After a 21-race long season, the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship nears its conclusion this weekend when teams and drivers head to the Gulf for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The circuit situated on the peninsula of Yas Island was designed by Hermann Tilke, and is about 30 minutes from the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi. Yas Marina is the second Formula One track in the Middle East, with the first being in Bahrain.
The first ever action on the track was a GP2 test in 2009 which took place one week before Formula One assembled in Abu Dhabi for its inaugural round there. Since then, GP3, GP2, V8 Supercars, Drag Racing, GT1 World and the Gulf 12 Hours visited the complex.
The Moving Circus first came to Abu Dhabi in 2007 in the guise of the first ever Formula One Festival. The event which took place on 3 February 2007 was free, and the largest gathering of current Formula One cars and drivers outside of a Grand Prix. It was announced during that event that Abu Dhabi had won the rights to host a Grand Prix from 2009 until 2016. Later that year, Etihad Airways negotiated a three-year deal for them to become sponsors of the Grand Prix.
The construction of the circuit cost 893 million EUR. The main contractor was Cebarco-WCT WLL and the Hermann Tikle-led company was responsible for the design.
The circuit was the first ever day-night venue in the history of Formula One. The other Middle-East race, the Bahrain GP followed this a few years later. Musco Lighting was responsible for the permanent lighting system which is similar to that installed at the Losail Circuit in Qatar. The letter was the biggest permanent sports venue lighting project in the world, but the Yas Marina system took over this title.
The track surface is made of greywacke aggregate which was shipped from England. This surface was highly acclaimed by the drivers for the high grip level it offers.
The marina-based development includes a theme park, a water park, as well as residential areas, hotels and beaches. The circuit has five grandstand areas (Main Grandstand, West Grandstand, North Grandstand, South Grandstand and Marina Grandstand. The complex also houses a team building behind the pit building, Media Center, Dragster Track, VIP Tower and Ferrari World Theme Park.
The circuit has a unique pit exit. It does not connect to the first corner as it would be too dangerous due to the high speed at which drivers approach the first bend. The exit dips under the main circuit by way of a tunnel.
The Briton, the German and the Finns
Of the ten races held in Abu Dhabi so far, six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton has won four while his big rival Sebastian Vettel has clinched three victories so far. Worth noting that the German secured all his victories with Red Bull Racing. Another German driver Nico Rosberg claimed the victory in 2015 while the Finnish drivers Kimi Räikkönen and Valtteri Bottas have also an Abu Dhabi Grand Prix victory to their names.
When it comes to the constructors, Mercedes is the absolute dominant force around the unique Yas Marina track. The Anglo-German outfit has not only won five grands prix in the Gulf area, but they are totally unbeaten in the hybrid era of the sport. Due to Vettel’s success, Red Bull is the second most successful team with three wins. Lotus-Renault and McLaren-Mercedes are the only teams with victories in Abu Dhabi. The former team won with Kimi Räikkönen behind the wheel in 2012 while the Woking-based squad clinched a triumph when Hamilton crossed the line first in Abu Dhabi in 2011.
Tight corners and low gears
The Yas Marina Circuit represents a different set of challenges compared with the previous venue, Brazl’s José Carlos Pace track. The differing nature of the first two sectors and the last segment of the circuit makes it rather difficult for engineers to find the right aerodynamic balance.
With the increased downforce levels, the majority of the first two sectors are taken at full throttle with only a couple of interruptions thorugh a few slow-speed corners. In stark contrast to the high-speed section, drivers face a long list of extremely slow-speed turns when they arrive to Sector 3. While drivers would love to achieve as much straight-lint speed in the opening sections, they present a wish for a stable rear end and high downforce at the conclusion of the 5.554km circuit.
After the relatively short main straight, drivers gently touch the brakes to take Turn 1. Carrying as much speed out of the first corners is important as they complete the next curving section at full throttle thanks to the increased levels of downforce. Representing the first bend of the second sector, Turn 5 invites drivers to only brake gently, carry high speeds and let the car slow down by the engine brake.
The next straight sees car reach speeds of over 320kph before they have to slow down for the combination of the two slow-speed Turns 8 and 9. The exit of this duo of corners plays an important role once again because another long full-throttle section follows.
With Turn 11, drivers approach the difficult third sector where a different approach and rhythm are required. After the first two sectors, tyres have to be in perfect conditions as nothing less than perfect rear grip is essential to master the closing part of the Yas Marina track. A total of eleven corners await drivers and to make their life even more difficult the close walls around the hotel section command high resptect.