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Australian Grand Prix Forecast: 26-28 March 2010

Ian Fergusson | 19:43 UK time, Monday, 22 March 2010


CLOSING REMARKS: What a race! The early rain certainly made all the difference - plus some fantastic track action all-round. Well done Jenson; let's see what Malaysia brings - early indications offer a threat of wet weather emerging again as a factor...

NOWCAST UPDATE, SUN. 07:10HRS BST: I expect it to turn dry for a while now... tricky stuff!!

NOWCAST UPDATE, SUN. 06:15HRS BST: Further showery outbreaks of rain likely across the circuit in the next 45mins.

NOWCAST UPDATE: SUN. 05:30HRS BST: The Met Office's model got it spot-on in terms of timing: some rain has already fallen across Albert Park ahead of the race starting, but it'll now prove quite knife-edge in terms of how much affects the race itself. Patchy outbreaks of drizzle and light rain are quite extensive to the NW, feeding towards Melbourne, albeit as expected the heavier pulses are crossing away to the southwest. Intermittently damp weather looks decidely likely for Albert Park, but any such conditions (assuming rain doesn't become persistent) should quite readily dry off the circuit given the breeze and temperature. Wind currently northerly, about 13mph, gusting to 25mph.


This is a 'new style' approach to the weather forecasts I've previously provided on the BBC's 606 Forum, alongside our live online, radio and TV coverage of all the action during each Formula One race weekend.

The 2nd race of the 2010 season - the Australian Grand Prix - takes place at Albert Park, Melbourne, this coming weekend and I'll keep you updated here on the developing weather prospects.


Dry running is pictured here at Melbourne, but will this year's event escape the rain entirely? (Photo: William West/Getty Images)

Unlike the dry, almost cloudless conditions experienced a fortnight ago in Bahrain, there's a chance of some rain falling periodically in Melbourne to add additional on-track uncertainty through the coming weekend. And don't underestimate the wind: this could prove quite an issue later on Sunday!! 

Since I first opened this blog entry, it's been noteworthy how the essential forecast theme has changed very little - irrespective of whatever meteorological model is followed.  This continuity provides high confidence in the broad thrust of the Melbourne forecast, albeit the local detail will inevitably now prove more of a 'nowcast' issue.

And with this in mind, you can keep an eye on the local rainfall radar (as the teams surely will!) through this link

So, here's the current forecast thinking:  

  Australia_Precip_Synopsis_UKMetOffice_17z28March.jpgThe UK Met Office's Global Model, above, hints at the expected proximity & generally light intensity of rain during the Australian Grand Prix (which starts at 5pm local time). Other forecast models offer a broadly similar solution.


Summary & model assessment: Light to moderate rain highly likely during the race. Turning quite windy. Overcast but very warm.

Unsettled conditions are spreading eastwards as an area of low pressure (circa 1000 mB) moves across the Great Australian Bight towards Tasmania, swinging a trough and a band of rain, some heavy, into coastal districts of South Australia and then across parts of SW Victoria. 

The various forecast models we employ (UK Met Office's Global Model; USA's GFS; plus the Australian Bureau of Meteorology's own prediction) all offer agreement on the evolution and provide improving continuity regarding the timing of rainfall progression into Melbourne. 

Precipitation & cloud cover: Some showery outbreaks of light rain have crossed Melbourne overnight and it's likely the circuit will prove rather 'green' again by dawn. 

It'll be an overcast race with cloud cover becoming quite extensive well before the race start at 5pm local time. The probability of light to moderate rain affecting the event, more especially post-6pm local time, is now considered high.

The Met Office's Global Model suggests the rain could arrive patchily (as drizzle or generally light intensity) even by the start of the race. This could increase a little in intensity later, albeit peak rainfall rates are unlikely to ever exceed 3-5mm per hour.

The US-GFS model, running at similar resolution, has flip-flopped repeatedly in recent runs between offering light rain above Melbourne by the race start, or holding it out west until later. The latest (1200 GMT) output reverts back to the slightly slower solution, with light rain arriving towards the end of the event.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology's prediction, combining the output of 9 national and international models, further supports the notion of any rainfall being light in nature. 

