After two years away due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, Formula 1 finally returns to the Albert Park Circuit this weekend for the first Australian Grand Prix since 2019, where drivers will be met by a new track layout and surface!
It looks set to be an incredible weekend Down Under, with a brand-new track layout hopefully giving drivers more opportunities to overtake, something which the Australian Grand Prix has lacked in the past. As well as a new layout and surface, the circuit will feature a mind-boggling four DRS zones to further increase the chance of more overtaking during the race.
The new layout, as well as the circuit not being used by Formula 1 for two years presents Pirelli with some interesting challenges. The tyre manufacturer have taken an unusual step this weekend by bringing tyres with a bigger gap than normal between the medium and softest compounds. The second hardest compound the C2 will be in use as well as the C3, however instead of the traditional C4 tyre being used, Pirelli have opted for the C5 to also be included in this weekend’s allocation.
It will be the first-time the C5, Pirelli’s softest compound, will be used this season, meaning that teams will have to understand the characteristics of the tyre. At the 2019 Australian Grand Prix, Pirelli’s middle range, the C2, C3 and C4 compounds were used.
As mentioned, the track has undergone significant modifications for the first time since 1996, which is when the venue made it’s Formula 1 debut. In total seven corners have been modified with two completely removed, bringing the total number of turns down to just fourteen and shortening the circuit slightly too in the process.
The most significant modification is the removal of the chicane at what was turns nine and ten, which is replaced by a long, sweeping bend which will feature a DRS zone. Turns one, three, six and the penultimate corner have been widened on the inside, making them all significantly faster. Towards the end of the lap, what was Turn thirteen, now eleven, has been realigned to tighten the angle.
Despite being a temporary circuit, the venue which is usually bumpy for the drivers should be a lot smoother for them this weekend, as a new layer of asphalt has been laid onto the track. This factor added to the fact the venue hasn’t been used as a race track for a while means it will be a slippery start to the weekend, and that any rain could ruin whatever track evolution has taken place.
Pirelli’s Motorsport Director, Mario Isola, believes there are many unknowns heading into this weekend with one of them being the weather. Isola also explained why Pirelli made such an odd tyre choice for the Grand Prix.
“Compared to previous occasions, and with the drivers not having raced there for two seasons, this year there are a few unknowns to the Australian Grand Prix: first of all the circuit layout has been heavily revised to improve overtaking and, as a result, there’s also new asphalt that should be quite smooth. This means the track is likely to offer very low levels of grip at the start, with a high degree of evolution expected over the weekend and an extremely slippery surface if it rains.
“We will also head to Melbourne a couple of weeks later compared to previous seasons, when autumn has already started in the southern hemisphere, so conditions could be more variable. Last but not least, there is a completely new generation of cars and tyres that the drivers are still trying to learn about.
“All these factors mean that there will be a lot of work to do for teams and drivers in the free practice sessions. We decided to opt for the step in the compound nominations because we noticed that there was a relatively small performance gap between the C3 and C4 compounds during development testing, and we believe that Albert Park – with its new asphalt and layout – is a good place to try out this option.”