Lap times at the Australian Grand Prix are expected to be around five seconds quicker this year, as a result of ongoing track modifications to the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne.
This year’s race was postponed from its usual season-opening slot in March to the third-last round in November, and organizers of the race in Albert Park are using the opportunity to carry out changes to the layout. Track widening is taking place in a number of corners — including Turn 1, Turn 3, Turn 6 and Turn 15 — while the most radical change sees the chicane at Turn 9 and Turn 10 removed, creating a fast sweeping run to Turn 11.
Turn 13 is also being reprofiled to try and create a better overtaking opportunity, all adding up to quicker lap times.
“These circuit modifications mean faster racing, with plenty of new opportunities for drivers to battle it out — come November, the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix will be back and better than ever,” Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO Andrew Westacott said.
“Since the 1950s Albert Park has been synonymous with grand prix racing with these upgrades aligning perfectly with the changes in specifications of the Formula 1 cars in 2022. While the project will make for more exciting racing, it also enhances the roads and surrounding facilities for community use beyond the event for years to come.”
Turn 6 is expected to be up to 70km/h (44mph) quicker as a result of the changes, and Daniel Ricciardo — who has been keeping a close eye on the work that is being done for his home race — explains how each modification should help from a racing point of view.
“Turn 1, the way it has been, it’s such a fast corner and you brake so late there that your apex width is very small,” Ricciardo said. “Turn 3 is similar in that the straight kind of turns and you’re braking into the corner, so there’s not much room to pass by the point that you’re at the apex, it’s a very narrow angle. Widening those corners allows for a later apex and potentially leaves the door open a little longer to allow the opportunity to overtake.
“Removing Turns 9 and 10 is a compromise — Turn 10 was always pretty challenging because you’d be exiting close to the wall, but the last couple of years, the cars are so good now that the traction out of 10 is pretty easy and the wall wasn’t really a threat anymore. The car didn’t run out there as aggressively as it used to. So removing that chicane, you’re now going to have a massive tow out of Turn 6, which is going to be good with the additional DRS zone. Widening the apex at Turn 13 … I see all of these changes as beneficial for Sunday and we can have some fun on the brakes. It’ll make the racing closer, I’m pretty confident of that.
“With these (2021) cars the changes should help a lot, but from 2022, if next year promises everything it does with being able to follow the car in front and the racing to be enhanced, then coming to a circuit like Albert Park with these changes should make a pretty amazing spectacle. On paper, I think there’s promise of that.”