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.
With Lewis Hamilton already crowned the champion for 2015 will the race give us anything else to look forward to? Will Rosberg beat Hamilton to make it three in a row? Will Ferrari have more power and speed to take a fight to the Mercedes cars of Rosberg and Hamilton? We will know on Sunday evening.
For those lucky enough to attend the race, if it is boring there is always the after party to entertain. This year you will be treated with 50 Cent, Ludacris and Akon at Vip Room.
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, and permanent floodlighting for day-night racing.
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.
The Yas Marina Circuit does get criticised for delivering processional races on the flat topographical landscape and having the typical Tilke characteristics seen at many of the modern F1 circuits. The landmark associated with this track is the Viceroy Hotel, designed in the shape of a whale which is illuminated in differing colours as the night draws in. Bernie has stated that the Abu Dhabi organisers have secured the race for as long as they want it, so I guess we may as well get used to it.
In 2014, the Abu Dhabi GP returned to hosting the season finale and with double points on offer, it became the deciding event in the F1 drivers’ championship. This year, the Abu Dhabi GP is a dead rubber on all fronts, so given the lack of exciting racing the TV audiences may again be a cause for concern for FOM.
The first corner is medium speed – taken at around 130kph – leading into the high speed Turns 2 + 3; both of which should be flat out in qualifying and only giving the drivers something to think about when they are on heavy fuel loads. This is a defining corner for setup which requires sufficient front wing to eradicate high-speed understeer. The rest of the turns around the circuit need less front wing, hence Turn 3 is key for setting up the front end of the car.
Turn 5 is one of the bigger braking demands on the circuit; down from around 300kph. This leads into 6&7 which become a second gear affair taken at around 70kph, strong engine pickup is vital out of Turn 7 for a good entry onto the circuits’ longest straight.
Arriving at the end of one of the longest straights in Formula 1 – with maximum speeds of around 320kph – we again see heavy braking, the drivers change down to second gear and take Turns 8 – 9 at about 80Kph. The kerbs are used aggressively through this combination, so a soft car is beneficial.
Another long straight with top speeds in excess of 300kph leads into a second heavy braking zone for Turn 11. The Turn 11 – 13 sequence requires good change of direction from the car.
Having five poles on the trot as well as two consecutive wins Nico Rosberg is showing form that have eluded him the whole season. Hamilton will want to put a stop to this and enter the winter months with a pole and a win, the latter probably more so.
Vettel has shown that Kimi just does not have the pace anymore and with the Williams cars, what else can they do to sabotage their drivers?
What will Red Bull do? Will they run an improved version of the Renault Power Unit or struggle on with what they have before making an announcement to tell us (finally) which direction they will go? It is certain that their drivers would love something with a bit more grunt in the the back so they can show us what they are made of…
And of course what will young Max get up to this weekend? The young man continues to impress and have scored points in the last six races. Will he make it seven in a row this weekend?
Yas Marina with Pirelli
The 2015 championship concludes at a venue that is very familiar to Pirelli: the spectacular Yas Marina circuit at Abu Dhabi, which has been used for testing and a pre- season launch by the Italian firm, including the world’s first wet-weather test run at night. Due to the smooth asphalt, the two softest tyres in the range will be brought: soft and supersoft, as used at the slowest track on the calendar in Monaco (and at four more grands prix).
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is held from late afternoon into the evening. As a result, track temperatures tend to drop over the course of the race, meaning that the pattern of tyre behaviour is slightly different to normal: another complex variable for teams to factor into their strategy calculations.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “It’s incredible to think that the 2015 season is over already: it seems a lot less than a year since we were at Abu Dhabi for the final race of 2014. With the championships decided the teams can obviously push to the maximum and our tyre choice in Abu Dhabi provides them with an interesting challenge: while the surface is very smooth, the tyres are still pushed quite hard due to the track layout, so tyre management becomes an important part of the strategy, particularly under acceleration in the traction areas, where it is very easy to spin the wheels.
This is the same nomination as last year, so we’d probably expect another two-stop race, but track temperatures can be quite variable as the sun goes down and this can clearly have an effect on the tyres and therefore strategy. Just two days after the chequered flag on the 2015 season, we already begin testing for 2016: there will be a dedicated Pirelli tyre test from 9am to 9pm on Tuesday 1 December, with all the teams running one car to test some 2016 constructions and the new ‘ultrasoft’ tyre, which will carry purple markings at next year’s races.”
The biggest challenges for the tyres: The falling track and air temperatures over the course of the race (which does not start until 5pm) means that the track tends to get faster as the grand prix goes on, a phenomenon that is accentuated by falling fuel loads.
Just like the previous round at Interlagos, the track runs in an anti-clockwise direction at Abu Dhabi: a relatively unusual feature, which can sometimes cause physical problems for the drivers.
The first part of the circuit effectively consists of a series of non-stop bends, which heats up the tyre compound. The compound then gets a chance to cool down on the long straight, with the cars on full throttle for around 15 seconds, with the equivalent of around 800 kilograms of downforce.
Last year’s strategy and how the race was won: A two-stopper was the winning strategy for Lewis Hamilton last year. He started the 55-lap race on the supersoft, before changing to the soft on laps 10 and 31. Then 24 laps later, he became 2014 world champion!
Expected performance gap between the two compounds: 1.0-1.2 seconds per lap.
Yas Marina and Brembo
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 22% 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 08 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.
2013 – Vettel won the race from Mark Webber, which equalled the record for most consecutive wins in a season.
2014 – Lewis Hamilton clinched his second World Drivers’ Championship in the first and last double points finish race on the calendar. Although Hamilton started second on the grid he passed his teammate off the start line and comfortably won the race once Rosberg suffered ERS problems but still managed to finish the race, albeit in 14th.
Yas Marina Circuit will host GP2 and GP3 as the support races, the final races of the 2015 season.
It’s all to play for in GP3 this coming weekend. Ghiotto leads Ocon (remember him? He was a Lotus development driver) by a scant two points. And lurking a further ten points back is Kirchhöfer.
In GP2 Vandoorne has also wrapped up the championship well in advance of the final race. Behind him Alexander Rossi is leading Sirotkin by 30.5 points.
|2013||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|
|2010||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|
|2009||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|