First Wet Race Forecasted for Melbourne

The Australian Grand Prix could be run in wet conditions after local weather forecasters predicted a strong chance of rain on both Saturday and Sunday in Melbourne.

First Wet Race Forecasted for Melbourne

The Australian Grand Prix could be run in wet conditions after local weather forecasters predicted a strong chance of rain on both Saturday and Sunday in Melbourne.

Local weather bureau expert Dean Stewart shied away from making a firm prediction but admitted the threat of a wet race is a distinct possibility with the Victoria state due rainfall.

"It's a bit too early to tell, but the way things are shaping up we expect some rainfall, but exactly where we don't know where yet," Stewart told the Melbourne Herald Sun. "In the past we've had some rain in the lead up and practice days, but we haven't had a wet race yet."

If it rains on Sunday, it will be the first time that the Australian Grand Prix has been run in the wet since it moved to Melbourne in 1996 to become the season-opening race. To cope with all the unknown factors, the richest teams have brought their own weather forecast experts with them to the race, while the less well-heeled teams like Minardi have been scouring a range of websites for information.

"The first time we see a wet and dry qualifying session combined with all the different strategies being used for the race, it is going to be really good," said Minardi boss Paul Stoddart today.

The unknown factors thrown in by the new rules and the unpredictable weather will make choice of tyres and tyre performance critical for all of the teams when the competition begins.

Under new rules, tyre suppliers Bridgestone and Michelin have been forced to rapidly develop just one type of tyre to cope with all types of wet conditions, ranging from heavy rain to light drizzle. Previously tyre suppliers were allowed to supply teams with a mixture of tyre treads to suit differing wet weather scenarios, from a flooded circuit, to patchy rain, to a damp circuit.

The spell of cool and wet weather could serve to underline the higher risks involved as the teams go into the unknown with the new rules for the first time, a scenario pointed to clearly by returning Dutch driver Jos Verstappen who celebrated his 31st birthday today.

"If it rains at the weekend it will really mix things up and it would be great for the fans," said the Minardi driver. "If it rains on Saturday, anything could happen in qualifying and, of course, that would really effect everyone's plans for the race."

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