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Australian Grand Prix (Melbourne) 2002 Australian Grand Prix (Melbourne) 2002 preview.
Story by Andrew Frampton.


Five months since Michael Schumacher's 2001 World Championship victory was complete, the German looks to retain his title as the 2002 season begins in Australia on March 3rd.

Schumacher and his Ferrari team are expected to set the pace in Australia after their double triumph last season in claiming the driver's and constructor's championships. The German took nine wins during the course of the 2001 season, and ended the season champion by 58 points. Schumacher is once again joined in the team by the Brazilian Rubens Barrichello who was unlucky not to score a victory last season, but did claim five second-places on his way to third in the championship.

Also fast in testing, and expected to mount the most serious challenge to the Ferraris is the Williams team, which retains the pairing of the younger Schumacher, Ralf, and the highly rated Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya. The team took third in the constructor's championship last season despite a series of mechanical problems. Ralf took wins in San Marino, Canada and Germany, and could be set to challenge his brother for the title, while Juan Pablo came good in the second half of the season, and took victory in Italy. He has the speed to improve on his 6th position last season.

Following his decision to take a year's sabbatical from the sport, Mika Hakkinen's position in the McLaren team is taken by the former Sauber driver Kimi Raikkonen. After an impressive Formula One debut with the Swiss team which yielded nine points, the young Finn is looking for race victories this season, although it is unlikely that he will mount a serious title challenge. He will partner David Coulthard who will be relishing the opportunity of not running as a number two driver, and it could finally be a year in which he excels, after several mediocre seasons.

Sauber claimed a superb fourth position in the constructor's championship last year, and their testing form, coupled with an exciting driver line-up could see a repeat of that performance. Nick Heidfeld was overlooked by McLaren as they chose to sign his less experienced team-mate Raikkonen, and the German will be looking for revenge by beating the three top teams. He is joined by the Formula One rookie Felipe Massa.

The Jordan team are looking for an improved performance over last season, which saw them tie with fellow Honda-engined team BAR in 5th position in the constructor's championship. Eddie Jordan has signed Giancarlo Fisichella from Benetton after impressing last season, while the British Formula Three champion Takuma Sato will pilot the second car.

Jaques Villeneuve and Olivier Panis remain with the British American Racing team (BAR) for 2002 after a solid performance for the team last season, which saw them equal the points haul of Jordan. Villeneuve took BAR to two podium finishes, with thirds in Spain and Germany, while Panis also claimed points early in the season.

The end of the 2001 season saw the end of an era, as the Benetton name disappeared from Formula One racing. Due to its increased input, it was decided to rename the team Renault, and it is looking for an improvement over last season, which it spent near the back of the grid. Under the guidance of Flavio Briatore, Jenson Button stays with the team on his 'loan' from Williams, while Jarno Trulli joins the team after moving on from Jordan.

Jaguar claimed 10 points last season, mainly thanks to Eddie Irvine's third and fourth place finishes at Monaco and Indianapolis respectively. However, the Irishman has come under pressure recently, and many wait to see if 2002 will prove whether he can let his driving do the talking, after he spent much of last season more obsessed with talking himself up off the track, with some jibes about his superiority over Mika Hakkinen rather difficult to believe. The second car is to be driven by Pedro De La Rosa, who impressed with the team in the latter half of last season. Jaguar are hoping that the testing woes that saw their cars running several seconds off last year's pace will be cured by the time they reach Australia.

The Arrows team is expected to struggle this season, as their testing form showed little improvement over last season's poor showing. The British team has retained Enrique Bernoldi after a solid first season in Formula One, although his ties with various major companies may have interested the team more. The team claimed a solitary point last season, by virtue of Jos Verstappen's sixth place finish at the A1-Ring, Austria. The Dutchman put in several stunning performances last season running very light fuel loads, and often found himself inside the top ten. His position in the team was announced in January, but the contract was cancelled when Heinz-Harald Frentzen became available following the demise of the Prost team. Frentzen, who raced for Prost and Jordan last season, is one of the most experienced drivers on the grid having also raced for Sauber and Williams.

The management at Minardi have been playing up their chances this season, and after a much improved car in 2001, Paul Stoddart's team are aiming for regular top ten finishes this season. The promising Fernando Alonso has been signed up as test driver for Benetton, leaving the talented Malaysian Alex Yoong as the teams more experienced driver. He is joined in the team by the Australian Mark Webber, a former Formula 3000 race winner, who has surprised many with his testing speed.

