Australian GP CEO updates on Albert Park overhaul

Date published: October 20 2021 - Jamie Woodhouse

A view down the main straight at Albert Park. Australia, March 2020.

Australian Grand Prix CEO Andrew Westacott says the laying of new asphalt at Albert Park will follow major changes to the track.

Formula 1 has not visited the Albert Park circuit since the disastrous 2020 Australian Grand Prix, where very early in the global pandemic the event was cancelled shortly before the race weekend began.

There will also be no Australian GP again in 2021 after a further cancellation, but what that has done is allowed for extra time to reprofile the venue.

Albert Park has remained relatively unchanged since Formula 1 first arrived in 1996, so the circuit is being redesigned to suit the modern Formula 1 challengers.

The pit lane was widened and the Turn 9/10 chicane removed as part of the changes, along with many other major alterations.

On top of those a new, more abrasive asphalt will be laid.

Melbourne Australian GP Albert Park

“There were three phases. Phase one was the widening of the pit lane by two metres because the cars are bigger and they’ve got wider turning circles than they did back in 1996, so the pit lane was widened,” said Westacott in an interview with DRIVE.

“The second was the geometric changes where we widened the corners at Turn One, Turn Three, Turn Six, we removed Turn Nine and 10 around Lakeside. We changed significantly the old Turn 13, which is now Turn 11. We widened the old Turn 15, which is now Turn 13.

“All the geometric changes have been done and we will now, over Christmas, New Year, be putting down a new asphalt mix over the entire circuit which will be ready for the 10th of April 2022.

“We’ll have geometric changes designed to better suit the new aerodynamics of the cars, promote overtaking, higher-speed opportunities and we’ll have a pit lane which we hope will increase the speed limit in the pit lane from 60 to 80 kilometres an hour.

“Therefore introducing a strategic aspect for teams, and an asphalt mix, which will have a higher level of tyre degradation and wear because it will be slightly more abrasive. Again, the combination of many of these changes will make for more exciting racing.”

 

The Australian Grand Prix will feature as Round 3 on the record 23-race 2022 calendar rather than the season-opener, but Westacott is actually excited about that prospect.

“It will give us more time to prepare. It’s interesting that this isn’t a change that’s permanent but…it’s a record number of races in 2022, it will be 23 races,” he said.

“The season, because of the late finish this year in Abu Dhabi on December 12, and the regulations between a set amount of time between the end of the last season and the start of the next season, means Bahrain and Saudi Arabia need to be scheduled before the commencement of Ramadan.

“Therefore, the season will actually have testing in Bahrain, first race in Bahrain, second race in Saudi Arabia and then they will come down here. So it will give us a lead-in as well from a PR point of view because we won’t be just generating all the hype.

“There will be the hype coming out of the first two races and we are very, very excited to have race three, 10th of April 2022 just before Easter.

“[Fans] get to see [Daniel] Ricciardo, they get to see the new-spec cars, they get to see the new layout, new facilities. We expect it to be a cracker.”