So broadly, the UKMO, GFS and other models offer comparable forecasts in terms of both the high likelihood of some damp weather arriving into Melbourne districts at some stage during the race (if not actually by 5pm local) and the generally light to moderate intensity of any precipitation once in-situ. So it's now a nowcast issue....

Temperature: With the prevailing flow off the hot continental interior, it will become very warm at around 29-31C mid-afternoon. Ambient temperature during the race likely to be 28-29C.  

Wind: Could be key factor, in my opinion. It will turn noticeably breezy during the afternoon, with the north to northeasterly wind gusting 25+mph at times and possibly over 30mph periodically by the start of (and during) the race. The Met Office modelling suggests a prevailing NNE wind averaging from 10-15mph. 

It will offer a headwind component on the pit straight; a tricky, gusty crosswind in some of the other sections not well sheltered by the trees and perhaps critically, a noticeable tailwind element through the back of the circuit from turns 10-13. Local funnelling effects of the wind through the adjacent urban areas and down the walled sections of the circuit such as from turns 10 to 11 could be quite an issue, affecting braking stability into the (ever-tricky) high speed left-right switch at 11-12; ditto into the quite fast right-hander at turn 13. 

All the latest forecast model runs continue to hold any threat of heavy rain W/SW of Melbourne until later into the evening.  However, even intermittent light rain will add a real lottery to proceedings, as emphasised by Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone's director of motorsport tyre development:

"If there is rain before tomorrow's race we will face quite a difficult track, and those starting on the soft tyre will have the concern of graining on the left tyres, either front, rear, or both depending on the car and set-up. If a driver can protect their tyres then a one stop strategy should be possible...The soft tyre is around 0.5 seconds faster for its fastest lap than the harder tyre, but we really don't have sufficient data to know how long it will last here. This, and the variable of the Melbourne weather, will be the biggest unknowns for tomorrow's race." 

I do urge keeping a close eye on the rainfall radar (here's an alternative version, if you so prefer) - this will offer a real-time answer as to whether it'll rain by race start (and save me trying to type innumerable updates; I'll find it tricky due to mounting excitement / stress level as the race unfolds!)


(Previous forecasts:)


NOWCAST UPDATE, 05:20HRS GMT: Some moderate intensification of the showery rain to the west of Melbourne, but current trajectories suggest these are likely to run south of the city.

NOWCAST UPDATE, 04:10HRS GMT: Despite a scattering of light showers in parts of Victoria, it's highly likely qualifying should remain dry.

FORECAST: High pressure (1024 mB) sits over Tasmania and the remnants of Friday's front continues to decay over Victoria. 

Largely cloudy conditions will once again prevail and a good deal of dry weather will dominate during the day. There's a small chance of isolated light to moderate showers developing above Melbourne through the morning and into early afternoon.  Some could appear during 3rd practice and indeed there's a risk of some further showers during qualifying (starting at 5pm local time), but on balance it's very likely both sessions will run in the dry..

Temperatures will be somewhat less than Friday's values, peaking around 24C into the afternoon. Winds will be predominantly light/moderate SE to then SW for much of the morning and early afternoon, averaging 8-10mph.



NOWCAST UPDATE, FRIDAY 0606GMT: The current shower will soon fade - some running likely again soon thereafter, assuming the track dries speedily.  But more showers still likely in the next 30mins.

NOWCAST UPDATE, FRIDAY, 0555GMT: The first shower duly arrived and more look likely before the end of this session. Signs of moderate intensification of these shower cells on rainfall radar... doubtless the teams well aware that they need to take full advantage of the current dry window.

NOWCAST UPDATE, FRIDAY, 0500GMT: Light to moderate showers crossing eastwards, as now seen on rainfall radar, look likely to affect the Melbourne district towards 2nd Practice. Currently the heavier (and in places thundery) showers are remaining well south of the city.

FORECAST: An area of high pressure slowly eases eastwards from southeastern Australia, with another established out west across the Great Australian Bight. An ever-weakening cold front will sit between the two anticyclones during Friday, arcing northwards above Tasmania but quickly losing intensity in-situ.

Dry weather should thus dominate during both practice sessions, with a small chance of isolated showers appearing as the day develops. Most of these should be light in nature, but there's sufficient instability aloft to offer a scattered sharper (possibly even thundery) shower. It'll prove a hit-and-miss situation, more especially into 2nd practice. So worth watching the rainfall radar link I provided earlier in this blog... 

