Things to know ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina Circuitae

The sport’s main protagonists, the teams and drivers headed to the Gulf this weekend for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to round off the exciting and action-packed 21-race-long 2019 FIA Formula World Championship.

Ending the season in style, the finale is the only twilight race, with the action starting in early-evening sunshine and concluding under floodlights. This presents a unique spectacle for fans, but an unusual task for drivers and engineers as they have to nail the setup of the car to find the right balance in different condition on a rapidly cooling track surface.

Historical facts

Over a decade – Today’s race will be the 11th Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The race first appeared on the calendar in 2009 and has been ever-present since. With the exception of the period between 2011 and 2013, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has been the season finale.

The duel between the Briton and the German – Lewis Hamilton holds the record for most wins in Abu Dhabi. The Briton has won on four occasions so far while his fierce rival Sebastian Vettel has been victorious three times. It means that the German could equal Hamilton if he wins today, but the Briton could extend his dominance in Abu Dhabi with a further triumph on the spectacular island. Vettel and Hamilton are the only multiple winners in Abu Dhabi while Kimi Räikkönen, Valtteri Bottas and Nico Rosberg have all secured a single victory.

No real rookies – The four full-season rookies have all previous experiences with the Yas Marina circuit. All of them raced here either in Formula 2 or in GP3 in the past and except Alexander Albon they have all driven a Formula 1 car in a post-race test session.

Late end – The 21-race 2019 season is only the second year in the history of Formula One that ends in December. Coming to an end even later than the actual season, the 1963 championship concluded in South Africa on the 28th of December.

Fact and stats – the track

The critical overtaking aid – Overtaking is at a premium around the Yas Marina Circuit, increasing the importance of the overtaking aid, the drag reduction system. There will be two DRS zones in Abu Dhabi. The first zone’s detection point will be 40m before Turn 7, with an activation point 270m after Turn 7. The second detection point is 50m after Turn 9 and the second activation takes place 165m after Turn 9.

Soft compounds - Pirelli brought the softest three of its 2019 compounds to Abu Dhabi. Last year, also with the softest tyres in the Pirelli range, everyone except Valtteri Bottas ran a one-stop strategy that should be the preferred strategy in today’s race again.

Long track – With its length of 5.554km, the Yas Marina Circuit belongs to the longer tracks on the current calendar. Drivers will need to complete a total of 55 laps to cover the entire race distance of 305.355km. There is an offset between the start and finish line with the former being 115m in front of the latter.

The fastest race lap – Sebastian Vettel holds the record for the fastest race lap at Abu Dhabi. The German recorded a time of 1m40.279 in the inaugural year of the event in 2009 and that lap time has been unbeaten since. However, the fastest ever lap round the 5.5km race course belongs to Lewis Hamilton who secured his pole position for today’s race by setting a new absolute lap record with a time of 1m34.779.

Minor changes – The most expensive track of the sport, the Yas Marina Circuit has gone through only a few minor changes for the 2019 event. The additional orange kerb element on the exit of Turn 20 has been removed and replaced with one of a similar type. ln addition, the first 7m of this additional kerb element has been removed.

The important starting position - A front row start has proved crucial at Yas Marina, with five victories from pole position – including the last four races – and four wins from P2 on the grid. Only one driver could win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from other than the first row – Kimi Räikkönen sealed his solo victory at the Yas Marina circuit from P4 in 2012.

Rare appearance – The majority of the Yas Marina circuit is reminiscent of a street circuit given the closeness of the walls in the first and third sector, but the safety car driver Bernd Maylander has not often had to interrupt the races in the past. The chance for a real or a virtual safety car period is 30 per cent based on the past.

Time-saving pit stop – A pit visit for a normal tyre change takes approximately 22 seconds while doing that under a real or virtual safety car can be as many as 12 seconds quicker given the speed difference between cars in the pit lane and out on the track. The opportunity of saving time by pitting under SC or VSC may prompt Valtteri Bottas to extend his first stint by delaying his first pit stop and pray for an interruption.