With its street circuit-style track, excellent weather and unique atmosphere, BMW Sauber tester Christian Klien believes the Australian Grand Prix is a clear favourite with most of the Formula One drivers. Klien has raced at Melbourne’s Albert Park on three occasions, starting in 2004 when he made his Formula One debut for Jaguar Racing one month after celebrating his 21st birthday.
“I remember my first weekend very well because I had been testing all winter and finally I arrived here for my first Grand Prix,” he said. “I liked the circuit immediately and remember the first time I drove my car out onto the track for free practice; that was a very special moment.I also remember being amazed to see how many fans there were, and being surprised also that everyone knew who I was; that is something you don’t expect!”
The Austrian enjoyed his best result in 2005 when he qualified his Red Bull in sixth and finished the race in seventh. Having competed at Albert Park several times, Klien believes he knows the 5.303-kilometre circuit very well. But the 25 year-old is also aware that the track’s unique characteristics and 16 turns present a real challenge in terms of set-up and driving style.
“Albert Park is basically a street circuit,” he explained. “They only have a race here once a year, and the rest of the time most of the roads are either being used by the public or else closed. As a result there is no grip at all. It is very slippery, particularly on Friday and Saturday, and this means that from Friday to Sunday the track conditions will change every day.
“As a driver you have to work closely with the team in order to adapt the car to the circuit as it changes. Also, the track is not just slippery in terms of the surface, but because of the large number of yellow and white lines used to mark out the public roads - you have to be very careful on the lines, particularly if the track is wet.”
“Another challenge is that, because the roads are used by the public, the track is very bumpy, so again the set-up has to take this into consideration. Overall it’s a medium speed track with only one high-speed corner, the chicane at Turns 11 and 12, and this leads into a good overtaking opportunity at the entry to Turn 13. It’s easy for drivers to make a mistake at the exit of Turn 12 and put the wheels over the kerb, and this gives the driver behind the chance to overtake.”
This weekend, Klien will be on hand in Melbourne to help BMW Sauber race drivers Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica find the perfect set-up ahead of Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.