Turn three, Albert Park, Melbourne, 2022

Will Albert Park’s revamp improve the racing? Five Australian Grand Prix talking points

2022 Australian Grand Prix

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The third round of the 2022 season sees Formula 1 return to Melbourne’s Albert Park for the Australian Grand Prix.

But the circuit has been reconfigured since F1’s last race in 20190 How much of an impact will the changes make to the racing we will see on Sunday?

Albert Park’s new look

The 25th grand prix to be held at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne will be the first around its dramatically revised new layout. Almost every corner of the 5.27-kilometre course has been widened, re-profiled or simply removed in a bid to improve racing and create more natural overtaking opportunities.

Turns one and three have been widened significantly, turn six is far shallower and turns nine and ten by the lake in sector two have been entirely removed to make the approach to the fast chicane much quicker than ever before. Lap times are expected to fall by around five seconds, but the race distance will remain 58 laps, as before.

Coupled with the new regulations for 2022’s cars intended to allow cars to run closer than ever before, this Australian Grand Prix may be an entirely different kind of challenge for drivers and teams, who are now encouraged to run lower downforce levels than they traditionally would do to make the most of the higher speeds. It could be quite a different spectacle in Melbourne this time around.

Updates pending

After two back-to-back races to start the Formula 1 season, the Australian Grand Prix is the teams’ first opportunity to bring significant upgrades to their cars after the campaign has officially begun.

Will teams bring upgrades to their new cars?
Following the revolutionary rules changes introduced into the sport for 2022, in-season development is going to be crucial to deciding the final places in both of this season’s championships. With such a high rate of development as teams learn more about these ground-effect cars, it’s more vital than ever for them to take every opportunity to introduce potential upgrades to the car.

Thanks to F1’s new ‘show and tell’ automobile displays, it will be clearer than ever which teams have brought revised elements to their cars this weekend. What difference that may make on the track – and in who takes home the points – remains to be seen.

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Vettel belated starts his season

Melbourne has hosted the Formula 1 season opener more times than any other circuit. This weekend, it will act as the first race of the year for Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel, after he missed the first two rounds of the season due to testing positive for Covid.

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, Bahrain International Circuit, 2022
Vettel returns after being sidelined by Covid
Thankfully for Vettel, he was able to complete a full testing programme before the first race of the year in Bahrain, so he has plenty of laps behind the wheel of the AMR22 to draw from as he prepares to take to the grid for the first time this weekend.

After Nico Hulkenberg stepped into his seat in both the Bahrain and Saudi Arabian grands prix, will Vettel be immediately on the pace of team mate Lance Stroll – and deliver the team’s first points of the year?

Quadruple DRS

Back in 2011, Albert Park was the very first Formula 1 venue where the controversial Drag Reduction System was deployed in a race. Seven years later, it became the first circuit to feature three separate DRS activation zones.

Albert Park, Melbourne Formula 1 track map
Track data: Albert Park, Melbourne
This year, the Melbourne circuit is once again taking DRS to unseen heights by introducing a fourth activation zone, the first of its kind in Formula 1. Placed along the newly-formed straight in sector two between turn eight and the fast chicane of turns nine and ten, there will be more opportunities to slingshot past a rival with DRS than ever before.

But with the new ground effect cars appearing to have allowed drivers to run closer together as hoped, will four DRS zones prove to be overkill and make overtaking too trivial around a circuit that has already been heavily renovated to provide more natural passing spots? If so we may see more of the DRS “cat-and-mouse games” which some criticised after the last race in Jeddah.

Soft compound skips a step

This weekend’s race will see Pirelli’s softest compound – the C5 tyre – make its first appearance at a grand prix since the new 18-inch wheels were introduced for 2022.

Pirelli tyres, Bahrain International Circuit, 2022
The soft compound will be two steps below the medium
While the use of the softest tyre at Albert Park is hardly out of the ordinary, what is unusual is that the medium tyre will be the C3, not the C4, while the hard tyre for this weekend will be the C2. This marks the first race for many years where the three nominated tyres will not be consecutive compounds, but will feature a step ‘from’ medium to soft.

This seemingly minor detail could end up having a major impact on the strategies teams employ on Sunday, particularly as the abolition of the ‘Q3 tyre rule’ means the top 10 starters are no longer locked into starting on whichever tyre they qualified on. We could also see significant differences in performance between teams across the more widely spaced compounds.

That promises to add another element of intrigue to what is already shaping up to be a fascinating return to Australia for Formula 1.

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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12 comments on “Will Albert Park’s revamp improve the racing? Five Australian Grand Prix talking points”

  1. We’ll see if this comment will end up being relevant to Albert Park, but as a general rule, not sure I am such a fan of tracks cutting out or easing corners (even 90 degree ones) to make overtaking easier. At this point we’ve got DRS, a new formula adopted specifically for overtaking and also a bunch of tracks trying to become essentially one long straight. It risks becoming very homogenous, all in the name of “easier overtaking”. I don’t watch F1 to see Indy 500 style drafting contests. Can we get back to circuits with corners?

  2. Hi @keithcollantine
    It would be helpful if you can add an image of the track layout with the changes made/proposed so that’s it’s easier for us to understand them better.


  3. Only interestering thing is the soft step of 2 C5 instead of C4 while medium is C3 and hard C2. Teams could try to race on the C5 if they are realy fast.

  4. Vettel belated starts his season

    Belatedly, certainly.

  5. So basically it’ll be a one-stop race with people going from C3 mediums to C2 hards, or vice versa. Not sure why they brought the C5, that’s a throwaway tyre people will just use in quali. Bad call I say.

    1. @wsrgo We don’t know for sure yet.

    2. @wsrgo I don’t think I’d hate the return of the qualifying tyre…

  6. I’m hopeful the track changes combined with new aero rules will improve racing quality from before. T1 & 3 don’t look ‘significantly’ wider than before.
    The only difference I notice is a more round apex curb, but overtaking into these corners should nevertheless be easier.

    I reckon Imola, as the earliest European venue, is the more likely location for the first considerable upgrades.
    Melbourne is also possible, given last weekend was a non-race one. We’ll see.

    How quickly Seb gets up to speed is interesting, but I doubt AM could score points on pure pace any more than thus far.

    In hindsight, Bahrain would’ve been a better choice for a 4th activation zone or waiting until Montreal, but oh well, I’m still skeptical safety-wise.
    Nothing to worry about cat-&-mouse games, as this circuit’s detection point locations don’t give scope for such tactics.

    Skipping a compound for the first time in four seasons is good for a change & could indeed make strategic options interesting or even slightly difficult.

    Lastly, either RBR or Ferrari will likely again be the team to beat.

  7. RandomMallard
    6th April 2022, 16:19

    Are we racing an hour later than usual? 6am UK time seems quite late (I can definitely remember it starting at 5am before) so I’m just wondering if the race in general is an hour later? Or is it because of daylight saving time and when that starts in Britain/ends in Victoria? If anyone knows/could work it out it would be much appreciated!

    1. I don’t recall what the start time used to be, but daylight saving did end in Melbourne on the first weekend in April, when the race is normally held in March, so hence the UK will notice the time difference

      Given the start time is 3pm local and sunset will be around 6pm, here’s hoping there aren’t any red flag periods.

  8. who knows? But the track and location are better than Bahrain, Saudi, Qatar or UAE, so i am not complaining.

  9. The first day race since Interlagos last year. We’ve had five consecutive night/twilight races. Crazy.

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