Trackside view

Turns 11 & 12, Albert Park

For the first few minutes, standing adjacent to the approach of the fast Turn 11-12 left-right sweep – seventh gear in the best cars – it’s like watching in wide screen. But yes the cars and tyres really are that size and within a few laps it’s as if they’ve always been like that. 

Just as it will feel to the drivers that the cars have always felt this planted and stable, allowing them to commit ever-harder until their passing looks quite breathtaking. 

Visibly the two fastest cars, the Mercedes and Ferrari look quite different in their behaviour through this sequence. The Ferrari is fluid, taking the sequence in one elegant arc, and its engine note changes only barely under the extra load placed upon it by the corner. 

The drivers remain flat on the throttle through 12 and don’t even need to use the full width of the track on approach – meaning they exit 11 full to the right-extremities of the exit but don’t have to load the car up too much in getting fully across to the left for the next part. They are taking much of the curvature out of the S yet can still remain flat through 12, getting the best of both worlds. The Merc is approaching 11 a few kph faster and is aggressively responsive upon turn-in, but it cannot shorten the sequence in the same way as the Ferrari. 

It’s going out similarly wide on the exit of 11, but has to stay there a fraction longer, meaning a more decisive – and tyre-draggy – lug on the steering to the left. Even from a less shallow approach angle to 12, both Hamilton and Bottas are having to make a brief throttle lift to make the front end respond fully to the steering lock. Just a small snapshot into a competitively fascinating weekend.