This weekend Formula One visits somewhere that was described as ‘the richest city in the world’ in 2007, and certainly is in the big league when it comes to finances – Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
Sebastian Vettel has won the drivers’ championship but there are still battles going on throughout the field to keep your eye on, especially with second place in the constructors championship still up for grabs.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was announced in 2008, one year after a ‘Formula One Festival’ had taken place, and first appeared on the calendar in 2009.
The venue itself is one of the most modern circuits of all time, with all seats part of grandstands, an extremely large amount of floodlights in order to hold a race at twilight.
Attention was attracted to the circuit by many things, but a unique feature of the track is having a pit lane exit that runs underneath the first turn – fortunately, no one has crashed in the tunnel so far! Additionally, it does mean that if you did an out lap followed by an in lap, you would have done a very weird figure of eight.
It does get criticised a lot for being flat, processional, and having many of the problems that many of the tracks show these days. But who cares, they drive under a hotel that lights up in different colours and Bernie says that the organisers can have the race for as long as they want it, so yeah…
The lap begins with a slow corner followed by a series of fast corners into the exit of the first sector. This is marked by a chicane leading into a tight hairpin which sees the cars reach the lowest speed on the lap.
After this, the drivers go down one of the longest straights of the year, reaching around 320 kilometres per hour, before a quick chicane leads them to another straight (and DRS zone) followed by another chicane.
This final sector is often compared with Monaco due to the proximity of the walls, and it is also a little bit similar to the second and third sectors in Korea due to the speed. Once the drivers go under the hotel, it is a relatively simple fast two corners up to the line.
The lap record at the track is held by Sebastian Vettel at 1:40.279, and the track sees the drivers complete 68 gear changes per lap while spending 73% of that on full throttle. It is a high downforce track.
A lap with Mark Webber
Sebastian Vettel will probably win because at the moment, he is better than everyone else, and teams are not likely to bring upgrades so late in the season. He is one of five drivers to have won a race this season, and has won the last six races. The latter has led him to be joint third in the list of drivers to have won the most consecutive races, a record which could be beaten if he won all the races up to and including the first race of next season.
Pirelli and the Yas Marina Circuit
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is the only race of the year that starts in the late afternoon and ends in the twilight of the evening, providing the drivers and teams with a unique challenge and the audience with a breath-taking spectacle.
The tyres for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be the P Zero White medium and P Zero Yellow soft: the same nomination that was made for India last weekend. The temperature range that the tyres will experience this weekend though is very different, as unlike most other races track temperature falls as the grand prix goes on in Abu Dhabi, rather than rises.
Paul Hembery: “The way that the track temperature falls in Abu Dhabi obviously has an effect on both wear and degradation, meaning that teams are able to do longer runs even on the softer compound later in the race. There are some important implications for strategy here, which means that it’s often possible to try something different in Abu Dhabi than you would in other places, which might well pay off at the end of the race.
As a company, Abu Dhabi is a circuit that we know very well because it’s where we did some testing before we started in Formula One. It’s also where the Formula One teams got to sample our tyres for the first time, back at the end of 2010. When it comes to the actual venue, Yas Marina is one of the most modern and spectacular circuits of the year with a number of different technical challenges that test most aspects of a tyre’s overall performance.
Tyre wear and degradation isn’t especially high here: last year, when we also nominated the medium and soft, most drivers just stopped once. As the compounds are generally softer this year we’d expect two stops this time, although it’s quite possible that some teams might try just one.
We will have to wait for the Friday running until we have a clearer picture of the time difference between the two compounds but overall we’d anticipate race pace among the frontrunners to be reasonably closely balanced, and it’s always under these circumstances that having the right strategy can really make a significant difference. Although there’s quite a high degree of track evolution, and conditions in free practice aren’t always representative of the race, the work done during the Friday and Saturday sessions will be instrumental in shaping each team’s understanding of which strategies are both possible and advantageous on Sunday.”
Jean Alesi: “Abu Dhabi is not a track I have raced on myself, so it’s hard to comment from a driver’s perspective, but it certainly looks spectacular to watch and it’s fantastic to see so much infrastructure invested in Formula One.
The only negative impression I had of the circuit initially was that it seemed quite difficult to overtake on sometimes, but I think that this issue has been addressed now and it is also interesting these days to see how the drivers use strategy to gain track position. I’m sure that pit stops will be important this weekend in Abu Dhabi as well. This doesn’t look like a race that will be particularly hard on tyres, but the circumstances are a little bit different from usual, with the race taking place late in the afternoon, so it’s quite hard to predict what’s going to happen.
