The organisers of the Formula One Rolex Australian Grand Prix have admitted that they are willing to listen to any ideas which could help improve overtaking at the Albert Park circuit – but a proposed track change would not be a solution. Last weekend saw the FIA add an extra DRS zone to the circuit on the straight after the Turn 11-12 sweepers to try and boost overtaking at Turn 13, yet just a few passes were made on track during Sunday’s race, most notably by Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas as they moved up from penalty-induced low starting positions.
“It’s a fun track but it is tough for overtaking” – the Red Bull driver said, as reported by Fox Sports at the end of the race – “Even at the beginning, we were quicker than the Renault – we did manage to pass it – but then the Haas, I felt I was a lot faster but just couldn’t overtake.” When asked by foxsports.com.au after the race, FIA race director Charlie Whiting confirmed that they have discussed track changes with race organisers, Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC), in the past: “There is a project that could be realised but I’m not sure where they are with that. It was an idea that I gave them a couple of years ago.” – the FIA Formula One Race Director, Safety Delegate, Permanent Starter and head of the F1 Technical Department explained.
However, after extensive consultations, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) determined that the proposed change would not have the desired impact: “That was some changes around the Lakeside Drive side of things near Turns 11 and 12.” – AGPC CEO Andrew Westacott told foxsports.com.au – “(It) was debated and reviewed, and all the due diligence was done with the right people. There was nothing conclusive out of that which said it was going to be a marked improvement, and the areas it may have improved may have been offset by ways it may have detracted from good spectator viewing. There was nothing conclusive there that was going to lead to a definitive improvement in racing, so we left the configuration as-is. If there are other things that come up in the future, we’ll always look at it because we’re very open-minded and happy to work with the experts. I did hear comments made about how you can get more overtaking (but) I think that’s part of a bigger picture that Ross Brawn, the FIA and the teams need to look at through strategy groups and others to see what can happen across all circuits, not just the feedback that comes out about Melbourne.” – said Andrew Westacott, the man responsible for converting Melbourne’s roads into an F1 race track
“WE WANT CARS THAT LET DRIVERS FIGHT ON TRACK”
Overtaking was an issue that Ross Brawn broached early in his tenure as F1’s first managing director of motorsport, telling foxsports.com.au last year that “quality” of overtaking was more important than quantity. It has become a topic he is hoping to address with the next generation of F1 technical rules slated for 2021: “One of our aims, which we are looking at with the FIA and the teams is that, for 2021, we want to have cars that allow drivers to really fight one another on track.” – Ross Brawn said, according to motorsport.com – “To that end, the FIA and F1 are carrying out an aerodynamic research programme with two car models, both in the windtunnel and using CFD. We need to evolve a car design that achieves close to the level of performance we now see but permits wheel-to-wheel action.” – he added.
OTHER RACES EXPECTED TO GET EXTRA DRS ZONES
Albert Park will likely be the first of several F1 circuits to receive extra DRS zones in 2018, including the next race, as several other circuits have been identified by FIA race director Charlie Whiting: “We will do something in Bahrain and probably in Baku and in Canada, those are the races we are thinking about at the moment. We just want to make things a little more interesting, so that’s what we were doing. We can do whatever we like (in adding DRS zones) within reason. Like at Barcelona last year, after the first day of practice we realised that the authority of the DRS wasn’t as great as it had been the previous year so we extended the DRS zone.” – Charlie Whiting concluded.