Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix is expected to produce some “tough” racing between championship contenders Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, talkSPORT reported.
Albert Park has made a comeback to the Formula 1 calendar after a two-year absence, with the 2020 race being canceled moments before season-opening testing as the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Teams and drivers were ready to kick off the new campaign in Melbourne, as they had done for much of the modern era, but a positive test in the McLaren garage soon triggered the season suspension.
F1 returned later in July but has not traveled to Australia for two years, giving circuit designers plenty of time to improve the scenic street track.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc is on pole for the second time this season ahead of Max Verstappen, and the new Albert Park has already provided plenty of entertainment.
Friday and Saturday saw the riders push their limits all along the narrow and windy 5.2 kilometer track, which received a huge dose of extra speed.
Division manager for racing David Corrigan told talkSPORT: “It feels so good to have Formula 1 back at the Albert Park Grand Prix circuit.
“The brand new Formula 1 cars will test the newly resurfaced and modified circuit. We have sold out tickets for Saturday and Sunday, we know our fans are waiting to see the cars back on track and so are we.”
Seven of the historic track’s corners have been changed, reducing the total number from 16 to 14 and setting up Leclerc and Verstappen for another epic duel.
The duo will fly around the first corner in a battle for the lead, which has been upgraded in preparation.
“Spinning one of the first rounds is always a thrilling moment, where championships can be won and lost in a second,” talkSPORT said.
“This challenge has been taken up a notch, thanks to a 2.5 meter widening of the bend.
“Drivers will now have multiple racing lines at their disposal, giving them more opportunities to overtake in the crucial opening moments of the race and throughout.
“The modification is also designed to support more battles after the turn and in turns two and three.”
The changes to turn six see the minimum cornering speed drop massively from 149 km/h to 219 km/h, and things get even more serious later on.
Turns nine and ten of the track were used to slow drivers down by an unwanted chicane, which has now been removed, allowing drivers to follow at a whopping 330 km/h, using a record fourth system of drag reduction. [DRS] area.
F1 circuits previously only ran a maximum of three DRS zones, but Albert Park has already been pushed back four after Friday’s practice due to safety concerns.
“If there was ever a time for big risk and reward, this is the place,” talkSPORT said.
Turns 11 and 13 have also been widened and adjusted, allowing for multiple racing lines, as well as punishing those who run off the track.
It is estimated that since Albert Park was established in 1996, there has only been one overtake to take the lead.
This is in stark contrast to the first two races of the 2022 season, where Leclerc and Verstappen rekindled their long-standing rivalry with a series of thrilling battles.
And thankfully, with Australia back on the schedule, chapter three of their fight should be able to resume under exceptional circumstances.
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