Faster 2017 F1 cars lead to Australian GP track revisions

The Albert Park circuit will undergo a number of track revisions ahead of this year’s Australian Grand Prix, to accommodate the faster new-generation Formula 1 cars.

Faster 2017 F1 cars lead to Australian GP track revisions
Fernando Alonso, McLaren MP4-31 in a huge crash
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF16-H leads at the start of the race
Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari SF16-H
Flags
Valtteri Bottas, Williams FW37
Felipe Nasr, Sauber C34
Aerial scenic action
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF16-H
Fernando Alonso, McLaren MP4-31 exits his car after a huge crash
Pascal Wehrlein, Manor Racing MRT05
Esteban Gutierrez, Haas F1 Team VF-16 runs out
Felipe Nasr, Sauber C35
The McLaren MP4-31 of Fernando Alonso, McLaren is removed from the gravel trap after his race stopping crash
The McLaren MP4-31 of Fernando Alonso, McLaren is removed from the gravel trap after his race stopping crash
Esteban Gutierrez, Haas F1 Team VF-16
Sergio Perez, Sahara Force India F1 VJM09
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According to FIA data provided to the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, Albert Park is set to see an increase of mid-corner speeds between 20 and 50 km/h on mid-to-high speed corners, later braking points (between 20 and 30 metres), and lap times lowered to the tune of three to four seconds.

That has led to a number of safety-related revisions to the Albert Park layout, with tyre wall re-profiling at Turns 1, 6, and 14, as well as the use of over $100,000 worth of Tecpro high-speed barriers at Turn 12 – a first for the Melbourne circuit.

“The FIA gave us instructions, based on the simulations they’ve done, on which turns would need additional tyre buffers, or in the case of Turn 12 inclusion of a high-speed barrier,” Craig Moca, Division Manager of Infrastructure at the AGPC told Motorsport.com.

“We took all the information we received from the FIA, and being a temporary circuit we had to manufacture additional tyre buffers and purchase 80 metres worth of the Tec Pro barrier.

“That’s a big step for us from being an old-school track where we’ve got tyres and conveyor belts, to having these high-speed barriers.”

The changes in detail

The Tecpro barrier will be used in an 80-metre stretch on the exit of the quick Turn 11/12 complex, where the new regulations are tipped to see cars going as fast as 230 km/h as they leave the corner.

Should a car run wide and through the gravel trap, the impact with the barrier is predicted to be around 129 km/h – hence the move to the Tecpro hardware.

“At Turn 12 we used to have six rows of tyres,” added Moca.

“Now what we’ve done is we’ve taken away three rows of tyres and implemented the Tecpro system. It’s one row of Tecpro barriers, and every 10 metres there’s a double Tecpro barrier, which essentially adds a buffer from the tyre wall.”

Elsewhere, the focus has been on re-profiling the tyre walls. At Turn 1, the run-off at the end of the braking zone – where Ralf Schumacher famously ended up after his high-flying crash at the start of the 2002 race – has seen its tyre wall doubled in width.

The same goes with a 10-metre stretch in the corner of run-off at Turn 6, with the tyre barrier doubled from three rows to six.

The biggest overhaul, however, is at Turn 14, where the entire run-off area at the end of the braking zone will be doubled from three rows of tyres to six, with tube inserts.

“When I did some research, watching Lewis Hamilton’s qualifying on-board footage from 2015, it shows the speeds on approach to those corners, and you can clearly see why the FIA identified those corners,” said Moca.

“Because our barriers are so close to the track, it’s making sure that we’ve got enough protection that if a driver does go off track, it can stop without seriously injuring the driver or damaging the car substantially.

“If you look at Turn 1, for instance, that’s the end of our DRS zone. So we’ve doubled the width of the tyres at the end of the gravel trap, so if a car did get in trouble – and typically where they do at Turn 1 is heading straight towards the long run-off – we’ve got enough tyres to slow down the impact.”

Limited use of Tecpro

While the circuit revisions will see Tecpro technology used at Albert Park for the first time, Moca isn’t anticipating it to kickstart a sweeping reform of the more traditional tyre/conveyer belt system.

He says that between the high cost of the Tecpro product, the ongoing effectiveness of the tyre wall system, and the circuit’s general good safety record, there is little evidence that any major changes needed to take place.

“While we’ve got tyres, and we’ve got tyres where we need them, I would stick with them,” he said.

“The Tecpro barriers are extremely expensive, so we will stick to using tyres as much as we can. It does the same job, and the FIA still says that it is good for the job.

“And our circuit has a very good safety record – a good example of that is Fernando [Alonso’s] accident last year. The fantastic thing is he got up and walked away.

“We had everything right; the gravel was the right height, the gravel trap was placed correctly, the tyre buffers were there, the barriers were in the right place… the main thing for us as the guys who build the circuit is that he walked away.”

The Australian GP will open the 2017 Formula 1 season on March 26.

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