Alpine reserve driver Oscar Piastri has revealed that he has driven Albert Park's heavily-modified new circuit on the simulator and is expecting lap times to be "significantly quicker" than ever before.
The organisers of the popular Australian Grand Prix have made several changes to their track since F1 last raced in Melbourne back in 2019.
A number of turns have been widened to promote overtaking, while an entire chicane has been bypassed with a new 'straight' section, increasing the number of DRS zones to four.
Meanwhile, one corner has been tightened, so as to lengthen the braking zone and to allow cars more opportunities to fight side-by-side.
It is thought that the changes, which also include a widened pit lane, could result in lap times at the venue being five seconds faster than in 2019.
Piastri: New layout will be very interesting
While none of the current grid have raced on Albert Park's new layout, Piastri is one of only a handful of drivers to have lapped the heavily-modified track on the simulator.
He has been helping Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon to prepare their cars for the weekend back at their Enstone base, but has since travelled to Australia to spend time with his family and drive with local kart racers ahead of the event.
"I don't know how much quicker the lap times will be but I've driven the circuit on the simulator and it's significantly quicker," said Piastri, looking ahead to the weekend.
"The back section where they've removed the chicane, it's now basically a massive straight leading into the right-hander. There could be some interesting overtaking moves into there and cars side-by-side at very high speeds."
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Piastri back in Australia with F1 hopes
The 21-year-old Melbourne native had high hopes of racing in his first Australian GP in 2022 after being crowned F2 champion at the end of his previous campaign.
But with competition for places in the sport fierce, he was only able to secure a role as Alpine's reserve driver.
"It's going to be a big old week, that's for sure," continued Piastri.
"Obviously, this is the first time back for the Australian Grand Prix in the last couple of years. It's going to be a massive crowd and a big event, which I'm looking forward to.
"Being able to see my family on top of everything else going on; it's very special for me."
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