Increasingly cloudy skies will be above Albert Park during the afternoon as temperatures reach about 25-27C. Winds will shift from N/NW around to SW by midday; a tad breezy, averaging approx. 10-15mph but closer to 15-20mph by midday.

The combination of ambient / track temperature plus a moderate breeze will readily clear any dampness that might arise from light showers, so on current forecast expectations I expect nothing other than slick tyres being employed during both sessions unless the circuit catches an isolated heavier downpour. Unlikely, but possible!


  • Comment number 1.

    Absolutely Brill. Enjoyed the old updates on 606 .

  • Comment number 2.

    Thanks for the feedback! Hopefully this new style will allow a bit more added detail for you folks. Enjoy the race weekend, whatever the weather brings! Best, Ian

  • Comment number 3.

    Nicely done, thanks!

  • Comment number 4.

    Nice one, thanks Ian.

    I look forward to your reports for the rest of the season.

  • Comment number 5.

    Very interesting.

    This is a nice feature, hope we see more of it for the rest of the F1 season.

  • Comment number 6.

    Is this going to be a regular occurance for every race? If so, brilliant!!

  • Comment number 7.

    So to summarise, chance of showers friday, drier saturday, heavier rain showers late sunday. Windy with changes in direction.

  • Comment number 8.

    Great to see you have a proper home for this, just a shame that BBC Sport seem to be unaware of it / ignoring it / whatever.

  • Comment number 9.

    An interesting new feature, thank you very much.

  • Comment number 10.

    Good blog, I hope this is done for all F1 races.

  • Comment number 11.

    Chhers Ian, here's hoping for a good race, whatever it takes!

    BTW, your comment on Points West about horses at the Gold Cup having understeer or oversteer in the wet made me chuckle.

  • Comment number 12.

    Fantastic blog, Ian, and thank you for your regular updates for each race.

  • Comment number 13.

    Would like to see this for all the Grandprix if possible

  • Comment number 14.

    This is a very very good blog post! Looking forward to this weather analysis before every race weekend =)

  • Comment number 15.

    Thanks ever so much for all your comments and feedback; useful stuff.
    In response to the most common query: yes, I do intend to make this a regular forecast blog feature through the 2010 season, with perhaps one or two race weekends being exceptions (due to my absence through leave, etc). Otherwise, alongside all my other weather-related blogs, I'll pen separate forecast updates ahead of most - if not all - the F1 race weekends this year.
    I much appreciate all of you visiting my blog and taking time to add comments - Best wishes, Ian

  • Comment number 16.

    Glad to see BBC ID getting more contact. This should be linked from the Weather/F1/sport part of the site

  • Comment number 17.

    Thanks very much Ian. Look forward to your updates and future blogs!

  • Comment number 18.

    Thanks for the update Ian. :)

    Just a note:

    "the forecast models tend to hold the rain at bay out west, until evening"

    The race starts at 17:00 local time.... I'm not sure in the above what you mean by evening, but 5pm to me seems like the evening? ;-)

  • Comment number 19.

    The 1 thing I'd say there DMN is he mentions it probably being dry during the race......possibly suggesting evening as in after the race.....however it seems like it's very much a case (for all 3 days) of the weather being uncertain, and confidence in the forecast seemingly being low at the moment.

  • Comment number 20.

    Hi D-M-N and Stevvy1986, thanks for your comments. I agree that my original entry didn't sufficiently clarify the distinction between early/mid evening (i.e., the race time) versus the period later into the evening - - I've hopefully made this clearer in this morning's update! The latest crop of forecast models still paint a decidedly 50/50 picture in terms of just how far east/NE the rain will have progressed inshore by the start of the race and so it's going to be a tricky call until we see some continuity on this aspect of the forecast. Best, Ian

  • Comment number 21.

    As I'm a realist I will take it all with a pinch of salt.

    Considering the BBC posted incorrect predictions for some of the GPs last year I hope the F1 teams don't use this info. What am I saying? Of course the teams wouldn't use this info.