I’ve had some experience of racing in the twilight and the dark from Le Mans and it’s really not easy, but I think it’s probably easier in a Formula One car than in an endurance car, as Formula One cars don’t have headlights. The headlights make it quite hard to judge perspectives – particularly if you’re being overtaken – so it’s better to just have lights on the circuit, like Singapore and Abu Dhabi.”
The circuit from a tyre point of view
On average the track temperature drops by 15 degrees during the race, falling from around 45 degrees at the start to 30 degrees at the end: which is normally about the same as ambient temperature. This is the opposite to what is seen at most hot races taking place in the early afternoon, where track temperature tends to remain higher than ambient temperature.
A bit like Suzuka, the first part of the circuit essentially consists of a continuous series of bends, which subject the car to lateral acceleration forces of 4g. The tyres then have to deliver optimal performance down a long straight, with the cars on full throttle for around 15 seconds, which equates to a downforce loading of approximately 800 kilogrammes pushing down on all four wheels.
Traction is the key aspect to a strong performance at Yas Marina, as there are not so many high- speed corners. To help the drivers gain maximum traction, the engineers tend to set up the cars with quite a soft rear end, but this can lead to increased rear tyre wear. If the set-up is too stiff at the back the opposite problem can occur: excessive wheelspin, which also takes life out of the tyres.
Technical tyre notes
The Yas Marina circuit is located at sea level, with the higher air density boosting engine performance. This extra power also has an effect on tyre wear, with more demands being placed on the rear tyres in particular. The cars tend to run a medium downforce set-up, as Abu Dhabi is all about technical compromises.
The track surface in Abu Dhabi consists of stone quarried in England and is generally quite smooth. As more rubber is laid down there is a high degree of track evolution over the course of the weekend and it’s also common to find dust on the circuit during the early sessions, which is quickly swept away.
The top two finishers in Abu Dhabi last year (Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso) used a one-stop strategy, starting on the soft and ending on the medium. Sebastian Vettel, who started from the pit lane after having his qualifying times disallowed, eventually finished third with a two-stop strategy, having started on the medium and finishing with two stints on the soft tyre.
Abu Dhabi and Pirelli
Brembo and the Yas Marina Circuit
The same considerations which were made for the Bahrain circuit are also valid here, although the make up of the track leads to lower speeds and therefore less stress on the brakes. On this track the stress the braking system is subjected to is in any case quite significant and above average: here the drivers spend more than 15% of each lap with a foot on the brake.
The 13 braking sections are rather demanding and the heated pace and torrid climate, with their correlated effects of increased grip and stress, can create thermal dissipation problems as well as problems with friction material wear.
Turn 05 is considered the most demanding for the braking system.
2009 – Polesitter Lewis Hamilton battled with Sebastian Vettel for the lead, with the German overtaking after the first pit stops. This was a contest that the Brit eventually lost due to retirement caused by a brake failure.
2010 – The championship battle headed to Abu Dhabi for the final race of the year, and the first lap saw Schumacher and Liuzzi collide, bringing out the safety car and allowing many cars to head into the pits for a change of tyres. Due to the durability of Bridgestone’s tyres, championship challengers Alonso and Webber were unable to gain any places without the cars in front pitting, which they declined to do, meaning that Vettel won his first ever world championship.
2011 – Effectively the opposite of 2009, with Vettel retiring due to a puncture and Lewis Hamilton going on to win the race.
2012 – Kimi Raikkonen won his first race since the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix, with Fernando Alonso having to settle for second ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who drove well through the field in order to maintain his championship lead.
Most importantly this weekend, we must note Porsche Supercup leader Sean Edwards’ tragic death while being a passenger in a horrific testing crash at Queensland Raceway in Australia. In order to overhaul his championship lead, Nicki Thiim would only need to win the first race in Abu Dhabi, but he can afford to do it simply by scoring nineteen or more points and ensuring that Michael Ammermuller does not score over six points more than him.
For the GP3 series, Facu Regalia holds a seven point lead over 2014 Toro Rosso recruit Daniil Kvyat going into the two races this weekend, a gap that can be overcome if his previous form continues. Kevin Korjus and Conor Daly are also mathematically in the title fight, but it would be unlikely for either of them to win the championship.
GP2 will see Fabio Leimer, Sam Bird and Felipe Nasr will all go into this weekend fighting for the championship. Nasr has not won a race in the series so far, and unless this situation is addressed in Abu Dhabi, he is unlikely to be in with a realistic shot of winning. Sam Bird is Leimer’s closest contender, and the British driver has won more races this season than the championship leader, but we’ll just have to wait and see if the seven point gap is bridgeable.
|2010||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|
|2009||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|