Formula One racing is a perpetually evolving sport, and as competition changes, so does the need for race tracks to change to accommodate higher speeds. This season, we’re set to see some pretty radical changes to both the Australian and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix track layouts — and we’re going to lay out just what’s changing and what difference that will make when it comes to competition.
Basically, F1 is always on a hunt to improve overtaking and opportunities for side-by-side racing (although, interestingly, that is generally not done by altering the cars, which are the four-wheeled equivalent of long-ass yachts). The answer, for F1, has come by changing circuit designs.
While you might have heard about these changes, seeing them can be completely different. Thankfully, my good friend Stuart over at Chain Bear has put together a video that illustrates what parts of the tracks are changing and why those changes will matter.
The issue with Albert Park is that it’s pretty narrow, especially its pit lane. Now that the pit lane has been widened, cars are able to drive faster through it, which means the overall pit delta will be reduced, which means there will be increased opportunities for pit strategies that could shake up the race. The track is also widening certain corners — again, to make passing easier. Even changing one corner can change the overall racing line, and in this instance, the changes should theoretically allow drivers to race much faster and pass cars more easily in the wider corners.
Abu Dhabi, the season finale, is usually one hell of a boring race. Again, passing is impossible, and part of that comes down to the awful chicane that leads into the hairpin. Speeds were reduced there intentionally so that grandstands could be built close to the track, but it has made for some frankly uninspired racing.
That chicane is now gone, and the hairpin isn’t quite as tight. A long, flat run from Turn 1 to the hairpin should see cars pick up speed on the way, then actually be able to make a pass once they get there. Abu Dhabi is also changing Yas Marina’s 11-12-13 chicane, also turning it into a wide, banked hairpin.
Chain Bear offers an in-depth look into all of the various changes made to each circuit, plus predicts the kind of lap times and speeds we’ll see as a result. You’ll have to check out the video to learn more.