    Furthermore the BBC can't even correctly predict the weather for the next day for parts of the UK. It would be a bit of a shock if the BBC could predict the weather more than a day in advance for a place half way across the globe. But I suppose stranger things have happened.

    But you can't blame weathermen for trying of course - if you keep shooting in to a barrel you're bound to hit at least one fish.

    Keep up the good work BBC - we would be lost beyond reason on everything meteorological without you.

  • Comment number 22.

    My Good Self, generaly the teams use the MeteoFrance system (think it's that anyway), certainly they use that for the radars they use at the tracks. Worth bearing in mind as well though that some forecasts on well respected websites last year were wrong in other places too (Germany was meant to be a wet race, as everyone expected, but overnight the rain accelerated and fell well before the race instead). Also bear in mind he isn't just using the Met Office forecast, he'll be taking forecasts from various weather models, forecasts, radars, even for things such as low/high pressure, and I for 1 appreciate it, as the more forecasts, details we can get across the web, the better.

  • Comment number 23.

    I'll be writing an update later to the blog, but by way of an interim, the latest forecast model runs continue the same general theme by keeping Sunday's rainfall out west of Melbourne until later in the evening / night. Regards, Ian

  • Comment number 24.

    I assume you mean tomorrow. Seeing that I think you wont do a update at silly O clock

  • Comment number 25.

    Be good if this rain speeds up a bit and gives us even just some light rain in the last 10 laps or so, if nothing else. Still plenty of time to go.

  • Comment number 26.

    Thank you for these Ian. I really find them useful as you always go into plenty of detail and give us hope of an exciting race due to the influence of the weather! Judging by Bahrain we may need rain in any race this year to make it even tolerable.

  • Comment number 27.

    Perhaps rather foolishly, despite the latest forecasts, I'm hoping we'll get a bit of rain during the race on Sunday. Can't that rain just speed up a bit?

  • Comment number 28.

    Hi Ben, thanks for the feedback and for visiting the blog. It's still a tad touch-and-go in respect of whether any rain will reach the circuit whilst the race is underway. But don't despair...
    Whilst the Bahrain event was self-evidently not a classic (!), it's not really a track that suffices as a generic benchmark for the rest of this season. Expectations were sky-high as the cars lined-up at Bahrain, not least given this year's fascinating driver/team line-up, but the cautious approach to the new regulations and softly-softly tyre management in a season opener where track temperatures attained >40C wasn't a great recipe for do-or-die action.
    Melbourne is a wholly different prospect, I feel, and could prove a quite intriguing spectacle. Will many teams now adopt a more bullish approach and will the shorter circuit mitigate against the vast elastication of car-to-car gaps that appeared quickly in Bahrain? Plus run wide here on heavy fuel, and you've got a real handful to avoid the scenery (e.g., remember the previous tank-slapping demise of both M.Schumacher and J.P. Montoya on the final right-hander's kerb and nearby wall as they entered the pit straight!?)
    And yes: a spot or two of rain wouldn't go amiss, for sure...

  • Comment number 29.

    Yes I agree. Melbourne should be more intertesting as the track lends itself to more exciting racing (less runoff etc.). I just hope we get a good spectacle this weekend!

  • Comment number 30.

    Thank you for your comments. More of the BBC weather people should be using blogs

  • Comment number 31.

    Fascinating but what about the A417?

  • Comment number 32.

    I think it's safe to assume no snow likely for a while now to disrupt your commute on the A417, Swindon Queso... ;-)

  • Comment number 33.

    This is frustrating Ian (not you or your blog, before you worry!), but the fact that the forecast seems like it'll give us a dry race......all I want is that rain to speed up by just 2-3 hours, that's all, to give us at least some light rain in the last 10-15 laps.

  • Comment number 34.

    Hi Stevvy 1986; note my latest comments on the continuity both within and between the various coarser-resolution models regarding the rain timing for Sunday...
    But equally, note my closing remarks expressing caution!
    The finer detail of the Sunday evening forecast cannot be set in stone until we see the model output later on Saturday. Yes, a dry race looks most likely on balance, but things might yet change - more especially regarding the tail-end of the race. Best, Ian

  • Comment number 35.

