As we head towards the end of the 2013 season, the Yas Marina Circuit lays claim to being the only race on the calendar that is truly a “twilight” affair, as the drivers have to find the right balance and compromise that will see them through from sundown to the dark of night.
The 5.554km circuit, which is based just 30 minutes from Abu Dhabi itself on Yas Island, has some eclectic scenery surrounding the 21-turn track, which was designed by renowned circuit designer Herman Tilke, who has had a hand in many of the modern-day facilities we see on the current calendar.
After final approval from the FIA to hold a Formula One event was granted to the track on the 7th October 2009, former Hispania Racing and Williams F1 driver Bruno Senna was the driver to take to the track itself and complete the first test run.
The reviews from the drivers on the grid at that time was incredibly positive, but there was some hesitation about the unique pit lane exit, which is a tunnel that goes under the main start/finish straight and could potentially catch someone out at the very least.
There have been some fantastic moments since its inclusion into Formula One since 2009, which includes Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel picking up his first title in 2010. This was before that magical phrase “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing,” was uttered by the returning Kimi Räikkönen, who won for the first time with Lotus last year after his 2-year stint in the WRC.
With a capacity of 50,000 and five grandstands, it is a new but emerging circuit that many trek thousands of miles to go to watch Formula One, but with the added attraction of Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, which has one of the fastest rollercoasters around, a water park and some beautiful desert scenery, it makes it a wonderful place to visit and to see some good racing.
Track Length: 5.554km
Race first appearance: 2009
Most wins: Sebastian Vettel (2009 and 2010)
2012 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton
2012 Race Winner: Kimi Räikkönen
2012 Fastest Lap: Sebastian Vettel (1:43.964)
Flying Lap of the Yas Marina Circuit
From the start/finish straight, it is a relatively short run down to turn 1, where the drivers experience up to 3.4 times the force of gravity around the left hander, which sees precision as the key to get a good exit, before the engines wind up and the speed increases on the first uphill part of the track, sweeping around turn 2 in 5th gear at around 215 km/h, as the drivers keep the throttle planted throughout the high-speed first sector.
The sequence continues through turns 3 and 4, reaching nearly 280 km/h with subtle and smooth changes of direction, before the run downhill towards the stadium-style section starting at turns 5 and 6. This part requires braking at the right moment to get the car turned in on the apex as the left/right combination leads into one of the slowest points on the circuit, as the 70 km/h turn 7 hairpin requires the proper control to be able to put the power down onto the long back straight.
After just over a kilometer, more hard braking is required, as the left/right chicane at turns 8 and 9 require further precision to achieve another good exit on the run down to turns 10 and 11, which along with the back straight, is one of the DRS zones in use this coming weekend that will provide optimum overtaking possibilities for the drivers fighting it out for position.
Another left/right/left chicane complex keeps the drivers on their toes after more use of the accelerator, before entering the final section, that provides the drivers, teams and cars with a technical challenge, where set up is key to minimize any lost time along the way. Turns 15 and 16 are a double right-hand combination, where the drivers push the cars up to around 265 km/h before turns 17, 18 and 19 bring the speed down around the hotel, which changes its lighting display as the race progresses.
It’s a short blast up to turn 20, taken at nearly 200 km/h, before the drivers either have to slow to enter the pit lane for a routine stop, or tightly turn the car into the final 3rd gear right hander, before putting the power down and heading back over the start/finish line to start another lap.
Challenges for the drivers will include the optimal managing of both the soft and medium compound tyres, as the track’s ambient temperature will decrease as the night comes in and be on a par with the heat from the asphalt. Pirelli have said that with the characteristics of the tyres, the balance of dry-weather compounds will compliment the surface and the strategies that will come into play, no matter the time of day.