Did You Know? F1 History, Stats & Facts: Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi GP

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‘Know Your F1 Circuit’ is a new series launched on my F1 blog. The posts under this series will be penned by Saumil Patel, an avid fan of the sport. You can follow the full series throughout the season by using the Know Your F1 Circuit’ tag. This post focuses on the F1 facts, history & stats of the ‘Yas Marina Circuit’ in Abu Dhabi – a circuit that pays extra to host the season finale race every year.

The Yas Marina Circuit is located on Yas Island, a twenty-five kilometers square leisure Island built to promote tourism in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Year round it is packed with theatrical performances, concerts and sporting events besides the breathtaking attractions waiting to be discovered. Some of the popular attractions are Ferrari World, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, CLYMB Abu Dhabi, Warner Bros. World, Yas Waterworld and the Yas Marina Circuit.

Getting to the circuit is a breeze from the Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) which is at a distance of 10 km, (14-minute drive) Dubai International Airport (DXB) is a bit further at a distance of 113 km (1 hr. 10-minute drive).

Did You Know?
  • Built on a man-made island
  • More than 1.3 billion dollars were spent constructing the most technologically-advanced circuit on the Formula 1 calendar
  • Has six different circuit configurations
  • Only circuit to have a hotel (Yas Viceroy Hotel) straddle over the track
  • World’s only covered grandstand seating for 50,000 spectators
  • First to hold a night race, technically a twilight race
  • Second longest straight (1140m) after Shanghai (1170m)
  • 70 garages
  • Tunnel forms a part of the pit lane exit
  • 69% of the lap taken at full power
  • Red Bull has a 100% qualifying record
  • The national carrier, Etihad is the main sponsor
  • Pole sitters have won this race for the last 6 years
  • Kimi Raikkonen comment on the circuit “The first few turns are quite good, but the rest of it is shit.”

History:

Abu Dhabi hosted the first Formula 1 Festival gratis in February 2007, showcasing the largest congregation of Formula 1 cars and drivers outside of a Grand Prix. During the festival it was announced that Abu Dhabi was officially on the Formula 1 calendar and would host Grand Prixes from 2009 until 2016.

Developers Aldar Properties appointed Tilke Engineers & Architects to design the circuit layout. Work on the construction commenced in May 2007. Cebarco-WCT WLL, a Bahrain based construction company. was appointed lead contractor and was supported by many reputed multi-national sub-contractors.

Greywacke aggregate (a hard, dark colored sandstone variety with angular grains of quartz, feldspar and lithic fragments set in a clay-fine matrix) which offers a high level of grip was imported from England and laid on the track surface.

Musco Lighting engineered and installed the permanent lighting system for Yas Marina Circuit which is similar to the lighting system used at Losail. A grand total of US$ 1.32 billion were invested in constructing the circuit and infrastructure.

2009 – 2020 

On 31st October 2009, a two-day GP2 Asia Series was held to validate the safety and functionality of the circuit before the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The inaugural Grand Prix was flagged off on 1st November 2009, 5PM local time under the floodlights, ensuring a seamless transition during twilight (Technically making it a day – night race). Sebastian Vettel won the race while his Red Bull teammate Mark Webber trailed in second.

The 2010 race saw a Safety Car deployment on the first lap when Michael Schumacher spun 180⁰ on corner six causing oncoming Vitantonio Liuzzi to make contact, effectively retiring both drivers. Sebastian Vettel won the race comfortably, his second at the Yas Marina circuit making him the youngest-ever Formula 1 World Champion (at that time).

Sebastian Vettel started the 2011 race from pole position and looked good for his third consecutive win, unfortunately he was forced to retire with a puncture in the first lap. Lewis Hamilton who started second on the grid went on to win effortlessly.

The 2012 race had its moments, wheel to wheel racing, incidents, crashes and multiple Safety Car deployments.

Seven (4 collision – 3 mechanical) of the twenty-four cars were retired, including front runner Lewis Hamilton on lap 20 with a fuel pump failure. Kimi Räikkönen who started fourth on the grid won the race, Fernando Alonso finished second from P6.

From the beginning itself, the 2013 race was a contest between the podium finishers. Sebastian Vettel won the race leading all laps after the first corner. Starting from P2, he edged out his team mate Mark Webber (started P1) who finished second. Nico Rosberg maintained his position and came in third. Red Bull finished 1 – 2.

Post the qualifying session in 2014, both Red Bull drivers had their timings disqualified after their front wings were found to flex under an aerodynamic load in violation of the regulations which prohibited movable aerodynamic devices. Both the drivers had to start the race at the bottom of the grid. Lewis Hamilton cruised to victory. Felipe Massa came second and Valtteri Bottas was third, giving Williams their first double podium since the 2005 Monaco Grand Prix.

The 2015 race results mirrored the qualifying race results. Nico Rosberg won, Lewis Hamilton trailed second and Kimi Räikkönen came third. Mercedes finished 1 – 2.

Mercedes once again finished 1 – 2 on the podium in the 2016 race, Lewis Hamilton first, Nico Rosberg second and Sebastian Vettel third.

Valtteri Bottas started from pole position and dominated the 2017 race till the very end, he also set the fastest lap time. His teammate Lewis Hamilton crossed the line in second place after 3.899 seconds. Sebastian Vettel came third. Mercedes finished another 1 – 2.

The 2018 race saw the Safety Car deployed into the first lap when Nico Hülkenberg’s rear right made contact with Romain Grosjean’s front left on turn 9, flipping Hulkenberg’s car and sending it crashing into the barriers. Lewis Hamilton won the race; Sebastian Vettel was second and Max Verstappen was third.

