It is hoped that the widening of the Albert Park pitlane will see teams opt for different strategies as Melbourne track is also due to be resurfaced before the Grand Prix in November.
In October last year, Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO, Andrew Westacott revealed that while it was intended to resurface the Albert Park track in time for this year’s race, other hoped-for “tweaks” wouldn’t be ready until 2022.
“It doesn’t need widespread changes everywhere,” he told Speedcafe at the time, “”it needs a combination of adjustments.
“The circuit hasn’t been resurfaced since it was originally laid in 1995 for the first event in 1996, so it’s ageing,” he admitted. “In some areas it’s ageing gracefully, in other areas, like anything, it needs a revamp. The cars are evolving; asphalt mixes are evolving; it will need a resurfacing.”
As for the “tweaks”, which were said to include modifying the chicane at Turn 11/12 in a bid to create a more demanding braking zone, along with tightening the right-hander at Turn 13, he said: “Now’s not the time to be doing that when there’s massive restrictions on industry. What we’ll do is evolve the track and look at how it can be tweaked, if you like, to coincide with the evolving and changing aerodynamics and technical specs of the cars, so post-2021, and pre-2022 is looking likely.
“What you can do, is you can evolve and adjust,” he continued, “and essentially the circuit geometry is the circuit geometry. It’s not like it’s a venue out in the middle of a paddock and you have carte blanche opportunity to modify it in whatever way you’d want to. It has to have reviews and considerations of camber, asphalt mix, the abrasiveness of that mix. It has to have, and can have subtle adjustments to apexes; some track widths on entry and exit. You don’t need terribly much.
“What you want to do, and what we look to do is two things; one, reward aggressive driving by maybe having multiple increase into the apex, and two, penalise poor driving.
“Now, it’s limited because of the lake and the building’s infrastructure, but preliminary looks that we’ve had, is we believe we can make adjustments and evolve the circuit in a beneficial manner.”
Taking to Speedcafe today, Westacott claimed that the widened pitlane will hopefully mean that the current speed limit can be raised from 60 km/h to 80, the increased speed consequently reducing the time lost when pitting.
“Since the track was put down and pit lane was configured back in – I suppose the drawings were done ’94, ’95 for the first race in 1996 – cars have got a lot longer,” said Westacott. “So we’ve widened it by taking a little bit out of the verge on drivers’ right while on track. We’ve widened pit lane by two metres.”
McLaren ‘new boy’, Daniel Ricciardo will recall that at the start of the 2019 Grand Prix he damaged his front wing just moments into the race after going on to the grass verge that ran between the edge of the track and the pit-wall. The widening of the pitlane means that there is no longer a verge.
Asked about the resurfacing of the track, he said: “What the deferral and moving back the event to November does is it really allows us to have a good look at taking advantage of this window of time and getting the work done.
“We always wanted to try and do it post this year’s event. Well, it now might be pre this year’s event given that it’s a November event rather than a March event.”
What Westacott didn’t address however, is the potential nightmare facing organisers this year following the date change.
Construction of the facility takes around two months and dismantling a month. If the dismantling lasts until late December, construction in anticipation of a March 2022, date would begin just a few weeks later.