Imposing new structures for teams and patrons are the key features at an Albert Park circuit revitalised and refreshed for the first race of the 2011 FIA Formula One World Championship.
The sixteenth running of the Australian Grand Prix will see its Albert Park home refreshed, revitalised and raring to go as the twelve Formula One teams and a host of support categories headed by the Australian V8 Supercars descend upon Melbourne this week. New and improved facilities will greet both the motor racing community who put on the show and the patrons – anticipated to be over 300,000 of them – who flock to the 5.3-kilometre lakeside circuit to see it.
“We have two separate but very important communities to cater for over the weekend of our event,” said Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) CEO Andrew Westacott. “We believe both the race teams, especially our outstanding line-up of support categories, and our paying customers will see a big difference in the circuit and its facilities this year. We have made it possible for those watching the action and those providing it to enjoy a whole new experience at Albert Park,” he said.
The first of several new structures to catch the eye is the dedicated pit building for the Australian V8 Supercars, the iconic category which headlines the exciting list of national race categories supporting the Formula One event itself.
The imposing two-storey building, also used for the season-ending Sydney round of the Australian V8 Supercar Championship series, immediately adjoins the existing pit garages that plays host to the twelve Formula One teams. It effectively – although temporarily – doubles the length of pit lane, the heart of the weekend’s motor racing activity.
Situated at the southern end of the main straight, the 180-metre long structure houses 30 garages at ground level; its first floor also contains the new ‘V8 Alley at Pit Entry’, a major addition to the hospitality facilities available to Grand Prix patrons over race weekend.
Its arrival has meant a reworking of the pit lane entry. While the cars will leave the track at the same place as usual between Turns 15 and 16, there are now two pit lane entry roads: the one on the right, called the V8 Through Road, takes the V8 Supercars on to the working apron of the new Pit Building, while the one on the left is for Formula One cars.
When F1 cars are running on track the right-hand entry will be closed off by a moveable gate to avoid any confusion. The two pit lane entry roads are separated by a new line of concrete barriers extending 190 metres from that gate to the start of the F1 pit lane itself.
Another circuit change of major interest to the drivers is that an area of the track surface extending some 200 metres before the entry to Turn 9 has been resurfaced, with the top layer of 35mm taken off and replaced to help smooth out bumps.
At the other end of the Pit Straight a new two-storey structure at pit exit on the drivers’ right offers Grand Prix patrons a choice between the Skydeck Lounge on the upper level and Trackside International below it, both with outstanding views of cars taking to the track.
On the other side of the track, on the drivers’ left, the new Chicane Pavilion at Turns 1-2 provides individual suites and sheltered, elevated viewing decks at a point on the track where the early race action is traditionally fast and furious.
Vibrant demand for tickets has meant the late addition of the Piquet Stand, named in honour of the three-time Brazilian World Champion, which has moved to a new location immediately after Turn 3 on the drivers’ left, while the Prost Stand now extends right around the outside of the final corner, Turn 16.
Every grandstand around the track has been refurbished with new seats and once again there is a Webber Stand on the main Pit Straight as Australian fans prepare to support the Red Bull Racing star who won four races in 2010 – he will no doubt be hoping to finish on the podium in his home event for the first time on Sunday.
[Original image via LAT]