The Australian Grand Prix is due to be one of the final races of the 2021 Formula 1 season that just kicked off last weekend in Bahrain. Held at Melbourne’s Albert Park, the circuit is currently undergoing significant reprofiling in parts to produce faster and closer racing in preparation for its November 21 running. New photos and a map released Thursday have given us an early peek at the changes.
Just by looking at the map, it’s clear to see that nearly each one of Albert Park’s formerly 16 corners has been made wider or more relaxed in the name of higher speeds and side-by-side running. But of course the most obvious difference is that the chicane at Turns 9 and 10 is gone entirely.
That’ll certainly transform the track’s middle sector, and it’s going to make the approach to the already very fast Turns 11 and 12 even quicker. The photo below illustrates how that work is coming along.
Elsewhere, we see that the entries to Turns 1, 3 and 6 have been widened. In the case of Turn 6, drivers will have an extra 7.5 meters of asphalt, or 24 feet, to work with. The hope is that’ll encourage drivers to carve a greater variety of lines through the corner.
From there, we move to the final sector. Turn 13's width and camber has not only been adjusted, but the straight leading up to it has been lengthened as well. Naturally this would make the corner’s angle slightly tighter. However, because it’ll be nearly 10 feet wider too, drivers will have more space to pass. And you should expect many passes here, given the high-speed stretch that immediately precedes it.
Finally, we come to Turn 15 — the second-to-last and formerly the tightest on the circuit. In addition to requisite widening, the camber has been adjusted here as well, which should allow cars to carry more speed into the next, final corner. Longtime viewers know there’s always potential for drama on the outside of Turn 16, given how close the wall sits to the track.
Couple all the modifications together and F1 expects a lap around Albert Park to be five seconds faster in 2021 than in previous years.
While we’ll ultimately have to wait until the fall to learn whether these changes produce more exciting battles, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo is already looking forward to his next home race. Better yet, he seems to have an even more optimistic view of the on-track action after new aerodynamics regulations kick in next year:
“With these  cars the changes should help a lot, but from 2022, if next year promises everything it does with being able to follow the car in front and the racing to be enhanced, then coming to a circuit like Albert Park with these changes should make a pretty amazing spectacle.
“I see all of these changes as beneficial for Sunday and we can have some fun on the brakes. It’ll make the racing closer, I’m pretty confident of that.”
Albert Park hasn’t seen a resurfacing of this magnitude in its 25-year history, since it assumed Australian Grand Prix duties from Adelaide in 1996. Modern F1 cars are of course wider and far longer than those of the late ’90s, so it’s little surprise that the track needed to grow in kind.