Fastest Australian GP ever on the horizon as fourth DRS zone added

Toby Miles
Australian Grand Prix

Australian Grand Prix

Charles Leclerc’s lap record at Albert Park will fall this year, as the Australian GP gets a fourth DRS zone to set up its fastest edition.

Since the introduction of DRS in 2011, no circuit has allowed drivers to open their rear wing four times in one lap. That was set to change last season, until the FIA intervened.

F1 returned to Albert Park in 2022 after two consecutive editions were cancelled by Covid. Even though the track was updated during the hiatus, the FIA decided to remove the fourth zone after two practice sessions.

The new DRS section lies on the 1.3km stretch of Lakeside Drive after Turn 8, with the removal of a chicane along that part of the track allowing cars to reach top speed.

The 2023 Australian Grand Prix will see drivers exceed 330km/h (205mph).

“It will be the fastest race in Melbourne ever,” Australian Grand Prix organising chief Andrew Westacott told the city’s Herald Sun newspaper.

“You’ve got the evolution of the cars from last year, and they’ve obviously got better, and the fourth DRS zone means the cars will be quicker around the back of the circuit.

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“That will obviously increase speed and therefore reduce lap time and make it the quickest Grand Prix and the highest average speed ever in Melbourne.”

Leclerc’s pole lap of 1:17.868 – which set him up for victory in Sunday’s Grand Prix – will be the time to beat but after a hard winter of developing the 2023 machines, that would have fallen regardless.

After the fourth DRS zone failed to materialise for the Grand Prix last year, the organisers are confident of gaining approval for this year’s event, which will take place on April 2 as the third round of the 23-race Formula 1 season.

“I’ve had positive feedback from the FIA and Formula One that technically speaking a fourth DRS zone will be implemented,” Westacott added.

“That means the cars will be going faster coming into turn 11 and if they are going faster, that means faster through that whole area and faster lap times.”

Despite the increase in speed, Monza is still safe as F1’s fastest circuit. The Italian GP circuit has seen top speeds reach 362kph (225mph).  However, Valtteri Bottas holds the all-time speed record, clocking 372.5km/h (231.4mph) at the 2016 Mexican GP.

The Albert Park race will be the third of Melbourne native Oscar Piastri’s F1 career, setting up a high-speed homecoming. The 21-year-old grew up within walking distance of the circuit, and more speed will only ramp-up his anticipation.