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Bumpy, relatively flat (being the third flattest circuit on the calendar) and with heavy braking zones, the Albert Park Circuit at Melbourne, Australia, is one of the most demanding stops Formula 1 competes at. Add in temperatures, which can sometimes soar, and it all adds up to a tough test for the drivers and their machines, particularly at such an early junction of the season, when the teams are still coming to grips with the new cars and the particular issues that have cropped up at Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Reliability is key in any form of racing (to finish first you first have to finish, right?) and while this era of F1 is in a different orbit compared to the days when eight cars out of a 26-or more car grid would finish, Melbourne will present an different set of parameters for the drivers and teams to conquer.

Temperatures, thankfully, should not be a problem, with the highs expected to be in the mid-60s. That doesn't mean drivers won't be checking oil and water temps, and wondering what that odd noise or vibration was, as they bounce around Albert Park for 190.216 miles. Charles Leclerc, the 2022 winner, is one of those unsure of where they stand on the grid.

"Clearly, our performance is not as good as last year," Leclerc, who followed up his DNF at Bahrain with a seventh-place finish at Saudi Arabia, said during Thursday's media conference. "But we are working massively to try and come back at the front."

Leclerc won at Australia going away in 2022, holding a 20-second gap over the second-place car of Red Bull Racing's Sergio Perez, but doesn't expect Ferrari to be able to repeat that performance at this stage of the 2023 campaign.

"We know where we need to work on. I don't think there will be any miracles for this weekend," Leclerc said. "But after that we've got a three-week break, and we'll try to use it in the best way possible in order to bring upgrades as quickly as possible on the car."

Coming in off a pair of third-place finishes to start the season, even Fernando Alonso is not sure what he has at Aston Martin. Asked if he is confident of being quick at Albert Park, Alonso said, "I think we have to wait and see. Also, I think very soon, from Baku or Imola, we will see the teams changing a few parts in the cars. And maybe that changes, also, how competitive you feel. So let's wait and see."

Even defending series champion Max Verstappen, who was worried about the state of his car last time out at Saudi Arabia (where the team replaced a drive shaft after qualifying), knows that if there is a weakness in the car, this circuit will find it and exploit it.

"Last year, our car was very heavily overweight at this stage," Verstappen said. "And yeah, we were not reliable. Last year was very frustrating here: being slow in the race, retiring from the race."

How to watch the Formula One Grand Prix of Australia

  • Date: Sunday, April 2
  • Location: 3.28-mile (5.278km), 14-turn Albert Park Circuit, Melbourne, Australia
  • Time: 1 a.m. ET
  • Stream: fuboTV (try for free)

What to expect

A one-stop strategy is likely what the teams will be aiming for, especially as the surface may prove to be slightly less abrasive as Albert Park had a resurface job done in 2022. For the one-stopper, look for pit stops between laps 17-27, moving from softs to hards. Alternately, if teams opt for a two-stopper, expect them to come off the softs earlier, around Lap 12, for hards, then to pit a second time around Lap 37 for another set of softs. The latter strategy also depends on whether the teams have that extra set of sticker or scrubbed softs to turn to.

Around the paddock

Aston Martin: "I'm definitely feeling much better," Lance Stroll told in regard to the wrist fractures he suffered during a training session on a bicycle ahead of the season opener at Bahrain. "They're not done yet -- bones don't heal in a few weeks."

McLaren: This will be rookie Oscar Piastri's first F1 race on his home soil, and naturally he is excited for what lies ahead. "I played Aussie Rules footy and cricket on some of the ovals that are now the paddock, so yeah, very special to be at home this weekend," Piastri told "The last time I raced in Australia, I was still in go-karts. … I think compared to the previous two tracks here should be more like Saudi, I hope. Tarmac's quite similar. The layout is a bit more similar to Saudi [finished 15th] compared to Bahrain [DNF after 13 laps]. So, hopefully, that is good for us."

Mercedes AMG: George Russell was asked to comment on teammate Lewis Hamilton's comment after Jeddah that Russell's set-up was the difference between him finishing fourth and Hamilton fifth. "There was like a 50-50 choice," Hamilton told Sky Sports F1. "I chose one way, he chose another. More often than not, the way he went was the wrong one, but it just happened to work, so I could only match his pace rather than be quicker." Not so fast, Russell said. "I don't think there's any luck in it at all; I think it's down to the preparation you put in before the event," Russell told "The changes we made overnight [after practice at Jeddah], I knew that was going to be the right direction with the work we did with the team, and I believed it was going to be better than the set-up that Lewis opted for."

Red Bull Racing: Still a bit under the weather after being ill during the Saudi GP weekend, Verstappen, for one, is looking forward the three-week break between Australia and Azerbaijan. "It was one of the first races where I Just felt like I was physically limited," Verstappen said of the race at Jeddah. "This weekend should be alright."