The new season starts here at Albert Park in Melbourne.
We preview the 2016 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix, 18-20 March
15 March 2016
Albert Park Circuit, Melbourne, Australia
After eight days of testing and with 2257km of mileage under our belts, itís time to get the 2016 season started. We catch up with our new rookies Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto ahead of their Grand Prix debut. We also hear from Racing Director Dave Ryan, at the helm of a new-look team and one in very different shape to 12 months previously. Buckle up!
Pascal, first up what do you think of Melbourne?
ďI love it. Itís an amazing city and I canít think of a better place to be making my debut. Apart from Germany of course; that would have been quite good. Iíve been to Melbourne before, as Reserve for Mercedes, so I know the place pretty well. Thatís good, because there wonít be much time for sight-seeing this year! Iíve had a run around the Park and the track already with my new trainer. Plus a trip to the Aquarium. After that, the track will be home for the rest of the week.Ē
Are you ready for this?
ďMore than ready. I canít wait. Itís been too long since we tested and I think every break between races is going to feel a lot like that now. We covered pretty much everything in testing so I feel as prepared as I can be ahead of FP1. Thereís still a lot to learn though and I want to take as much as I can from every single experience - in and out of the car - so I can make it better and better.Ē
How are the Wehrleins right now? Excited much?
ďYou could say that. Everyone at home in Germany, and in Mauritius where my mother comes from, is really excited. My father will be here in Melbourne this weekend and everyone else will be watching on TV. Itís almost as big a moment for them as it is for me.Ē
What are you expecting from your debut weekend?
ďIím going to give it my very best shot and thatís the most I can do. Then weíll see where we get to. Itís too early to make any predictions. We need to wait and see where the car is in qualifying. In the meantime Iíll be focusing on my own performance.Ē
Rio. A whirlwind few weeks for you with masses of media attention and support from the fans. Have you had time to draw breath?
ďNot much! But Iím not complaining. This has been my dream for such a long time and Iím enjoying every minute. Itís an incredible time for me and my country. The support means so much to me so I want to include my fans every step of the way.Ē
Pre-season testing was pretty short this year; just four days. Do you feel prepared?
ďIt was only four days but we packed a lot into that space of time. We covered pretty much everything; single lap, race sim, qualifying sim, practice starts, practice stops, plus a whole list of other race weekend procedures. Of course, you would always like more time to prepare, but Iím ready.Ē
What have you been doing to acclimatise?
ďIím lucky that Iíve been in Indonesia since testing, so Iím pretty close to this time zone anyway. There are quite a lot of media making the trip to Melbourne, but for those who canít, I did a press conference in Jakarta on Monday. I still have quite a busy schedule but itís manageable around my training programme. Iíll have my family here to support me so Iíll try to spend some time with them outside of the track. Staying relaxed is important.Ē
What are you most looking forward to?
ďAll of it. I want to take it all in, as itís a weekend Iíll remember for the rest of my life. On track, Iím looking forward to my first qualifying Ė and the race of course Ė but I think the qualifying format is going to be interesting; itís something new for everyone. Then, of course, the race. Lining up on the starting grid is going to be pretty special but thereís a lot to do before then!Ē
Dave, what did the team take from the eight days of pre-season testing?
ďIt was pretty positive. The car ran well out of the box and weíre happy with the progress we made over the duration of the test. The MRT05 is a huge step forward from the car we had last year but as always, until we get out on the same track at the same time as everyone else, we wonít really know just how much of an improvement it is.Ē
You have two very excited rookies on your hands. How do you think theyíll approach the weekend?
ďTheyíre just the right mix of excited and focused. Although theyíre pretty young, theyíve been racing a long time, so they know what to expect. Thereís a lot of interest from media and fans; and quite right too, theyíve worked hard to get here. Itís always very satisfying to see talented drivers making the step up and Iím sure theyíll find some time to savour the experience. Itís a big deal for them.Ē
What would a good first race look like?
ďWe know weíve made an improvement in every area over the 2015 car, so thatís the starting point, but we also know we need to improve operationally. Letís take it a day at a time and see how we look after Friday.Ē