Monday, March 9, 2015

The Mystique Of The Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit



The Mystique Of The Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit

By Eruna Ichinomiya
Spirit News
October 30, 2074

The Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit is a street circuit around Albert Park Lake, only a few kilometres south of central Melbourne. It is used annually as a racetrack for the Australian Grand Prix and associated support races. The circuit uses everyday sections of road that circle Albert Park Lake, a small man-made lake just south of the Central Business District of Melbourne. The road sections that are used were rebuilt prior to the inaugural event in 1996 to ensure consistency and smoothness. As a result, compared to other circuits that are held on public roads, the Albert Park track has quite a smooth surface. Before 2007 there existed only a few other places on the Formula 1 calendar with a body of water close to the track. Many of the new tracks, such as Valencia, Singapore and Abu Dhabi have imitated that feature.

The course is considered to be quite fast and relatively easy to drive, drivers having commented that the consistent placement of corners allows them to easily learn the circuit and achieve competitive times. However, the flat terrain around the lake, coupled with a track design that features few true straights, means that the track is not conducive to overtaking or easy spectating unless in possession of a grandstand seat.

Each year, most of the trackside fencing, pedestrian overpasses, grandstands and other motorsport infrastructure are erected approximately two months prior to the Grand Prix weekend and removed within 6 weeks after the event. Land around the circuit (including a large aquatic centre, a golf course, a Lakeside Stadium, some restaurants and rowing boathouses) has restricted access during the grand prix weekend. Dissent is still prevalent among nearby local residents and users of those others facilities, and some still maintain a silent protest against the event. Nevertheless, the event is reasonably popular in Melbourne and Australia (with a large European population and a general interest in motorsport). Middle Park, the home of South Melbourne FC was demolished in 1994 due to expansion at Albert Park.

On 4 July 2072, the official F1 site reported that more than 400,000 people attended the four-day Melbourne Grand Prix, though actual ticket sales were later disputed by the local media. The Grand Prix will continue until at least 2100 after securing a new contract with Formula One Management. There has never been a night race at Albert Park, however, 2050’s event started at 5.05 p.m.

During the nine months of the year when the track is not required for Grand Prix preparation or the race weekend, most of the track can be driven by ordinary street-registered vehicles either clockwise or anti-clockwise.

Only the sections between turns 3, 4 and 5, then 5 and 6, differ significantly from the race track configuration. Turn 4 is replaced by a car park access road running directly from turns 3 to 5. Between turns 5 and 6, the road is blocked. It is possible to drive from turn 5 on to Albert Road and back on to the track at turn 7 though two sets of lights control the flow of this option. The only set of lights on the actual track is half-way between turns 12 and 13, where drivers using Queens Road are catered for. The chicanes at turns 11 and 12 is considerably more open than that used in the grand prix, using the escape roads. Turn 9 is also a car park and traffic is directed down another escape road.

The speed limit is generally 50 kilometres per hour (31 mph) which is slower than an F1 car under pit lane speed restrictions. Some short sections have a speed limit of 40 kilometres per hour (25 mph). The back of the track, turns 7 to 13 inclusive, is known as Lakeside Drive. Double lines separate the two-way traffic along most of Lakeside Drive with short road islands approximately every 50 metres. This means overtaking is illegal here.

Approximately 50% of the track edge is lined with short parkland-style chain-linked fencing leaving normal drivers less room for error than F1 drivers have during race weekend. There is however substantial shoulder room between the outside of each lane and the fencing.

Turn 1 is an incredibly challenging, medium speed corner that catches several drivers out. It comes at the end of the first DRS zone but despite this it is not a prime overtaking spot. You brake just after the 100 metre board and shift down into third gear, then you accelerate as soon as you hit the exit kerb, keeping flat out round turn 2. It is important to gain a good exit, as the second DRS zone begins down the following straight. Turn 3 is the best overtaking place as you brake roughly 100 metres before the apex for the second gear corner. It is reasonably easy to outbrake a competitor and you can use either the inside or outside; turn 4 is a left-hander than comes immediately after so the outside of turn 3 gives the inside for four. Turn five is a flat-out right hander with high g-force, and turns six, seven and eight make up a difficult complex at the back of the circuit.

Six has a very challenging braking-zone due to trees' shadows obscuring the view of parts of the track. It is even more difficult in the wet as you are unable to see and puddles that will be sitting on the circuit, making it easy to spin off. Turn seven is similar to turn two; a flat-out left-hander after a tricky right, then turn eight is a long, flat-out right-hander which drivers now take with DRS. Turns 9 and 10 make up a slow chicane, some would say a pointless chicane, that leads onto a short straight. You brake about eighty metres from turn nine and you need good traction to carry as much speed as you can out of ten. Turns 11 and 12 make up a challenging, high-speed, left-right chicane where drivers ride the kerbs, however too much kerb can upset the car's balance. Turn 13 can be used for overtaking but offline it can be quite dirty and slippery. Slipstreaming a car out of 12 can get them alongside another car, then braking late can get you down the inside of the third-gear right-hander. Turn 14 is an exciting right-hander that is taken in fifth-gear and requires a lift off the throttle. Turn 15 is the slowest point on the circuit and is a second-gear left-hander, and it is important to get a good exit from the near-flat-out turn 16 so you gain speed all the way down the pit straight.