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It will be a new look Albert Park Circuit when fans return in April

17/03/22

A brand-new look for the brand-new era.

Formula 1® makes its triumphant return to Albert Park this April for the 25th running of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, but it's a very different Albert Park to the one the teams and drivers last raced on in 2019, when Valtteri Bottas got his year off to the perfect start with victory for Mercedes.

We all know why F1® hasn't raced on these shores since then, but how F1® will race this year? Paradoxically, it's a step into the unknown, but one taken at a place that's largely familiar.

For its first 24 appearances on the world championship calendar, the circuit barely changed at all; now, Australia's Grand Prix venue has a brand-new look for the brand-new era of F1® machinery. It's a facelift for a circuit that needed to keep pace with the demands of modern-day F1®, and the result of an exhaustive process where more than 300 people spent more than 45,000 hours to make a track everyone loves visiting even better.

Why change the layout at all? As spectacular as the cars have looked on the circuit over the years, passing opportunities have been at a premium, and something had to give. For Australia's Daniel Ricciardo, being consulted on what needed to change made him secure in the knowledge that his home GP circuit would get the international thumbs-up of approval.

"The new design at Albert Park, it's really focused on improving the racing and the spectacle, to create more opportunities for overtaking," the McLaren driver explains.

"It's a beautiful circuit but it's always been quite tricky to overtake, so we've really tried to exploit some areas to allow more slipstreaming, more chance of overtaking under braking.

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"Back in 2019, they asked a few of our drivers' opinions and what we would want to change to make the racing a better spectacle. That's what I was really happy with."

So what has changed? For one, the circuit's length – previously 5.303km, now 5.279km. The number of corners, down from 16 to 14. Even the pit lane, which has been widened by two metres to 14 metres from the garage wall to the signalling wall.

Want to know more? Then buckle up – and join us for a lap.

Sector 1: Start/finish line to Turn 6

Albert Park's first corner has always been a better overtaking place in theory than reality, a bumpy surface, fast turn-in and narrow braking zone making it very tough for a trailing car to overcome a rival in front. This year, that bottleneck should be alleviated as the corner is 2.5 metres wider to the drivers' right, while there should be more passing at Turn 3 too, that corner four metres wider than previously on the inside after the track's first DRS zone.

The beginning of the biggest change to the track comes at Turn 6, after the cars dance through the shadows of the trees that separate the circuit proper from Albert Road. Turn 6 is now 7.5 metres wider to the inside, meaning cars are likely to be 70km/h faster through this corner than ever before. That in itself increases the likelihood of spectacular action – what comes after it, even more so …

Sector 2: Turn 6 to Turns 9-10

Coming out of the much slower Turn 6 in recent years would send cars to what was a chicane at Turns 9-10, which only served to concertina the pack before they vaulted off the exit towards Albert Park's signature section, the high-speed chicane at Turns 11-12. But what if you could have the best of both worlds, a retention of the fast chicane with an even faster approach speed?

It's what has been achieved by replacing the slow-speed chicane with a nearly flat-out blast from Turn 6 that scythes between the golf course on the left side of the track and the lake on the right, a DRS zone only heightening the speed as the cars hurtle into what is now Turns 9-10, the fast chicane that Mercedes' George Russell calls "one of the best corners in the world".

In 2022, that corner will be what Ricciardo calls "extreme and awesome", the drivers experiencing 5.4g as they flick the car left, then right, from an entry speed of around 330km/h.

Sector 3: Turn 11 to the finish line

After the signature chicane comes Turn 11 (formerly Turn 13), the sharp right-hander where passing opportunities in the past have been tried, but often unsuccessfully. The chances of overtaking at this corner should be higher with the turn reprofiled to be wider on the right-hand side and apex.

Further on in the lap comes the final big braking zone at what is now Turn 13, a slow-speed left-hander that is wider than before on the drivers' left, setting up the chance of a late dive down the inside on the brakes.

Ricciardo, who has kept abreast of the changes as he's criss-crossed the world since F1® last raced in his backyard, is excited at what's to come.

"Better Sundays is what we want, better races, more battles – I think the direction it's gone is going to push it towards this," he says.

"If 2022 promises everything it does with being able to follow and the racing to be enhanced, then coming to a circuit like Albert Park with these changes should make a pretty amazing spectacle."

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