The 2002 season welcomes a new team to the grid in the guise of Toyota, for whom Mika Salo and Scotsman Allan McNish will drive. Prediction for this new team is difficult, but expect them to start near the back and progress forward later in the season once the car is fully developed.

Sadly the Formula One grid in still expected to hold only 22 cars following the announcement that the Prost team has been liquidated.

2002 F1 season calendar
03/03/2002 - Australian Grand Prix (Melbourne)
- Australia circuit by JR
- Australia preview by AF
- Australia grid by JR
- Australia review by AF
- Australia lap-by-lap by JR
17/03/2002 - Malaysian Grand Prix (Sepang)
- Malaysia circuit by JR
- Malaysia preview by AF
- Malaysia grid by JR
- Malaysia review by AF
- Malaysia lap-by-lap by JR
31/03/2002 - Brazilian Grand Prix (Sao Paulo)
- Brazil circuit by JR
- Brazil preview by AF
- Brazil grid by JR
- Brazil review by AF
- Brazil lap-by-lap by JR
14/04/2002 - San Marino Grand Prix (Imola)
- San Marino circuit by JR
- San Marino preview by AF
- San Marino grid by JR
- San Marino review by AF
- San Marino lap-by-lap by JR
28/04/2002 - Spanish Grand Prix (Barcelona)
- Spain circuit by JR
- Spain preview by AF
- Spain grid by JR
- Spain review by AF
- Spain lap-by-lap by JR
12/05/2002 - Austrian Grand Prix (Spielberg)
- Austria circuit by JR
- Austria preview by AF
- Austria grid by JR
- Austria review by AF
- Austria lap-by-lap by JR
26/05/2002 - Grand Prix de Monaco (Monaco)
- Monaco circuit by JR
- Monaco preview by AF
- Monaco grid by JR
- Monaco review by AF
- Monaco lap-by-lap by JR
09/06/2002 - Canadian Grand Prix (Montreal)
- Canada circuit by JR
- Canada preview by AF
- Canada grid by JR
- Canada review by AF
- Canada lap-by-lap by JR
23/06/2002 - European Grand Prix (Nürburgring)
- Europe circuit by JR
- Europe grid by JR
- Europe review by AF
- Europe lap-by-lap by JR
07/07/2002 - British Grand Prix (Silverstone)
- Britain circuit by JR
- Britain grid by JR
- Britain review by AF
- Britain lap-by-lap by JR
21/07/2002 - French Grand Prix (Magny-Cours)
- France circuit by JR
- France preview by AF
- France grid by JR
- France review by AF
- France lap-by-lap by JR
28/07/2002 - German Grand Prix (Hockenheim)
- Germany circuit by JR
- Germany preview by AF
- Germany grid by JR
- Germany review by AF
- Germany lap-by-lap by JR
18/08/2002 - Hungarian Grand Prix (Budapest)
- Hungary circuit by JR
- Hungary grid by JR
- Hungary lap-by-lap by JR
01/09/2002 - Belgian Grand Prix (Spa Francorchamps)
- Belgium circuit by JR
- Belgium grid by JR
- Belgium review by AF
- Belgium lap-by-lap by JR
15/09/2002 - Italian Grand Prix (Monza)
- Italy circuit by JR
- Italy grid by JR
- Italy lap-by-lap by JR
29/09/2002 - American Grand Prix (Indianapolis)
- USA circuit by JR
- USA grid by JR
- USA lap-by-lap by JR
13/10/2002 - Japanese Grand Prix (Suzuka)
- Japan circuit by JR
- Japan grid by JR
- Japan review by AF
- Japan lap-by-lap by JR

2002 Australian GP circuit map. Image by John Rigby, FIA. Click here for a larger image. Michael Schumacher and Ferrari are strong favourites for the championships in 2002. Image by Ferrari. Click here for a larger image. Whether the Williams drivers be smiling in October 2002 remains to be seen. Image by Williams. Click here for a larger image. McLaren will be hoping to mount a serious challenge on Ferrari. Image by McLaren. Click here for a larger image. Sauber are hoping to be best of the rest again. Image by Sauber. Click here for a larger image. Jordan look strong for 2002. Image by Jordan. Click here for a larger image. Jaguar are under more pressure than ever to perform. Image by Adam Jefferson. Click here for a larger image. Heinz-Harald Frentzen boosts the OrangeArrows team. Image by Arrows. Click here for a larger image. This may be the best chance yet for Minardi to push up the grid. Image by Minardi. Click here for a larger image.
 

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