Things to know ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina Circuitae

The curtailed and coronavirus-delayed 2020 FIA Formula 1 World Championship will come to an end when the chequered flag falls at the end of today’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Although the season was characterized by Mercedes’ utter dominance that saw Lewis Hamilton clinch his seventh Drivers’ Championship title, the season-ending race could bring an exciting end to the season with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen starting from the pole position ahead of the Mercedes duo.

Long history – Today’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be the 12th FIA Formula One race at Abu Dhabi, all of which have taken place at the modern Yas Marina Circuit. The race first appeared on the calendar in 2009 and has been ever-present since. The race was the season-closing event with the exception of 2011, 2012 and 2013.

A relatively long circuit – The Yas Marina Circuit is a relatively long circuit with a length of 5.554km. Drivers will need to complete a total of 55 laps in order to cover the race distance of 305.355km. There is an offset of 115m between the start and the finish line.

No changes, long pit lane – No significant changes have been made to the track compared to last year. Drivers will need to adhere to a pit lane speed limit of 80kph in the race.

Last year’s record – The lap record belongs to Lewis Hamilton who posted a time of 1m39.83 at last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that was not just the fastest lap of the 2019 race, but the fastest ever race lap around the Yas Marina Circuit.

Difficult for overtaking – The Yas Marina Circuit is notoriously difficult for overtaking. There will be two DRS zones to help drivers to execute an overtaking manoeuvre in today’s race. 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 point is located 165m after Turn 9.

The most successful – Lewis Hamilton holds the record for most wins at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Briton has scored five wins in total and has only lost out two times since the hybrid power units were introduced in 2014. Sebastian Vettel is the second most successful driver around the Yas Marina Circuit with three wins to his name. The only other winners are Kimi Räikkönen, Valtteri Bottas and Nico Rosberg.

Only two teams – Mercedes and Red Bull are the only repeat winners at Abu Dhabi. The Anglo-German outfit has won on six occassions, all of which were recorded in the hybrid era. The energy drink-owned team won on three occasions, in courtesy of Sebastian Vettel. Lotus and McLaren have won on a single occasion.

Important milestone – Formula One’s sole American team, the Haas F1 Team will complete its 100th race in the sport. Haas joined the pinnacle of motorsport at the 2016 Australian Grand Prix. Renault will also celebrate an important milestone today with the French team completing its 400th race as a works team.

Stewards – Garry Connelly, Achim Loth, Mika Salo and Mohamed Alhsahimi will act as stewards at today’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

New gearboxes - Five drivers will complete the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with a fresh gearbox. After failing to finish the previous race at Sakhir, Red Bull gave a new gearbox to Max Verstappen while Alexander Albon, Carlos Sainz, Daniil Kvyat and Nicholas Latifi will also race with a new unit. The latter drivers used their previous gearbox for six consecutive events which means that they are allowed to use a fresh one which is in conformity with Article 23.5a of the 2020 Formula One Sporting Regulations.

Penalties – Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen will start today’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from the back of the grid after both were handed grid penalties for taking fresh power unit components.The Dane driver uses his third energy store and control electronics this weekend with only two units permitted for the entire season. Following his touching win at last weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix, Sergio Perez will complete his last race with Racing Point with a fresh internal combustion engine, fourth turbocharger and fourth motor generator unit – heat with all changes exceeding the allocation.

The softest end of the range - Pirelli allocated teams with the three softest compounds in its 2020 tyre range. That is only the second time this year that drivers use the softest trio of tyres at a race weekend. The slick front tyres are required to have a minimum starting pressure of 23.0 while the rears 20.0. For the fronts, the camber limit is -3.75° while that is -2.00° for the rears.

One stop – Tyre wear was quite high on the soft compound, but the medium and the hard compounds have shown good durability over the weekend. This, combined with the fact that Abu Dhabi is known as a track where overtaking is very difficult, will definitely propel teams and drivers to complete the race distance with a single-stop strategy.

Pirelli estimates that the optimal race strategy for the 55-lap Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is a one-stopper, starting on the P Zero Yellow medium for 18 laps and moving onto P Zero White hard for 37 laps (or vice-versa). It’s also possible to do a one-stopper starting on the P Zero Red soft for 14 laps and then going onto the hard for 41 laps, but this is slightly slower in terms of overall race time.

The Milan-based tyre manufacturer thinks that a two-stopper is definitely slower. Should someone go for that, the best way to do it would be two soft stints of 12 laps each, plus one 31-lap hard stint.

One-off helmets – Charles Leclerc will race today with a special helmet design with which he pays tribute to his Ferrari team mate Vettel. The new design features the message "Danke, Seb" on the dome and includes images of Vettel and Leclerc. Vettel himself will complete his last race for Scuderia Ferrari with a helmet that has a chrome, glittery dome and features the message 'grazie ragazzi'.

After returning to Williams for the Abu Dhabi race, George Russell will also race today with a special design with which he pays tribute to the team's founder Frank Williams and former Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams. The design includes all nine of the team's constructors' championship-winning cars on the top of the helmet.

Red Bull's Alex Albon has opted for a cartoonish design for his final race of 2020 while McLaren’s Lando Norris will race with a paint-flecked design today.

The children-designed helmet – Ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Romain Grosjean revealed a special helmet design with which he planned to complete his last race with the Haas F1 Team. The helmet was designed by his three children Sacha, Simon and Camille, but the Frenchman will not be able to use this special design as he decided against taking part in the season-closing race and concentrate on his recovery instead.