The postponement of the Australian Grand Prix by eight months means a planned overhaul of the Albert Park F1 circuit can now take place in time for this year’s race.Speedcafe and Auto Action. While there is little scope to drastically alter the layout of the course due to its location, corners will be reprofiled, a new surface laid and changes made to the pit lane ahead of the race in November.
The goal is to aid overtaking at a track where passing is considered difficult. They also hope to encourage teams to experiment with a wider range of strategies.
How the track looks today
Formula 1 has raced at the Albert Park circuit since 1996. In that time there have been no significant changes to the track’s configuration and the surface has never been entirely relaid.
The first corner, which follows a DRS zone, is one of the better overtaking opportunities around the circuit. However it tends to be a scene of incidents on the first lap of races.
The promoters are looking at widening this corner which may further aid overtaking and give drivers more room to avoid collisions at the start.
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The section of track from turns six to 13 is a particular focus of attention. Changes are being considered to help drivers follow each other more closely here, improving the possibility of overtaking into the last of these corners.
The changes will begin at turn six which, like turn one, is to be widened. This should make it easier for drivers to vary their lines through the corner and therefore follow each other more closely.
Eliminating the right-left chicane where turn nine meets turn 10 is also under consideration. There is already a route which could be used to remove the braking zone.
Again, is intended to make it easier for cars to follow more closely through this section of track. It remains to be seen whether any similar changes might be made at the following fast chicane, turns 11 and 12, where F1 drivers also find it hard to stay close to other cars in the vast turbulence they generate.
Changes to the camber of turn 13 are being considered to help drivers overtake here. The outside edge of the corner has negative camber – around -2% – which could be changed to as much as +5%. This is far less steep than the dramatic banking added at the remodelled Zandvoort, but the hope is this and other incremental changes around the track will help tip the balance in favour of drivers trying to overtake.
This corner is also to be widened to create more space for drivers attempting to pass.
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Under Formula 1’s rules, different pit lane speed limits are used depending on how much room there is for teams to work. At Melbourne the lower, 60kph speed limit it used.
A lower speed limit means it takes more time to make a pit stop, which gives strategists an incentive to make as few pit stops as possible. In order to allow the higher 80kph speed limit to be used, the grass verge alongside the pit straight has been removed to widen the pit lane.
This, it is hoped, will encourage pit wall tacticians to deviate from the one-stop strategies which have become commonplace at Albert Park.
Finally, for the first time since it took over hosting the Australian Grand Prix in 1996, the Albert Park track is to be entirely resurfaced. Here too the promoters hope to encourage teams to consider more multi-stop pit strategies, by making the surface more demanding on the tyres.
However they can expect a sceptical reaction from drivers. At the 2019 race weekend several of them spoke out against plans to lay a new surface, including Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, who warned that removing the track’s bumps would rob it of its character.
Will Albert Park’s overhaul work as intended? Originally we would have had to wait until next year to find out. But the disruption to the 2021 F1 calendar, and the postponement of what would have been the first race of the season, means we should discover what effect these changes have had, if any, in November.
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45 comments on “Track changes planned to improve racing in November’s Australian GP”
Aussie Rod (@aussierod)
1st February 2021, 8:35
Widening corners to ‘encourage overtaking’ often has the knock-on effect of reducing the sheer driving challenge (insert Yas Marina pic here).
Turn 1/2 is a great spectacle for F1 cars. It’s narrow and fast and challenges the drivers to dance with the grass on the exit of 1 and the wall on the exit of 2. It is especially enjoyable live at the circuit and one of my favourite viewing spots. I hope it isn’t ruined with these changes.
The 9/10 chicane has always been awkward and the idea of allowing drivers to go flat out through here would be spectacular and see them approach the 11/12 chicane at even higher speeds.
Some changes are needed but here’s hoping they are done well.
1st February 2021, 9:10
@aussierod Tend to agree with that, though Albert Park seems to have walls much closer to the track than Yas Marina does. It might mean the driving challenge is reduced, but it should also mean some more bravery is needed at certain places to get the best laptime.. provided they get it right.
Duncan Idaho (@didaho)
1st February 2021, 11:43
Spot on. Anecdotally – other than the start – overtakes are mostly at T13, T1 and T3. So hopefully they don’t ruin those (or the setups to them) but a little work wouldn’t go astray. I find the transit T8-T11 as the most boring part of the track – a faster T9 would at least reduce the time it takes. It been a while since T11/T12 was a real challenge to the cars but it was spectacular a few years ago…
Pitlane verge removal will finally keep the kids off the lawn (DR).
1st February 2021, 22:59
Yes, the proposed ideas are terrible, but they never listen to veteran fans who, IMO, have a lot more common sense and probably watch a lot more F1 than the people in charge of the GP. Also, billiard smooth surfaces are largely responsible for making F1 look so slow on TV.
