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Why Norris and McLaren are optimistic about Albert Park changes

Formula 1 will return to Albert Park, Melbourne, for round three of the new F1 season, with a number of changes having been made to the circuit.

Lando Norris is optimistic that the changes to Melbourne's Albert Park Circuit, increasing the track's average speed, will play into the hands of McLaren's struggling car. McLaren featured towards the top of the timesheets during the pre-season shakedown in Barcelona, leaving fans hopeful that they could join the World Championship fight in 2022. However, their arrival in Bahrain saw them hit several obstacles, with the car not taking well to the nature of the Bahrain International Circuit, especially its slow-speed corners. The team fared slightly better in Saudi Arabia, with Norris able to score a handful of points and get off the mark, but a significant gap remains to the front of the F1 field.

A new challenge for the teams at a modified Albert Park

Next up on the calendar is the 2022 Australian Grand Prix, with the sport returning to Melbourne for this time since 2020's cancelled race. The city's Albert Park Circuit will carry a new look this time around, after seven of the track's turns underwent work. Turns 1, 3 and 15 have all been widened at the apex, allowing for more room in the braking zones to aid overtaking. Turn 13, meanwhile, has been straightened and widened so as to increase the severity of the braking zone, allowing cars to run alongside each other. And Turns 6, 9 and 10 have all been straight-lined, increasing the circuit's average speed by around 15 km/h. The track has also been resurfaced throughout, with the pit lane widened by two metres – allowing for an increased speed limit and potentially opening up more strategic options.

Norris: McLaren's weakness is slow-speed corners

The changes to the Albert Park Circuit should play into McLaren's hands, Norris believes, given the MCL36's struggles at low speed. "It's changed and it's a smoother surface, so I am hoping that the new one will be better for us than the old one [would have been]," said Norris, speaking on the F1 Nation Podcast . "I mean, the car is in exactly the same position as in Bahrain, that's the problem. If we went back to Bahrain, we'd still be out in Q1 and we'd be fighting for 16th and 17th, like we were. "It's just that this track [Jeddah, Saudi Arabia] suits our car a lot more; it suits the medium and high-speed. "I guess we know a little bit more where our strengths are, but our weaknesses are the slow-speed corners and we're a very, very long way off at the minute."

Norris jokes he celebrated seventh like a victory

Norris had reason to leave Jeddah delighted with his work after bringing his car home in seventh position. He continued: "I mean, after last week, you would say it's a surprise, but this week our pace has been much better. I'm happy with it. Like, I feel bad that I have to be happy with a P7." Now a Monaco resident, Norris flew home from Saudi Arabia with race-winner Max Verstappen, who beat Charles Leclerc to the chequered flag following a dramatic battle. "I am celebrating a P7 more than Max is celebrating a win at the moment," he joked. "It's like a win for me!"

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