After a short break of two weeks, the third Grand Prix of 2022 will take place next weekend. A lot of fans will be looking forward to the race weekend in Australia, on the one hand because of the exciting battle between Ferrari and Red Bull Racing, but also because of the renewed and accelerated track. What do you need to know before the long-awaited return of the race in Melbourne? Check it out in this preview of F1Maximum!
This week Formula 1 and its entourage travel to Melbourne, to the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit to be precise. In 2019, the last Formula 1 race took place in Australia, as the event was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the corona virus. The track, which is popularly named after the surrounding Albert Park, will look a lot different next race weekend than we are used to. After years of criticism, the organizers of the Grand Prix have done a lot of work on the track and that hopefully will make for more exciting races in Melbourne.
To get a good look at the changed track, we’ve zoomed in on all the changes to the track for you. A total of eight significant changes have been made to the track, which we will walk you through one by one. We will of course start at Turn 1, which has been widened on the inside to facilitate overtaking at that spot. By making multiple racing lines possible, the chance of a braking action here is increased, although the intervention also ensures that more speed is taken into the continuation of the first sector.
Wider turns, more ‘close racing’
Also at turns 4 and 6 we see wider turns, both of which aim to make the lap faster and smoother. This has been done with the great aim of allowing competing cars to follow each other better in the race. The purpose of the wider corners becomes even more apparent as we zoom in on the stretch between Turn 8 and 9. We can see here that the new layout completely skips the former chicane at that spot, creating a brand new straight between Turn 8 and 9. This new straight, in combination with the faster corners 1, 4 and 6, should make it easier to overtake at Turn 9, or later at Turn 11, as more speed is built up.
At Turn 11 we can clearly see that the corner of the corner has been sharpened, forcing the cars to brake harder to make it into the corner. This again opens up opportunities for overtaking, as the braking zone before the bend automatically lengthens and there are therefore opportunities to slow down the vehicle in front. A little further on at Turn 13, the corner has been widened again, so that the drivers can carry more speed on the start-finish straight, thus increasing the chance of an overtaking maneuver at Turn 1 again.
Also addressed DRS zones and pit stops
The attentive reader has noticed another important change: the circuit at Albert Park will have four DRS zones from next weekend. The addition of another DRS zone is in line with the changes in the corners and thus seems to serve again for more overtaking actions. All in all, the new track in Australia should therefore be more spectacular and faster, with more opportunities for overtaking and exciting fights. According to Mercedes calculations, the new track layout means that no less than 81 percent of the track will be full throttle for the drivers, a significant change from 70 percent in 2019.
For the last major change we dive into the pit lane, because another hiccup on the Australian street circuit used to be the pit lane. Due to the narrow strip of asphalt along the teams’ garages, there was a speed limit of 60 km/h in the pits. As a result, teams were often cautious about taking strategic tricks, because making a pit stop took a lot of time. A wider pit lane will ensure that the cars are allowed to drive ‘just’ 80 km/h in 2022, so that plenty of experiments can be done on a strategic level.
In a full overview of the new circuit, including the three different sectors, we can clearly see that the circuit is a lot smoother than its predecessor. However, one well-known aspect will remain the same, namely the popular chicane of turns 9 and 10. It is expected that drivers will just or barely get through this with the accelerator pedal down, at speeds above 230 km/h. At the same time, this means that this part of the track will be neck-heavy: about 5.2 g will be released as the drivers go through the chicane at full speed.
Titan battle between Ferrari and Red Bull continues
Where last season the fight took place between Red Bull Racing and Ferrari, the new fighting partner of Christian Horner and co. to be a Ferrari. In the past two races, the two teams were quite evenly matched, with both teams being able to win once. At Albert Park, the battle between the two teams has a third chapter, where there may be new frontrunners if Red Bull Racing manages to outclass its opponent.
As to which of the two teams will predominate in Melbourne, several theories can be unleashed. First of all, Red Bull has shown in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia that it has an excellent car on the straights. Besides the fact that the Honda engine makes enough horsepower, it seems that the RB18 doesn’t suffer much from drag, or air resistance. In Q3 in Jeddah and Bahrain we saw that Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen mainly won on the straights. This advantage also seemed to work even more well when the DRS valve of the car was open, which suits the team well, given no fewer than four DRS zones.
On the other hand, Ferrari seems to be the team that is currently superior in generating downforce. In almost all corners, the Ferrari car has been fastest in qualifying over the past two race weekends. Although Red Bull seemed to drive with less downforce on purpose, Ferrari’s form bodes well for Albert Park. Despite the added straight, downforce remains an essential component for a fast lap time, as there are still many technical sections in the track. All in all, Ferrari will try to outsmart Red Bull in the twisty first sector this weekend, with Red Bull trying to repair that damage in the fast second and third sectors.
Will porpoising remain a problem?
The fact that the circuit in Australia has been made faster is bad news for the teams that still struggle with the so-called porposing, with the cars bouncing on the straight on fast sections of the track. Not only did we see the drivers bouncing around the track on the straight, the phenomenon also occurred before or after fast chicanes. Mercedes in particular seemed to lose a lot of lap time in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in this area and that is one of the reasons that the race stable of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell is disappointing. If Mercedes again does not have an answer to porpoising this weekend, a duel between Red Bull and Mercedes already seems a certainty.
Watch Australian GP live?
The Australian Grand Prix is broadcast live by F1TV and Viaplay, among others. Register with the providers to see live images of the free training for yourself. If you want an overview of all TV providers for the entire season: View this page.
By: Maurits Kappetijn