2nd February 2021, 15:26
Insert any Tilkedrom here. Sochi second section is full of 90 deg corners, but none of them are overtakeable, as apex speed is 190 to 240 km/h.
1st February 2021, 8:38
I don’t think it will have the desired effect. The track will still not encourage much overtaking, as there are really only a couple of decent opportunities with such aero-dependent cars.
Instead of turning right at the current turn 13 (‘Ascari’ – off Lakeside Dr onto Ross Gregory Dr) I reckon they should continue on Lakeside Dr all the way down to a hairpin, turning onto Village Green Dr, then back up through a slight right kink where turn 14 (Stewart) is, and all the way into another hard braking zone at the current turn 15 (Senna).
Two extra legitimate overtaking opportunities…
1st February 2021, 18:13
S, your proposal would remove a major access route for the public, as well as for circuit staff and team personnel, and would also take away space where facilities for the race event are currently located.
Additionally, the lower part of Lakeside Drive currently had quite a lot of everyday equipment permanently installed around it – you have permanent traffic barriers which would have to be replaced with new structures that can then be removed and reinstalled, there are lighting columns which would have to be relocated because they are too close to the side of the road to fit crash barriers and so forth. That is going to push up the cost of your proposal quite a bit compared to the current proposal, which has been chosen because the amount of work required is lower cost and would present fewer problems for the wider public.
I would also question whether the section of Hockey Drive that you would need to use in order for cars to return onto the circuit from Village Green Drive is usable. That section of road is a single lane track that is less than 6m wide – now, considering that Baku faced questions when one section of the circuit, after installing the barriers, was 7.6m wide, you’re proposing to use a section of road which is already 25% narrower than that before you account for any potential loss of width due to the barriers.
Thirdly, what consideration have you given to how marshals and medical staff could access the track (e.g. if there was an accident, a broken down car or so forth)? How would medical vehicles access that part of the track if needed? Where would the marshals posts go, and how would they then gain access to the track?
2nd February 2021, 5:44
Ah yes. Thank you for pointing out all these minor secondary factors.
I have come to the conclusion that they can all be dealt with effectively. No problem.
A little money spent is an investment in both the event and in Victoria’s economy. Positives all round.
No point skimping out and half-baking the one opportunity they have to make meaningful improvements.
2nd February 2021, 8:23
S, so, if you think that “they can all be dealt with effectively” – what is your solution to those issues then? Issues such as whether medical staff could obtain easy access to a crashed car are not “minor secondary factors”.
2nd February 2021, 9:22
If I tell you, will you build the track extension yourself?
They aren’t going to use any part of my preference, so I honestly can’t see the point of going through all the hypothetical details.
They are going to slightly change a few existing bits – and afterwards the racing will be no better, because the circuit will be no better and the cars will be no better.
2nd February 2021, 19:02
S, if it is that insignificant then, why are you acting in such a stroppy way and trying to bite my head off for asking the same sort of practical questions that are going to face the people who are having to look at analysing the track for real?
3rd February 2021, 1:56
Well, you are certainly approaching this in an exceedingly practical manner.
It’s like we’ve gone from initial basic idea proposal to detailed analysis in one step.
Do you work for a government department, by any chance?
I hope it’s the Victorian Government and you have an official role within the Albert Park circuit upgrades project, or this conversation is completely worthless.
4th February 2021, 8:00
S, no, I do not – now, could you please stop harassing me?
1st February 2021, 23:07
I went back and looked at the comments on RF the last time (2018) potential changes were discussed and what I thought was an insightful comment and agreed with from experience is that all the exciting tracks to drive on in sim are the non-Tilkedrome tracks. It seems like every time a track is modernized or adjusted by F1, it simply makes it worse. The true problem is/will always be the huge aero of these cars and their enormous length and width.
8th February 2021, 2:25
I has the very same thought. However I would look at extending Village Green Drive to directly connect to the Aughtie Dr at the current turn 14 removing both turns 13 and 14 this opens a new passing opp at the current turn 15.
1st February 2021, 8:46
Either this article has an incorrect subheading or the Red Bull Ring has changed quite a lot since the last Grand Prix :)
1st February 2021, 9:12
@hadws Maybe a rebrand is needed for this GP? It should be called the “Made Down Under & ‘Stralian Grand Prix”.
1st February 2021, 13:52
@tomcat173 It has to be RooPrix :)
3rd February 2021, 13:28
@keithcollantine You’re not the first to confuse the two countries ;)
3rd February 2021, 21:43
I’ll do the job then!
1st February 2021, 8:49
The regular traffic road portion in the T9 image is the easy choice to skip the T9-T10 chicane. T11-T12 chicane can merely use the lower-turning angle alternative for T12.
