While the Melbourne event is one of the true highlights of the year, increasingly in recent years fans and drivers alike have voiced concern that the layout of the track, which is dictated primarily to its location in a public park, is compromising the racing.
With the regulations overhaul planned for 2022, organisers in Melbourne were intending to make a number of tweaks to the track in a bid to improve the racing, however the rescheduling of this year’s event to November has offered the opportunity to have them in place in time for this year’s Grand Prix.
As previously reported, it is intended that the entire track be resurfaced – the first time since the race was first held at Albert Park in 1996 – but due to the lack of time between the dismantling of the circuit’s infrastructure after this year’s race in November and the commencement of reassembling everything in time for the 2022 race, organisers are hoping to carry out the necessary work in time for this year’s event.
“We’ve got good dialogue about where the specs and the cars are going to be for 2022,” Australian Grand Prix Corporation boss, Andrew Westacott tells Speedcafe.com.
“One of the things that takes a fair bit of time is to actually look at a circuit and take into account its design based on the very important work, projected performance of the cars from the simulation and performance point of view.
“What we want to do, I guess the overriding principles of looking at and finalising what we can achieve by when is that, like any good circuit, we want to actually be able to reward brave driving… and we want to be able to penalise sloppy driving.
“The circuit does need resurfacing,” he continues, “so there are some areas where we can adjust camber and provide alternate and multiple lines into particular turns on the circuit. An example of that might be Turn 13, where there’s really only one line into that and you can’t actually overtake on the outside, because it’s negative camber.
“If that was positive camber and it was slightly widened so you had multiple options for the apex and so on, then suddenly with not terribly much effort you’re actually making a number of changes, a number of opportunities to enhance more than one path into particular turns.
“I think that the turns that present themselves with the opportunities for review tend to be Turn 13, Turn 3, maybe even Turn 6 a little bit with just changing the apex of the turn a bit.”
According to Westacott, changing the apex will see the corners opened up – as opposed to tightened – coupled with widening on approach.
“What it does is it actually provides more than one single pathway and one single line,” he explains. “The reality is that we’ve actually got to take into account the circuit design based on some of the physical impediments that are there – swimming pools, ovals, and a lake – and so therefore, by and large, you have to work with the geometry that you’ve got.
“So there’re subtle evolutions and changes along the lines I was just talking about, there’s the potential by widening pit lane for the FIA to increase the speed limit in pit lane from 60km/h now to 80km/h, which therefore provides less of a penalty for a pit stop.”
Unlike some circuits, drivers have expressed the opinion that the track’s infamous bumps add to its character. With an eye on the resurfacing, Westacott admits that they may not be retained.
“It’s a little bit of a challenge,” he admits, “because the obligation that we have is to have the circuit layout in conformance with the FIA guidelines and regulations. The FIA guidelines and regulations are somewhat opposed to what (the drivers) say in terms of character.
“Now, a street circuit does still lend itself to having bumps and other things. If anyone’s ever ridden a circuit on a pushbike, just going over the painted white parking bays creates a vibration.
“So I think our first obligation is to put a circuit down that is in conformance with the FIA guidelines and specs, but I’d hope that if we get enough changes and improvements in a variety of the parameters then the rest of it will still make for a very, very exciting drivers circuit.”
In terms of the timing of the work, he says: “We’ve got to have some pretty robust scheduling reviews and so on over coming weeks to see what’s possible to achieve it. Because there’s also the colder months, which aren’t always conducive to relaying of quality asphalt.”