The 2019 race was a display of Lewis Hamilton’s sublime skills. He took pole position, recorded the fastest lap and won the race with a 16.77s lead between him and second placed Max Verstappen. Charles Leclerc was third on the podium.

The 2020 race was dominated by Max Verstappen starting from pole, he led every race lap, winning with a lead of 15.976s over second placed Valtteri Bottas. Lewis Hamilton came third.

The Yas Marina Circuit:

The original 5.554 km long design of the circuit (2009 -2020) featured 21 corners, (an extremely tight hairpin 180⁰ left hander and quite a few sharp 90⁰ corners) a full throttle 1.14 kms long straight and a shorter fast half kilometer straight making it a technically challenging circuit with 68 gear changes per lap. What the circuit lacked was overtaking opportunities and competitive wheel to wheel racing making it an unexciting experience for the drivers and spectators. This is best reflected by past race results.

The last two races were won by the three frontline qualifiers in their respective chronology and on most recent occasions the podium has featured drivers starting from the front rows of the grid. Responding to the criticism the circuit has undergone major reconfiguration. Currently, the length is reduced to 5.281 kms featuring sixteen corners and couple of straights. The circuit is a medium grip surface and cars will run with high downforce mated with an efficient aero package for tackling the corners without compromising the straight-line speeds.

2021 Key Circuit Design Enhancements:

To achieve the objectives the track needed to be widened and average track speeds increased. Three key sections were modified. The North Hairpin, South Marina and Hotel section.

The North Hairpin:

Originally corners five and six chicanes were installed to ensure speed reduction before entering the 180° left hand hairpin, which it successfully did but unwittingly created a single file of cars with absolutely no overtaking possibilities. On the flip side, the freed-up run-off area was used as prime spectator seating area.

In the current layout, this sector has received the most important modifications. The original corner five and six chicanes have been removed adding more run-offs making it safer. The former corner seven (180° left hand hairpin) has been widened to a 20-meter width and is represented by the current corner five, a fast twenty-meter-wide corner which can be entered at high speeds and exited full throttle onto the long straight, achieving higher speeds, wheel to wheel racing and overtaking opportunities.

The Marsa Corner:

Originally called the South Marina comprised of elevated corners eleven, twelve, thirteen and fourteen a sequence of tight and slow speed corners which were slow and boring at best.

In the current layout, they have been replaced with corner nine, a banked, sweeping left hander which can be entered and exited at significantly higher speeds. Former corners fifteen and sixteen have been realigned along with the widening of corner seventeen which will make this sector spectacularly fast with overtaking opportunities entering into the third sector.

The Hotel Corner:

Originally the sequence of corners seventeen, eighteen, nineteen and twenty which passed melodramatically under the Yas Viceroy Hotel were slow corners where the cars ran in a tight single file. The negative camber resulted in sliding and increased tyre temperatures and degradation.

In the current layout, the insides of this sequence of corners have been opened to minimize sliding, tyre degradation and the concertina effect (happens on corners when a trailing car temporarily closes on the car ahead going into the corner because it’s not braking, the effect is reversed when the leading car exits the corner accelerating away from the car behind it opening up a gap). Overtaking still remains unlikely, but better speeds are assured.

  • Circuit Certification: Grade 1
  • Circuit Classification: Permanent Circuit
  • Circuit Direction: Anti-Clockwise
  • Pole Position: Right-hand side of the track
  • Circuit Length: 5.281 km
  • Race Distance: 306.183 km
  • No. of Laps: 58
  • Distance To Turn One: 305 m
  • Longest Flat-Out: 1140 m
  • Number of Corners: 16 – (6 right & 10 left)
  • DRS Zones: 2 – (after corners 5 & 8)
  • Track Deviation: 10.7 m
  • Downforce level: *High
  • Fuel Use Per Lap: *1.42 kg
  • Pit Lane Time Loss: *22s
  • Fastest Race Lap Record: 1:39.283 Lewis Hamilton, 2019 – Mercedes-AMG F1 W10 EQ Power+
  • Fastest Lap Record: *1:34.8 Lewis Hamilton, 2019 – Mercedes-AMG F1 W10 EQ Power+
  • Inaugurated: 2009
  • Most wins – Drivers: *Lewis Hamilton – 5 (2011, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2019)
  • Most wins – Constructors: *Mercedes – 6 (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)

* 2009 – 2021 

Strategy:

The updated circuit will be faster (stimulation data suggests that a lap will be 10s faster) and will provide for more overtaking opportunities. Teams go into the race with the C3 – hard, C4 – medium, and C5 – soft tyres. Cornering at faster speeds will subject the tyres (especially front tyres) to more vertical loads and higher temperatures but tyre wear and degradation should not be a cause for concern as the surface is smooth with medium strength abrasive asphalt. Medium to hard, one-stopper will be the strategy teams will consider unless tyre wear and degradation forces them into a two-stopper or if there is a safety car incident.

Matrixes to consider for the car setup:

  1. Aerodynamics – two straights and 16 corners require a planted rear without compromising straight line speeds.
  2. Transmission – On throttle differential and off throttle differential set to allow quick exit out of corners and good rotation into the corners.
  3. Brakes – Pressure and bias tuned for adequate stopping power without locking up.

What a way to end the season! Everyone’s on a knife’s edge. No matter who you hoot for, the house wins with all the hysteria and attention it has attracted this season.

Lewis Hamilton is favourite to win at Abu Dhabi with odds at -225, followed by Verstappen (+220) and Bottas (+1400) as reported by SportsBettingDime.com

Saumil Patel is an avid fan of Formula 1. He aims to take you deeper into the sport by uncovering the lesser read. 

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