1st February 2021, 8:52
There are some sensible suggestions here, especially changing the camber at Turn 13. I’m sure they can implement it whilst retaining the character of the track.
1st February 2021, 19:35
Yeah, if I understand correctly, this will drop of outer edge away, slowing down the normal wide racing line without impacting the inner line. Basically making the inner line more viable.
Seems like a good idea. But I wonder, what does -5% drop do to a car (or bike) with less downforce than an F1 car?
1st February 2021, 21:20
@slotopen I think it’s the opposite – it raises the outer edge, which means the amount of speed you can carry around the outside increases which makes overtakes more viable
Fer no.65 (@fer-no65)
1st February 2021, 9:45
Making the track wider won’t improve racing, specially in corners so short. I think there are a loooot of examples out there which show that.
That’s just going to backfire.
MEGATRON M12 (@megatron)
1st February 2021, 12:47
Agreed, the corners need to be tighter, not wider, they need to induce more braking, not less.
Tony Mansell (@tonymansell)
1st February 2021, 10:02
Positive camber will help for sure but re- laying tracks seems to be an obsession, ever smoother and ever duller. Whens the penny going to drop? Part of the reason the cars used to be a handul is they were bucking and bouncing over the track surface. If a driver with no power steering, a gear stick and a car weighing 500kg can do it then these boys can.
1st February 2021, 10:05
can anyone explain what “wider turn 1” means? i don’t see how that point can be made wider, unless you change the curve and make it faster?
1st February 2021, 11:46
As a big fan of this circuit, the suggested changes are somewhat worrying. I have always seen it as Montreal’s weird sibling – the chicanes which aren’t chicanes, I love how T1, T6 ad T9 all look very similar yet somehow all present a slightly different technical challenge.
Overtaking was never difficult in the earlier races, with fast sweepers leading to hard braking zones. The problem is the cars, not the circuit. We should wait to see what effects the 2022 rules have before hacking up tracks.
Just my 2p. I love this circuit and I’d hate to see it neutered.
1st February 2021, 13:20
They should wait & see what effect the 2022 rule changes have before potentially ruining more circuits.
Not especially fond of widening some of the corners as is been suggested as that just takes away a lot of the challenge in those corners. T1/2 for instance often see’s a lot of drivers make mistakes & some run a bit wide over the weekend because the bumpy braking zone as well as the track narrowing as it does is the biggest challenge at that part of track. If you make it wider your just removing a lot of the challenge that makes that section of track interesting.
It’s the same mistake they have made elsewhere over the years with circuit changes aimed at ‘improving the show’, They often take interesting, tricky little challenging parts of the track that in some cases offer a unique challenge & turn them into far less interesting somewhat dull corners that offer far less of a challenge which IMO takes away from the overall spectacle of watching the drivers drive the cars around some of these circuits.
Roger Ayles (@roger-ayles)
1st February 2021, 19:45
@stefmeister 100% agree here, Especially the last paragraph.
I don’t think there has been a single alteration to a circuit that has been done in the name of improving the show that has actually made the circuit better, They have all ruined once great corners.
Bus stop at Spa, Turn 10 at Catalunya, Variante Alta at Imola, The new loop at Silverstone, The 1st 2 chicanes at Monza, T1 at Nurburgring & so on.. All corners or sections of track that used to be so, so much better than what they became ‘in the name of overtaking’ for the low attention span modern fans.
It is such a shame that we are losing so many wonderful corners & replacing them with dull, samey uninteresting, less challenging nothing turns :(
2nd February 2021, 19:41
@roger-ayles I’m not so sure that all of those changes were necessarily made “in the name of overtaking”.
In the case of Monza, the changes to the first two chicanes do not appear to have been done “in the name of overtaking”. The modifications of both chicanes was largely intended to address safety issues, due to concerns about the size of the run off areas – tightening the first chicane was intended to slow the cars down to a lower apex speed, which reduced the problems with the limited run off area in that corner and also meant the cars were arriving at the second chicane at a lower speed.
The idea was that, by slightly reducing the approach speed and then slightly opening the second chicane up, it would reduce the risk of cars colliding as they went through that corner. If anything, the changes at the second chicane went ahead despite complaints that it would make overtaking harder, not easier, into that corner so, if anything, it was the polar opposite of your complaint.
In the case of the Bus Stop chicane at Spa, moving the chicane closer to Blanchimont was in part about increasing the amount of run off and in part to address concerns about the risk of collisions occurring when drivers were trying to enter the pits with the old layout (particularly for sportscar events, such as the 24 Hours of Spa GT race) by making it so the drivers would be slowed down more before reaching the pit lane (thus reducing the difference in closing speed between a driver continuing round the track and one who was trying to enter the pits).
