The 2013 Australian GP preview: Everything you need to know about Sunday's race!
Ant Davidson's track guide, essential stats, tyres, odds and more!
By Sky Sports Online. Last Updated: 16/03/13 9:30am
Formula 1 2013 has finally arrived, and as has become tradition since the Australian GP switched to Melbourne 17 years ago, it's Albert Park in the early throes of the Australian autumn that provides the picturesque - and hugely popular - setting for the opening grand prix of the new season.
Sky Sports Online provides your one-stop shop for everything you need to know about the season-opening grand prix weekend, from Anthony Davidson's corner-by-corner video lap to the Melbourne formbook and details of Sky Sports F1's exclusively live TV coverage.
THE 2013 AUSTRALIAN GP IN A NUTSHELL
Track: Albert Park, Melbourne. Temporary circuit.
Race start time: 6am UK time Sunday (5pm local).
Track length: 3.3 miles.
DRS Zones: Two (Pit Straight and between Turns Two and Three).
Driver steward: Danny Sullivan.
Fastest lap: M Schumacher - 1:24.125 (Ferrari; 2004).
2012 pole: Lewis Hamilton - 1:24.922 (McLaren).
Jenson Button is by quite some distance the most successful driver around Albert Park on the current grid having won the Australian GP three times - with all of those victories occuring in the last four years. The other four World Champions on the 2013 grid - Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel - each have a single victory apiece in Melbourne since 2006.
Jenson is something of a Melbourne specialist
The realistic hope of a first home winner in the event's 28-year history continues to rest on Mark Webber's shoulders. Somewhat remarkably given the pace of the Red Bull around Albert Park in recent seasons, none of the Queanbeyan-born ace's 34 career podium finishes have come in Melbourne. Indeed, Webber's fourth-place finish last year was actually his best result since his giant-killing fifth place for Minardi on his F1 debut back in 2002.
2012 race result: 1. Jenson Button (McLaren); 2. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull); 3. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren); 4. Mark Webber (Red Bull); 5. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari); 6. Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber); 7. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus); 8. Sergio Perez (Sauber); 9. Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso); 10. Paul di Resta (Force India).
Last five winners: 2012: Jenson Button (McLaren); 2011: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull); 2010: Jenson Button (McLaren); 2009: Jenson Button (Brawn); 2008. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren).
Underlining the company's renewed push to spice up the racing and expand strategy options in 2013, Pirelli have broken with convention and brought the supersoft tyres to Albert Park for the first time - the softest compound in their range.
The red-banded tyres will serve as the race weekend's 'option' compound with the white-marked medium tyres the 'prime' choice, a two-step difference that is likely to equate to over a second in lap time.
How will the Pirelli supersofts hold up?
Although winter testing in Spain was beset by tyre graining problems - and vocal complaints from the drivers - Pirelli's motorsport chief Paul Hembery is not expecting anything out of the ordinary at Albert Park: "Cold weather conditions during pre-season testing meant that we weren't able to showcase them to the best of their abilities, but we are expecting a different story in Albert Park, with two to three pit stops per car."
Coming off the back of the extremely rare feat of three successive title triumphs, and an encouraging pre-season for Red Bull, Vettel is unsurprisingly the favourite with Sky Bet for both the first pole and race victory (both 5/2) of 2013.
In the mood for a flutter? Well, here are some further selected Sky Bet odds for the opening weekend:
Pole Position - Sebastian Vettel (5/2).
Race Winner - Fernando Alonso (5/1).
Podium Finish - Lewis Hamilton (2/1)
Top 6 Finish - Sergio Perez (11/10).
Points Finish - Max Chilton (20/1).
Lap One Leader - Jenson Button (6/1).
First Retirement - Jules Bianchi (9/1).
Race Winning Margin - Over 6 seconds (5/6).
SKY SPORTS F1's SCHEDULE - UPDATED
Thursday March 14
4am - Drivers' Press Conference - Live!
11am - Drivers' Press Conference Replay.
7.45pm - Gear up for Australia.
Friday March 15
1am - Australian GP Practice One - Live!
5.15am - Australian GP Practice Two - Live!
7.30am - Team Principals' Press Conference - Live!
9.30am - The F1 Show (also simulcast on Sky 1).
10.30am - F1 Classic Races - Australia 1994.
1.30pm - Australian GP Practice One Replay.
3.50pm - Australian GP Practice Two Replay.
6pm - F1 Classic Races - Australia 2007
Saturday March 16
2.45am - Australian GP Practice Three - Live!
5am - Australian GP Qualifying - Live!
7.45am - F1 Classic Races - Australia 2010.
10am - Australian GP Qualifying Replay.
5.45pm - Ted's Qualifying Notebook.
9.45pm - F1 Classic Races - Australia 1999.
11.45pm - Qualifying: Q2 and Q3 - Live!
Sunday March 17
4.30am - The 2013 Australian GP - Live!
9am - F1 Classic Races - Australia 2003.
11am - Australian GP Highlights.
12.30pm - Ted's Race Notebook.
1pm - Australian GP Replay.
Only first respective show replay listed in each instance. For full Sky Sports F1 listings visit the online TV Guide or check your Sky Planner.