Fernando Alonso narrowly missed out on the title last year arguably because of a slow start to the season and he will show why he is often deemed the best driver on the grid. Massa it has got to be said will be left in the shadow of Alonso. He may well push for a top 5 finish but it will be unlikely that he will be anywhere ahead of Alonso now that team orders are back in play.
This is looking like the strongest the 'mid-field' teams F1 has ever had. Torro Rosso, Renault, Sauber, Mercedes and Williams are looking extremely strong. So strong that in this race they could play a vital role for the rest of the championship. Hamilton said that if the McLaren is not up to scratch then consistent top 5 finishes will be important to the longevity of his championship campaign. However, with the likes of those before mentioned this could be very hard for the Brit. Renault and Mercedes in particular will not be rolling over with the likes of Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg and Nick Heidfeld behind the wheel and we all know what it is like to be behind Petrov, don't we Alonso?
This is also the first race where the return of the Kinetic Energy Resource button will make a come back, Pirelli take over from Bridgestone and the new innovation of moveable rear-wings will come into play. The moveable rear-wing combined with KERS can give a straight line speed advantage of 10kph. There is alot of controversy about the new rear-wing but we will be able to form an opinion after the first race. Whether we like it or not it will be an interesting dynamic to watch out for in Australia. Pirelli tyres mean more pit-stops to the tune of 3 or 4. Suddenly on the last lap 1st place could be takedn by someone who has preserved their tyres all race.
Not many changes in terms of BBC coverage other than the big news that Australia will be the first race in 2 years where we will not have to listen to the dull tones, over the top shouting and interrupting of Jonathan Legard. Instead we have the dull tones of David Coulthard but I am going to hold full judgment back till Saturday and Sunday. All I can say is I can not wait to hear the 'The Chain' at 5am (GMT) on Saturday!
Without any previous races this season to go on I feel like I am shooting myself in the foot with a prediction. The following is based on believing Martin Whitmarsh that these upgrades sort out the MP4-26:
1. Sebastian Vettel
2. Fernando Alonso
3. Mark Webber
4. Lewis Hamilton
5. Nico Rosberg
6. Jenson Button
7. Felipe Massa
8. Michael Schumacher
9. Nick Heidfeld
10. Vitaly Petrov