As for the Variante Alta at Imola, a motivating factor there were issues with the amount of run off on the exit of that corner and accidents from cars being launched into the air by the kerbs on the exit (e.g. Alonso’s crash there in 2001); making the corners tighter and slower was intended to help with that issue, along with the modification of the kerbs themselves.
1st February 2021, 14:54
NO NO NO. Widening tracks always robs them of character and challenge. Combined with DRS and you have bland, low reward overtaking. And in the end, there is ALWAYS only ONE fastest line around a circuit no matter what.
1st February 2021, 15:33
Change the cars not the track. Albert Park is great. T1 is one the hardest corners of the whole calendar. Nine flat amounts to nothing no gains. Problem is that you can’t scale the track up you can only scale the cars down, and f1 teams do not want that.
1st February 2021, 15:43
Look an effort is being made to keep the viability of this track for the future if it’s existence. Either it’ll be rcvd as good or it might be goodbye mate. I too am worried about how these big old gigantic massively powered racing cars will fare on a track that in essence is a one time roll of the dice these monsters but just a single time more. Win and you stick around. Build a cat litter box instead and the stink will be known worldwide. I refer to the post Senna movement across the world where many long term racing facilities were suddenly altered into race tracks that lost much of the good stuff it once offered for fear of another Sennatising of another great corner or another great braking location.
We know why but some of these changes were so errantly rushed into existence that the way was lost in trying to keep the sport safe. Well it’s car racing and a certain amount of danger is why it is so popular. Nothing will bring Senna back those tracks that jumped off the edge with these kinds of drastic change are forever diminished in my opinion. Hoping the foresight of this Australian event are seeing past this event and for AUS to remain a great season opener
1st February 2021, 17:30
Just like Monte-Carlo, Albert Park has the perfect flow but lacks a proper straight. Apart from turn 9 change, which would be superb, the rest is utter rubbish.
Back with Brabham Straight or nothing!
John Beak (@johnbeak)
1st February 2021, 18:23
Please use videogames first to test which layouts actually work before building the actual track.
Roger Ayles (@roger-ayles)
1st February 2021, 19:41
@johnbeak They have been using simulators & getting teams/drivers to test circuit designs in simulators for the past decade or so. That is why virtually all modern circuits have identical design characteristics & why everything feels very samey now.
They need to go back to designing circuits that follow the natural terrain & offer a challenge for both car & driver, That is why so many of the classic tracks are actually liked by drivers & fans. They are interesting & challenging which is what provides the spectacle and what the sport was built on for decades.
It’s the designed for overtaking philosophy of circuit design the last 15-20 years that has resulted in cookie cutter circuits that all look & feel very samey, have the same characteristics, Don’t offer any real interesting challenge & are dull to watch cars lapping.
I’d much rather watch a race with less overtaking on a circuit that’s actually fun to watch cars drive around & offers a real challenge for car & driver over a circuit that features tons of passing but is otherwise utterly dull to watch cars lapping & which offers very little challenge. But the modern low attention span fans & the lack of unerstanding from F1 heads on what actually makes a good race will ensure we have more boring modern circuits & less actually good ones.
Such a shame what F1 has turned into the past 10-20 years with these awful new circuits & equally awful changes to classic venues. And they actually want to expand the season to 25 races and just hope fans don’t notice that it’s all quantity over quality. I just hope the larger fanbase wakes up to this eventually so that we can get actual F1 back rather than the Indycar+ it’s heading towards!
2nd February 2021, 1:07
Lamenting the changes to circuits is one thing, but you’ve completely failed to recognise why they have been changed.
The cars outgrew all those circuits and circuit features due to an over-reliance on aero performance and a dangerous fascination with lowering lap-times.
Reduce car performance and they can run anywhere. Imagine how many great races F1 could have if they could use Grade 2 circuits instead.
John H (@john-h)
1st February 2021, 21:04
Leave it alone. Wait to see what the 2022 cars bring, anyway there is no problem anyway. Overtakes Smovertakes.
1st February 2021, 21:43
While 2022 cars may improve racing I never liked turn 9 is its current form.
So I support to either get rid of T9 or make T6 a quick kink into T8 so make T9 a real overtaking spot.
2nd February 2021, 5:47
Widening the track in turns just means cars can take more speed through them, lessening the braking zone, making it harder to pass.
Turn one they should probably do something similar to Bahrain turn one. Wouldn’t be too hard.
2nd February 2021, 11:59
Positive effort. At least they are doing something.
2nd February 2021, 12:00
(as the track sucked)
2nd February 2021, 19:01
BTW does anyone have information about the changes planned for Paul Ricard?
Comments are closed.