    Well after a rather unexpected wet 2nd session, it just proves that the forecast is very difficult to get right this weekend. Delighted that the rain for Sunday has sped up, hopefully it'll be enough to even just give us the last 10-15 laps with conditions like in FP2, where the drivers are uncertain as to which tyres to go for.

  • Comment number 36.

    Ah, but not wholly unexpected, that spell of rain in 2nd Practice, Stevvy... to cite the forecast I'd penned yesterday:
    "....a small chance of isolated showers appearing as the day develops. Most of these should be light in nature, but there's sufficient instability aloft to offer a scattered sharper (possibly even thundery) shower. It'll prove a hit-and-miss situation, more especially into 2nd practice."
    The showers proved a bit more widespread, but by yesterday we were adapting the forecast to cater for the chance of sharper ones too - which duly appeared around Melbourne.
    Race day still has potential to turn wet later - it's pretty knife-edge, forecast-wise.

  • Comment number 37.

    True Ian, not wholly unexpected, but obviously it was expected to be a low chance, although needless to say, that small chance became a very big chance in the time between FP1 and FP2! Will be interesting to see if we get any more rain tomorrow, either during practice or qualifying (if we get a repeat of the light rain we had today, during qualifying, to the point where the teams aren't entirely certain which tyres to put on, that could certainly give us a bit of an unpredictable grid). Still holding out hope though that the rain for Sunday will speed up just a little bit more and give us an extra dimension to the race, even if it's late on. Enjoying reading the forecasts though, and good to know that you're constantly responding to questions/what people are saying, it's appreciated.

  • Comment number 38.

    Well, well well.

    After 1st practice I thought it looked like it was going to be a dry running all day - how wrong I was!

    The race could be very very interesting if it starts to drizzle towards the end.

    Really enjoying your updates Ian, please keep up the good work :)

  • Comment number 39.

    Hi Stevvy - just an additional point; because forecasting such showers accurately becomes a nowcast issue, you might have spotted that about 30 mins ahead of the P2 session starting, I added this update on the blog (see the Friday archive above) which read:
    "NOWCAST UPDATE, FRIDAY, 0500GMT: Light to moderate showers crossing eastwards, as now seen on rainfall radar, look likely to affect the Melbourne district towards 2nd Practice."
    It'll be a similar story tomorrow - i.e., one of following rainfall radar to provide due accuracy.

  • Comment number 40.

    Yeah I noticed that. I think Sunday will be the same as well, as although rain is seemingly maybe a bit more likely (in the sense we know there's actually an obvious big band of rain heading that way, whereas tomorrow may see the rain just appearing on the radar out of nowhere, kind of like what happens at Spa/Nurburgring), in terms of the timing, which is still impossible to predict, the rainfall radar could be absolutely crucial on Sunday as well.

  • Comment number 41.

    Ian, given that the rain has moved forward as such for Sunday, do you think that trend could continue leaving us with possibly a totally wet race?

    Or is that unlikely? To me, it'd seem weird for a band of rain to move 'eastwards' in one update then stay stationary in the remaining few updates.

  • Comment number 42.

    Hi D-M-N, it's not so much that the rain was ever 'stationary', more that it's eastwards advance was very slow in earlier modelling and equally, took a more southerly course to merely brush into Melbourne.
    That's no longer the case.
    Indeed, both the latest US-GFS model run (1200 GMT today) and Met Office Global Model continue to advance the rain's eastwards progression and positioning by 1700hrs EDT (local time) on Sunday. Both models suggest drizzle / light rain could even appear, albeit patchily, by the time the race starts, with the very real possibility of things turning decidely damp by the second half of the race.
    This sort of acceleration-v-slowing (or even stalling) of frontal rain in successive model runs is a frequent flip-flopping forecast headache for us in the UK let alone in Australia; we'll not know the real mile-by-mile, minute-by-minute rate of eastwards advance until Sunday itself. However, over the past week, the models have been consistently bullish in positioning the rain pretty close to Melbourne during Sunday evening and if anything, the new computer runs heighten the likelihood of wet running, rather than diminish it. It's got the potential to play a major part in proceedings, for sure.... unlike parched Bahrain!!
    Best, Ian

  • Comment number 43.

