With the exception of 2006 the street circuit in Melbourne has been the starting point for the Formula 1 calendar since 1996. As the now traditional first race, it has served as a tricky opener for teams, with its bumpy surface and six chicanes requiring a precisely balanced car that can change direction and get its power down in a hurry.
As a result the setup required is less about trimming wings and removing camber and all about making a responsive car that turns in well and can accelerate out of the corners without spinning out or ruining its tyres. The key corners are the right-left of turns one and two, they string together two DRS zones and lead to the prime overtaking point at turn three. Then there is the fast left-right chicane of corners 11 and 12 that need you to carry as much speed as possible as there is a new DRS zone just after them and the Ascari corner (13) is another good overtaking point. You also need to get a good exit from turn 15 so you can get on the power quickly around the flat out turn 16 and onto the pit straight.
You can find our F1 2019 Australian Grand Prix setup here
With minimal straights, you are more likely to add wing around Albert Park than you are to take it off, unless you are several seasons deep into career mode and have a well-developed aerodynamics package. This setup is for an early career mode or online, so we are going to add to the front wing, allowing the car to carry a bit more speed through the corners. This is especially useful for the high-speed turns 11 & 12 as well as the first chicane and the final corner. Keep the rear wing at 6 however, so our top speed isn't compromised too much.
This is all about how to get the power down through the rear tyres and into the tarmac. Here you should leave the on throttle differential in the middle at 75 percent, this gives a smooth transfer of power when half the car is over kerbs, especially useful at the exit of turn two and five early in the lap, when you cut the corner slightly at turn 12, and again on the exit of 16. We've opened up the off throttle differential to allow better entry into the tighter corners like turn three and turn 15, and it will let you build speed more easily in the mid-corner.
This part of the setup is very driver-specific. You may well find that a more locked setup suits your style, especially if you want better traction out of the corners and can look after your tyres well.
This is where things get very technical and tricky to pick apart. Camber is the vertical tilt on your tyres. F1 cars are all set with a negative camber, meaning the top of the tyre is closer to the body of the car than the bottom is. This helps make the car more responsive on turn in and gives better grip in the corners. Around Albert Park you want to increase that camber and move the slider two clicks to the left to increase the contact patch you get when cornering as it results in better grip. This comes at a cost of straight line speed, but as there are not many straight lines around this circuit that is just fine.
You can add to the responsiveness of the car by marginally increasing the toe of the front wheels too. Toe is the horizontal tilt of the tyres, and in F1 the front tyres are set to toe out, with the front of the wheel further away from the car than the back of it, and the rear tyres are set to toe in. You should add a little toe out to the front to help get the nose in to some of the slower corners. This again costs a touch of straight line speed, but all the time is to be gained around the corners here.
The bumpy nature of this street circuit together with how frequently you have to take some kerb means softer suspension is desirable. However, we have stiffened the suspension slightly as this makes the car a little more responsive when cornering, which is vital for the many chicanes Albert Park has, and also prevents you from bottoming out over bumps and kerbs. By keeping the suspension equal between front and back you are not adding any oversteer or understeer to the setup.
Because of the constant changes of direction this circuit forces on you, the anti-roll bars don't need to move too far off the default setting. Softening them a touch will help with tyre wear while not compromising responsiveness.
You don't want to take the ride height down too much either. The amount of kerb you need to use together with the bumpy surface means you can't take it below 5 without risking bottoming out too much.
We're using a relatively low brake pressure here because of the nature of this circuit. While increasing the pressure can result in shorter stopping distances, the bumps are against us. There is also the fact that there is very little run-off around Albert Park, and any lock up can quickly send the car into the gravel trap or worse, the wall. Around more forgiving circuits like Paul Ricard and Yas Marina you can crank up the brake pressure and simply run wide if you lock up, but not here.
By sliding the brake bias toward the rear a small amount you add a little oversteer, allowing the car to turn in sharper. The more wear on the tyres the harder it will be to turn in, so having a little extra oversteer is easier to manage during a race situation when fuel loads and tyre wear start to affect how the setup works.
We've added one click of pressure to both the front and rear tyres in this setup. While it reduces the contact patch and so negatively affects traction it makes the car more responsive, helping to get through the six chicanes around Albert Park. There is a temptation to lower the pressure on the rears to get some traction back, but this circuit rewards responsiveness far more than outright speed. You also don't want to create uneven tyre wear that can negatively impact your race strategy.
We haven't touched the ballast in this setup, but it's an easy way to fix and over or understeer problems you may encounter. Moving the ballast toward the rear of the car will increase oversteer and traction, while moving it forward will add understeer to the car and reduce traction. Moving the ballast does fix some handling issues, but it's not as effective as a well-tuned suspension set up.
So there it is, our setup for the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park. This is a good base to start from and see where you are, it can then be fine-tuned to your own style and preferences. See you on the time sheets!
Australian Grand Prix Wet Lap Setup
Front Wing: 7
Rear Wing: 9
On Throttle: 65%
Off Throttle: 100%
Front Camber: -2.70
Rear Camber: -1.20
Front Toe: 0.08
Rear Toe: 0.29
Front Suspension: 6
Rear Suspension: 4
Front Anti-Roll Bar: 8
Rear Anti-Roll Bar: 5
Front Ride Height: 4
Rear Ride Height: 4
Brake Pressure: 88%
Front Brake Bias: 56%
Front Tyre Pressure: 23.4 psi
Rear Tyre Pressure: 21.1 psi