Formula One returns to Melbourne this weekend for the 26th edition of the Australian Grand Prix.

This is the first time the teams have returned to the circuit since 2019, and it promises to deliver a paddock filled load of new challenges.

The Track

The circuit itself has undergone some major modifications since F1’s last visit.

The track has been made wider in places to allow for more overtaking opportunities, most notably in the run down to turn one.

Turns 9 & 10 that used to host the old chicane have been removed, providing a wide attacking zone for potential wheel-to-wheel action.

Aside from other subtle changes, Melbourne’s updated street circuit will deliver four DRS zones.

This should provide more overtaking opportunities than any other circuit on the F1 calendar and should ensure close driver battles all weekend long.

The Cars

New regulations for 2022 appear to be benefiting some teams more than others.

Ferrari have remained the strongest and most consistent performers so far, collecting back-to-back double podiums over the last two Grand Prix.

In the past, Melbourne has proven to be a strong circuit for Ferrari, as Sebastian Vettel helped them collect season-opening victories in 2017 and 2018.

Red Bull have shaken off their disastrous start in Bahrain and came back to win in Jeddah.

Their car looks to be fastest in a straight line, and with so many DRS zones, it could prove to be another dominant weekend for Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.

Mercedes have struggled to get off the mark in 2022, but will hope to regain momentum in Australia.

Unfortunately for Lewis Hamilton, the streets of Melbourne have not been kind in the past.

The seven-time world champion has taken pole position here on eight occasions since 2007, but has only walked away with two victories.

The Drivers

Current championship rivals Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen are likely to lock horns once again this weekend.

Neither driver has ever won at the circuit, but Verstappen was able to achieve a podium finish in 2019, finishing third behind Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

Leclerc has been the stand out driver of the season so far, and currently leads the championship over teammate Carlos Sainz.

Further down the field, Sebastian Vettel will make his official season debut after missing the first two races.

The Aston Martin driver tested positive for Covid-19 before the season opener in Bahrain and said “It’s like arriving late for school”.

The Dates

Unfortunately for many European F1 fans, this weekend will not be spent sleeping in.

Qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix will begin at 7am on Saturday morning.

The race will then start at 6am on Sunday.

(Featured Image Credit: Robin Capper (Flickr) Creative Commons)