Australian Grand Prix fans will witness faster lap times, top speeds of close to 330km/h, and more overtaking opportunities at this November’s Formula One race after the Albert Park street circuit receives its first major overhaul in 25 years.
Lap times are forecast to be slashed by up to five seconds, according to initial estimates, after seven corners on the 5.3km track are modified – and two are removed.
A complete resurfacing of the circuit – the first since it was constructed in 1995 – will be undertaken after the November 2021 race (the third-last event on this year’s F1 GP calendar, rather than the season opener as it has historically been) to enable the surface to cure properly in the warmer months ahead of the 2022 season.
As part of the changes, Turn Six will be widened by 7.5 metres “allowing for the largest speed change on the circuit”, increasing the current minimum velocity of 149km/h to 219km/h on this particular corner.
The chicane at the current Turn Nine and Turn Ten will be removed“creating the longest straight on the circuit and the potential of a new DRS (drag reduction system) zone”.
Such zones give F1 cars a temporary 25 to 30km/h boost when there is less than a one second gap to the car in front.
Albert Park currently has three DRS zones; if approved by the sport’s governing body this change would give the circuit four DRS zones.
While not yet confirmed, Australian Grand Prix (AGP) officials claim the F1 cars could reach a top speed of close to 330km/h when in DRS mode between what will be the new Turn Eight and Turn Nine. The current top speed at the end of the main straight is 323km/h when DRS is activated.
Australian F1 star Daniel Ricciardo – who has switched to the McLaren-Mercedes team this season after two years with Renault and five years with Red Bull – says the changes will likely deliver “better races, more battles”.
In a media statement, Ricciardo said the changes “will make the racing closer, I’m pretty confident of that”.
“A bunch of us drivers were consulted on the changes and I was happy about that,” said Ricciardo. “We were allowed to give our thoughts and input.”
However, Ricciardo said, “not all drivers will be aligned” with the changes.
“One thing we can agree on,” he said in a media statement, “is we want to make Sundays, race day, better.”
The “widened and reprofiled” Turn 13 will allow for more overtaking opportunities, the AGP says. Turns 1, 3 and the current Turn 15 will also be widened, while Turn 1 and Turns 13 and 15 will have their cambers adjusted “to provide multiple driving lines”.
“Every street circuit is a challenge (for overtaking) but Albert Park … (is) somewhere that’s been pretty hard to overtake,” said Ricciardo.
“In these cars it’s even trickier to follow through the high-speed corner sequences,” said Ricciardo.
“By changing some of the (corners) and creating some more room, allowing more chance to make a diving overtake (under heavy braking leading into a corner), or even change your line to get out of the dirty air (turbulence created by the car ahead), I think it’ll really help.”
Six-times Bathurst winner and five-times V8 Supercar champion Mark Skaife helped design the circuit with specialist engineering firm IEDM.
Skaife said, of the F1 drivers, Ricciardo had the most input into the circuit changes, but others – such as seven-times Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton and F1 technical director Ross Brawn – also contributed to the proposals.
"The F1 drivers and the teams honestly went above and beyond working with us over the past two years to get this right," Skaife told CarAdvice.
In a media statement, Skaife said: “You’re going to see more mistakes, it’s going to be faster, it’s more challenging. The character of the track has stayed … we kept the hero corners at turns 11 and 12. (But) it will be better for racing and certainly encourage overtaking.”
“There’s extra room on the inside (of corners) to promote overtaking. There’s more areas where we think you will be able to be closer to the car in front. (And) some of the areas that we’ve widened will encourage the first lap activity that we love at car races, with cars diving up the inside,” he said.
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