    That's really interesting Ian, that in the space of about 36 hours, we've gone from a relatively low chance of some light drizzle appearing in the very late stages of the race due to the forecast models positioning it the way they did for a few days in a row, to potentially drizzle/light rain at the start, with it getting even wetter as the race runs its course, and so possibly leaving us with what could basically be rain all the way through. Admittedly there's still a fair way to go until we have an even clearer picture, and it could change many more times, but it's certainly a very interesting development all the same.

  • Comment number 44.

    Thanks Ian! It's going to very interesting if it starts to drizzle before the starts - talk about a guessing game!!

  • Comment number 45.

    Great attention to detail Ian!

    Looking forward to your updates over the weekend!

    I hope the BBC splash out and get you a massive bonus for your efforts!


  • Comment number 46.

    JPollock: Thanks for the idea, but I assure you - all this is done at no extra cost to you.

  • Comment number 47.

    Any more word regarding Sunday Ian? Or even Saturday's action?

  • Comment number 48.

    It seems like Ian's predictions have been spot on so far... I like it! Even if Friday's was slightly worse than expected.

    Let's hope the rain continues to move east faster. ;)

  • Comment number 49.

    Autosport have done their own update this morning for anyone interested: http://live.autosport.com/commentary.php/id/192

  • Comment number 50.

    why wasn't Michael Schumacher penalised for speeding through red flags and lights in practice other than losing that lap. Surely the rules say you must slowdown at once and either stop or make your way slowly or carefully back to the pits?

  • Comment number 51.

    everyone is complaining about the lack of overtaking, lets loose the mandatory tyre change, then you have to overtake on track. Michael Schumacher said without refuelling it would be difficult to overtake! We don't want overtaken in the pits we want it on the track.

  • Comment number 52.

    Why not ban all electronic aids to the driver. electronic should be contained by the engine bay. Mechanical bar rate changes, gear change, throttle, clutch, brake bias etc. no more retirements due to lack of some hydraulic/pneumatic system. And ban power steering.

  • Comment number 53.

    nik......you're posting this in the wrong area.....this is about the weather.

  • Comment number 54.

    Ian, will you be doing an update today for tomorrow? ;)

  • Comment number 55.

    Hi all - just a broad-brush reminder that generalised postings re race strategy, regulations, drivers & teams etc. etc. should be posted to the F1 606 forum. Anything related to race weekend weather and associated track conditions / weather challenges for the various sessions is fine here - thanks!
    D-M-N, yes, a new update will appear this afternoon once all the latest forecast data is assimilated and examined.

  • Comment number 56.

    I'm gonna be so annoyed if we don't get any rain of good measure during the race! ;)

    Thanks for the update Ian.

  • Comment number 57.

    Still seems relatively likely that we'll get some rain........the question I guess now, even with what, 12 hours or so to go, is when will it get there, and how heavy will it be. Hopefully it'll at the very least be wet enough to make the teams have to either use, or seriously consider, the intermediate tyres. Will we be getting an early morning (UK time) update Ian, given that presumably there'll have been another couple of runs on the model forecasts before the start of the race?

  • Comment number 58.

    Hi Stevvy, yes I'll certainly endeavour to offer a forecast update ahead of the race tomorrow morning. Cheers, Ian

  • Comment number 59.

    Seems like I'll be turning on my PC at 05:30am to see Ian's update! :)

  • Comment number 60.

    And don't forget the clocks going forward an hour tonight!

  • Comment number 61.

    Delighted to hear that Ian, the more forecast updates we can get, and the closer to the rae they are, the better.

  • Comment number 62.

    I hope for some rain in the race tomorrow

  • Comment number 63.

    Great news Ian if you can do a small update before the race! May have to get up just a little bit earlier just to check it out and fill my confidence and anticipation ahead of the race. :)

  • Comment number 64.

    Well looking at 3 different rainfall radars, at the moment, there's some rain to the north, which may head south, there's some rain not too far from Melbourne, and a large (and growing all the time) band of rain coming in from the west. I can't see it being a totally dry race personally. At the very least I reckon we'll see some light rain, even if it just makes it damp, but not wet enough for inters. Seems like the chances of us having a bone dry racetrack throughout the race, and no other rain falling, is decreasing all the time (that's the way I read it at the moment anyway having looked at a few radars).


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