14/04/2024
Albert Park will host four categories this weekend in addition to Formula 1. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Albert Park will host four categories this weekend in addition to Formula 1. Image: Wikimedia Commons

There’s plenty more at Albert Park than just Formula 1 this weekend.

Formula 2 and Formula 3 are back in Melbourne for the second time, giving Aussie fans a chance to see the next generation of F1 drivers.

For the local scene, Supercars will be out for round two of the championship, and the new Porsche Carrera Cup Australia season will also kick off this weekend.

Formula 2

Easily the highest-profile driver in F2 right now is Oliver Bearman.

The 18-year-old Brit undertook his duties as a Ferrari reserve driver last time in Saudi Arabia, taking the place of Carlos Sainz in Formula 1.

It’s unconfirmed as to whether or not Sainz will sit out a second race while he recovers from appendicitis surgery, but Bearman will be in Australia anyway.

He had an awful weekend out in Bahrain and was pulled from the Saudi Arabian grid after taking pole in F2. It’s unlikely that he’ll be a contender for the championship now, but if he’s back, he’ll be full of confidence to go for race wins.

The pre-season form book was thrown out the window when Zane Maloney, who hails from Barbados, swept the first two races of the new F2 era. He currently leads the championship.

Enzo Fittipaldi is the grandson of two-time F1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi. He’s second in the title race, having won the feature in Saudi Arabia.

Italian Kimi Antonelli is a Mercedes junior who has received a lot of attention with the knowledge of an open seat at Brackley. However, it may take some time for him to get used to the jump from Formula Regional to Formula 2, and he’s currently 10th in the standings.

Kush Maini is pushing to be only the third Indian F1 driver. He was disqualified from pole position at Bahrain but finally got his season going with a second-place finish in Jeddah’s feature race.

The two Melbourne F3 race winners from last year both graduated to F2, and Gabriel Bortoletto and Zak O’Sullivan are eighth and ninth in the standings respectively.

One thing you won’t see is any Australians in F2 this year. Jack Doohan now serves as an F1 reserve driver for Alpine and decided not to continue in the category for 2024.

It feels that in F2, anyone can be quick on their day. With equal machinery, who knows who’ll cross the line first?

Formula 2’s 23-lap sprint race will be at 2:15pm on Saturday, followed by a 33-lap feature on Sunday at 11:35am

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Formula 3

When Formula 3 came to Melbourne last year, it was chaos, with no less than six safety car periods across the two races.

Don’t expect this year to be any calmer. F3 has a 30-car field, the most cars at this year’s Grand Prix. That includes 17 drivers who come to Albert Park for the first time.

Maitland’s Christian Mansell is the star at home, fresh from his podium at the last round in Bahrain. If he shows similar pace, he may give the Aussie fans something to cheer for.

Mansell arrives at Albert Park third in the championship, seven points behind leader Luke Browning. The Brit is the guy to beat, having won last time out.

The other Australian in the field is Tommy Smith. Nephew of former Supercars driver Jack Smith, Tommy is currently 25th in the standings but nearly snagged a top-ten finish last year at home.

Dino Beganovic didn’t get a chance to defend pole position after a terrible start in the feature race in Bahrain. He is quick, but also susceptible to an off-weekend, as he had last year in Melbourne.

16-year-old Arvid Lindblad was the standout story in Bahrain when he won the reverse-grid sprint race on debut, following it up with a seventh-place finish the following day.

And Tim Tramnitz of Germany is second in the standings, rewarded for consistent results across the two races in the first round.

With 30 hot-headed young drivers on the longest expedition of the year, Formula 3 is the category to watch this weekend if you want pure action.

Formula 3 will have a 20-lap sprint race on Saturday at 11:15am, and a 23-lap feature race on Sunday at 9:05am

Supercars

This whole weekend is just weird for Australia’s premier motorsport category.

Formula 2 has set up in the pit lane usually reserved for Supercars, leaving the V8s on the footy oval out the back. It’s a similar situation to most support categories on the national tour.

Without a pit lane, there won’t be regular pit stops – teams are allowed a tyre rack in the lane in case of rain or punctures.

Further adding to the strange feeling in the paddock, there won’t be any fans allowed in amongst the garages as is commonplace.

Four short races await the Supercars teams, one per day, between 15 and 20 laps each. This is in sharp contrast to the pair of 250km races that the drivers tackled at Bathurst a month ago.

With just an hour of practice and 320 championship points on offer, it’s more important than ever for the teams to have things right quickly.

Chaz Mostert is a previous winner of the Larry Perkins Trophy, and has a chance at taking the championship lead this weekend.

But standing in his way is Triple Eight, who have been flawless thus far, taking two wins and two poles from two races.

Cam Waters’ championship challenge failed to fire at Bathurst as he battled illness, but Tickford has brought a brand new car to Melbourne.

This is the track where Erebus truly launched their championship assault in 2023, and with a race weekend now under the belt for their new drivers, they might be better placed to sneak a win at the weekend. Todd Hazlewood continues as a replacement for reigning champion Brodie Kostecki.

And Grove Racing, Matt Stone Racing and Team 18 are much higher up the (virtual) pit lane order than anyone expected after the first round, so lots of drivers have a shot at victory if they can start fast on Thursday.

Albert Park is now the fastest track on the Supercars calendar, and the flowing nature leads to incredible battles, like cars going two-by-two through turn 5 in close combat as we saw last year. With no pit stops, expect flat-out racing from start to finish.

The Melbourne SuperSprint consists of four races, on Thursday at 5:50pm, on Friday at 2:50pm, on Saturday at 5:35pm, and on Sunday at 10:20am.

Porsche Carrera Cup

Porsches have been a feature at the Australian Grand Prix for years, as they are at many F1 races in Europe.

Once again, the season opener takes place on the streets of Albert Park, with a bumper 27-car field set to contest three races, including two late-evening races to round out Friday and Saturday.

The entry list is headlined by Scott Pye, making a wildcard appearance, Fabian Coulthard and David Russell.

Jackson Walls, second in last year’s championship, is also joined by third and fourth place getters Dale Wood and Dylan O’Keeffe.

Marcos Flack, Nash Morris and champion Marco Giltrap are among the Porsche Sprint Challenge graduates taking on the premier single-make series for the first time.

Porsche Carrera Cup Australia will have three 13-lap races, Thursday at 4:45pm, Friday at 6:25pm and Saturday at 6:25pm

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