Australian Grand Prix organizers reveal track changes

Australian Grand Prix organizers are hoping the days of single-track racing at Albert Park are over as they unveil long-awaited changes to the Melbourne lakeside circuit this week.

Albert Park has hosted the Australian leg of Formula 1 since the state government snatched it from Adelaide around 25 years ago, turning public roads and car parks into a race track for a few weeks each year.

Until this year, the circuit had remained faithful to the layout of the first race in 1996 despite the great evolution of the cars.

Although one of the most visually pleasing tracks on the calendar, it drew criticism for the lack of overtaking opportunities, gripes which only grew in volume as the cars accelerated.

Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas won in 2019 for Mercedes – the last edition of the race before it was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic – after leading from the first corner, a fairly typical result in Melbourne. Upgrading can reduce the chances of similar processions.

It saw the bumpy street circuit resurface and shorten by 28 metres, with seven corners modified and two corners removed in total, bringing the total to 14.

One of the biggest changes is the widening of the first corner – the scene of some memorable crashes as cars scrambled to position themselves in a tight funnel after taking off from the grid. The turn is now 2.5m wider, giving riders more racing lines in the crucial opening moments.

Turn six, once a tight right-hander, has been widened by more than 7.5m, which should increase speed by 70 km/h; and the old chicane between turns 9 and 10 has been removed, effectively turning the section into a 1.3km straight where drivers will put their foot down.

After dizzying speeds from Turn 6 to Turn 10, Turn 11, widened by three meters, will be a key attack zone, with the camber also modified to force harder braking to negotiate the corner.

The changes paved the way for four DRS zones, where drivers can adjust the flaps on their rear fenders to reduce drag and improve their passing chances. The pit lane has also been widened by two meters with the intention of raising its speed limit from 60km/h to 80km/h. This could lead to more strategic options for teams due to reduced pit time.

Organizers hope the circuit upgrade will be a hit with drivers and a thrill for returning motorsport fans.

Australian McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo said fans should expect a different kind of racing.

“I don’t take credit for myself, but I was a bit involved in the circuit redesign discussions a few years ago when they had the first idea of ​​what to do to try to improve a little racing,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Wednesday.

“I think it will be a different show this time around. Obviously we have to go now and let our actions do the talking, but on paper I think it’s promising.”