2017 Australian Grand Prix track preview

2017 Australian Grand Prix

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Melbourne’s parkland circuit has been the starting point for the world championship since 1996 on all but two exceptions.

Though not the most challenging of layouts it can be unforgiving of mistakes. The quirks of its layout means it also tends to give at best a mixed impression of the true competitive order of the teams as the new season begins.

This will be the first test of Formula One’s new regulations designed to make the cars quicker. Last year they got within three tenths of the best time ever seen around Albert Park so the 2017 machines should smash the course record this weekend. Particularly as Pirelli has brought its most aggressive, ultra-soft compound for qualifying.

For 2017 the track’s safety features have been upgraded in places due to the increased speed of the cars. Larger tyre walls and more TecPro barriers have been added at several points around the circuit.

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A lap of Albert Park

The drivers reach top speed approaching turn one on a flying lap. Last year Daniel Ricciardo hit 330.3kph before getting on the brakes but Mercedes estimate that the extra drag from this year’s cars will knock 30kph off the top speed on this track.

Turn one trouble for Ralf Schumacher in 2002
Turn one can be a major pinch point on the first lap of the race as the field funnels into a tight corner from the wide straight. The braking zone is bumpy as well, and it’s easy for drivers to run out of room at the exit.

The first DRS zone leads to turn one and is followed immediately by the second at the exit of turn two. This brings drivers to the hardest braking point of the lap at the sharp turn three, which serves as one of the better overtaking opportunities.

Fernando Alonso and Esteban Gutierrez’s crash at this point on the circuit last year was only the most recent example of drivers hitting trouble after misjudging their proximity to each other on this narrow strip of road. A similar collision between Jacques Villeneuve and Ralf Schumacher claimed the life of marshal Graham Beveridge, and Melbourne’s first world championship race was red-flagged after Martin Brundle had a major crash at turn three.

This right-hander is “a bit of a tricky corner” says Romain Grosjean. “You have to be careful on exit and well placed for the next left, which is turn four. Turn five, if you’ve got a good car, is flat out.”

Lewis Hamilton lifted the throttle briefly here during his pole position lap 12 months ago. But expect most cars to be able to take this flat-out now.

The next two braking points, turns six and nine, have much in common with the first corner. Turn six has a tricky, curved and tree-lined approach. But from turn ten the cars build up speed towards one of the fastest points on the track.

More of the track should be flat-out this year
Turns 11 and 12 should be absolutely spectacular with the new generation of machines. The second part will probably be tackled flat-out – Hamilton needed only the slightest of lifts here last year.

From there the cars sprint towards the final quartet of corners, beginning with a heavy braking zone for turn 13. The next corner was previously taken with a slight lift and will therefore be another fascinating spot to observe the new cars.

The final pair of corners can make or break a flying lap. “You then need to be well positioned for the last braking point into the left-hand side, where it’s quite tight,” says Grosjean. “The last corner you want to stay flat out, but it’s a bit of a tricky one with a bump in the middle.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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21 comments on “2017 Australian Grand Prix track preview”

  1. Andre Furtado
    22nd March 2017, 11:57

    Vettel 1st
    Hamilton 2nd
    Bottas 3rd

  2. I’m so excited, I love you Albert Park! Beautiful setting for the opening race, brings a smile to my face thinking about it. Game on.

  3. Every time I see that Ralf Schumacher shot, a certain R. Kelly song always pops into my head.

    1. I believe I can fly? If I could turn back the hands of time? Clipped Wings?

  4. How about a competition? Guess the pole position lap time!

    I’ll go for 1m 19.500

    1. We’ve already got one of those – there’s prizes and everything :-)

      Win one of ten boxed, deluxe editions of Motorsport Manager

      1. Awesome prizes! Just submitted my entry :-)

  5. Even with increased downforce I imagine the new regulations are going to lure drivers into a false sense of security with regards to how they approach flat-out/near flat out corners, could see multiple drivers binning it out of turns 5 and 12 with heavy fuel loads.

  6. Merc have had their biggest lap time advantage over the field in quali at this track since 2014 (Spain and Hungary as well) If someone else gets pole here or very close to Merc in quali it will be a good sign.

  7. I’d rather have ‘slight lift’ corners than flat outs. The elephant in the room has been that since the early 2000s classic corners like Eau Rouge are ‘easy flat’ in an f1 car. Of course if there was a tree on the exit it may liven it up but be a bit of a harsh one. The notorious Masta kink was flat out but terrified the drivers of the day. So make em scary or make em lift

  8. At last. And I’m going to miss it as I’m traveling with my brother. I’ll see a re run on Sky.

  9. Mercedes estimate that the extra drag from this year’s cars will knock 30kph

    Is that a current estimate? Based on the data from the winter tests, I would’ve guessed that the top speeds are only going to drop by 10-15 kph at most.

    1. Or not at all. Compared to last years test top speeds were slightly faster. Fastest in 2016 was Sauber but was well ahead of everyone. In 2017 all the cars but Sauber went faster than 2016 tests.

      1. That’d be nice, but my gut feeling tells me to expect a smalli(ish) drop in top speed. But definitely not 30 kph. I hope.

        1. The best top speed today was 321 kph by Vettel, the slowest competitor being Vandoorne at 312 kph.
          I did the research, last year’s top speed was set in qualifying (by Hülkenberg, not Ricciardo, btw.), so we can’t blame DRS for distorting the comparison.
          So the best top speed has only gone down by less than 10 kph, and that holds true for pretty much the entire grid, with every car setting a top speed that is less than 10 kph slower than last year’s. And we haven’t seen the cars in qualifying yet …
          Myth: debunked?

  10. flabbio brioche
    22nd March 2017, 16:01

    i think
    1) Ukyo Katayama
    2) Ralph Firman
    3) Tarso Marques

    1. Heh, I think it was Tiago Montiero driving the two seater minardi in the Ultimate speed comparison today, so… well… anything can happen!

      1. Correction, it was Zsolt Baumgartner!

  11. I’m in the very fortunate position of being a guest of the Volkswagen Group tomorrow. I’ll be traipsing around the Paddock Club with an inflated sense of self-importance.

  12. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
    23rd March 2017, 11:55

    Keen to see F1 in 4K this weekend! Although I have a big one planned for Saturday night so my blurred vision may cancel out the extra detail…

  13. By the way, turn 6 in Albert Park is one of my favourite corners in F1. Not really that spectacular from the outside, but one of the few corners that are tricky enough to make even world champions look like rookies (Räikkönen went off in that corner twice in 2008). So difficult to get right even in racing games, and so satisfying when you do get it right, hugging the apex tightly, getting back on the throttle before you can see the exit, launching your car into the following left-hander just millimeters away from the grass …
    I vividly remember standing up in the middle of the night to watch the Friday practice in 2004, and turn 6 was one of the places where it became obvious how much faster the cars had become over the winter.

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