The Formula One World Championship is in Melbourne, Australia, this weekend for the first running of the Australian Grand Prix since 2019. The race, which serves as round three of the 2022 season, is a regular on the F1 calendar but was scrapped the last couple of years due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Viewers visiting or tuning in this year will be greeted with a revised Albert Park Circuit. The popular street circuit has undergone significant modifications for the first time since 1996, when it made its F1 debut. It now features a modified layout and new asphalt.
Seven corners have been modified with two removed entirely, bringing the total number of turns down to 14 and shortening the track slightly to 3.28 miles.
The most significant change is the removal of the Turn 9-10 chicane, which has been replaced by a long, sweeping bend. Turns 1 and 3 were widened on the inside, as was Turn 6, which is now significantly faster. Later in the lap, what was Turn 13 (now Turn 11) has been realigned to tighten the angle. The penultimate corner (now Turn 13) is another to have been widened, and also one of several to have its camber adjusted to allow for different lines to be taken.
Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, home of the Formula One Australian Grand Prix
Being a street circuit, Albert Park is normally quite bumpy but the new surface is expected to reduce this issue. However, being a new surface, the grip levels will likely be low. Pirelli has nominated its C2 as the P Zero White hard, the C3 as the P Zero Yellow medium, and the C5 as the as the P Zero Red soft. It's the first time the C5 is being used this season.
Weather can be a mixed bag in Melbourne but the current forecast calls for mild temperatures and only partly cloudy skies for both Saturday's qualifying and Sunday's race. The Australian race will also be the first day race of the season.
At the conclusion of Friday's practice sessions, Ferrari's Charles Leclerc was the fastest, ahead of Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen and fellow Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz.
Going into the weekend, Leclerc leads the 2022 Drivers' Championship with 45 points. Sainz is second with 33 points and Verstappen is third with 25 points. In the Constructors' Championship, Ferrari leads with 78 points, versus the 38 of Mercedes-Benz AMG and 37 of Red Bull. The winner of the 2019 Australian Grand Prix was Valtteri Bottas driving for Mercedes.