Wolff: Australian GP ‘extremely important’ for F1

Valtteri Bottas heads the field at the 2019 Australian GP

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is eagerly anticipating this weekend’s Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix.

F1 has not been on track in Albert Park since 2019 after the 2020 race was cancelled at the eleventh hour, and last year’s was postponed and then moved to Qatar as COVID-19 concerns remained.

With easing restrictions, the sport is now less than a week away from an on-track return in Melbourne.

“Really, it’s extremely important,” Wolff said of Australia’s importance to F1 when asked by Speedcafe.com.

“Formula 1 has a great fan base there and has always been part of the circus.

“To be coming back there is something that everybody is always looking forward to – less so me at the moment, but you know if I take my Mercedes hat off, it’s a great place and we love to be in Australia.”

Mercedes won the last edition of the Australian GP, with Valtteri Bottas taking honours in 2019 after team-mate Lewis Hamilton started from pole.

Indeed, the Brit has dominated Saturdays in Albert Park, having taken pole position for every race since 2014.

That appears unlikely this year, with Mercedes struggling for pace against the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari.

The latter currently heads the constructors’ championship with 78 points, more than double that of Mercedes in second place.

Hamilton has scored the Silver Arrows’ only podium of the year, a spot he inherited when both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez retired in the closing stages of the Bahrain Grand Prix with a fuel systems fault.

This year’s Australian Grand Prix will be held on a revised Albert Park circuit, which has undergone a three-phase development programme since F1 was last in Melbourne.

The first of those was a widening of pit lane, followed by geometry changes, and finally a complete resurfacing.

It’s expected that, even with the marginally slower cars in 2022, that lap times will drop by as much as five seconds per lap.

Formula 1 heads out on track for the first time on Friday, with Free Practice 1 from 13:00 AEST.

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