x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Albert Park: bold driving, a mixture of speeds and more hot temperatures

Mark Webber takes us around his home track of Albert Park for this weekend's Australian Grand Prix.

My first race in Formula One was at Albert Park so I've got very happy memories about the place. I ended up finishing fifth, which was an unbelievable result for Minardi and it was very special to do that with Paul Stoddart [his then team boss], who gave me my first chance in F1 and is why I'm here today in F1.

Obviously, it's also my home race, which makes it special. I'm afraid I can't hear the crowd cheering for me even down the home straight - the cars are just too loud. But you definitely see the odd Aussie flag waving for you, which is always great to catch a glimpse of as you're going around. I guess you get lifted a bit as it's your home race, but I'm a racer and Albert Park's no different to any other race in the calendar. I want to win every race and there are 19 scheduled for this season, so Australia is one of those I want to win.

Our pace in Bahrain would suggest we've got a great chance of being quick here. My best result here is the fifth place I managed on my debut back in 2002 and again with Williams in 2005, and of course I feel I've got my best shot of winning here. The podium's the immediate target and, ideally, a race win, but we really don't know how we're going to go there until we line up for qualifying and we can match our pace against our rivals.

I've not always had the best luck here. In all, I've had four retirements, but that's not uncommon in Melbourne for a lot of teams as it's usually the first race of the season and there are still a lot of gremlins to iron out on the cars that line up on the grid. I've always arrived here feeling well prepared and pumped up for a great season, but that obviously hasn't always happened. But I'm feeling good about going well in front of my home crowd particularly having already got one race under my belt in Bahrain.

There's not much overtaking here but it's one of my preferred race tracks. It's obviously not a Monaco, Monza or Spa, but it's still a place that all the drivers like to go to. A lot of the drivers tend to come out here early and it's one of the best, if not the best, organised race all year. As a circuit, it's got a good mixture of low, medium and high-speed stuff, so in that sense it's a pretty good mixture for a driver.

There's a long straight which takes you under the bridge there and into the opening corners of the lap - you go right and left and, out of there and up to sixth gear before turn three where you brake hard to go right, left and then right again, the third corner of which you can take pretty fast. You need to be bold here as you want as much speed as possible as you come out on the straight. At the end of that, you brake hard once more as you go sort of left, right and slightly left again.

You accelerate up before slowing down for turn eight and hitting your speed again for another straight before cutting your pace right down for a tight chicane. Out of there is another straight, although it's more like a curve really. It still allows you to pretty much hit top speed. That opens up to a left-right chicane where you can maintain some speed before another quick section over the hill. At the end of that straight, it's hard right, then up to fourth again before another right. It's slightly stop-start with more turns at 15 - the slowest part of your entire lap - and 16 before you come back onto the straight for the grandstand finish.

Like much of the F1 circuits, I know Albert Park pretty well. I can shut my eyes and pretty much picture it exactly thanks to time spent in the Red Bull simulator getting ready for it as well as from my time racing there. It's going to be hot there though - not as hot as Bahrain by still topping the high 20s (Celsius) so it will be a physically draining race. I won't care, though, if I'm on the podium at the end. sports@thenational.ae