PRIXVIEW – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Features

The final race of 2020 sees Formula One head literally into the sunset after one of the most exciting and strangest seasons in its history. Two weeks later than planned the Yas Marina Circuit once again hosts the closing race of the season as the sunsets around the gulf.

Abu Dhabi joined the calendar in 2009, the 3.4-mile circuit winds its way around an island built for entertainment with the circuit taking in many of the main sites Ferrari World which sits at the hairpin. The race has always been run as a day-night race starting at 13:00GMT which is 17:00 local when the sun begins to set around Abu Dhabi.

This means that set up for the daytime session is a bit irrelevant and leaves the teams with just a ninety-minute FP2 session to do most of the setup work. All drivers are likely to do more running during the evening session when the temperatures drop as that is when both qualifying and the race take

The circuit is one which has a mixture of flowing corners and straights, however, the circuit isn’t one where overtaking is easy. Also, some of the corners are not easy to attempt overtakes, mainly ninety-degree corners and chicanes. Yas Marina requires high downforce as well as straight-line speed.

Yas Marina is a circuit which has largely been dominated by the constructor’s champion of that year, with Mercedes winning the last six races. Red Bull also won two of the four seasons they were champions.

It’s also been a good circuit for Lewis Hamilton, the Englishman has taken five wins. When Abu Dhabi made its debut the seven-times champion took pole and lead most of the first half of the race before retiring on lap eighteen due to a brake failure or faulty data logger. Sebastian Vettel then took the lead and went on easily to secure a seventeen-second win.

Yas Marina’s first sector is one which fast flowing corners after the first corner, flowed by a huge breaking point for the five-six chicane. Following the hairpin, drivers head onto the long 1.2km back straight which can create drag before the chicane at the end of the straight.

After a short straight the circuit enters a street style section as it rounds the harbour and goes under the iconic Yas Hotel. The hotel provides one of the iconic images of the circuit especially the LED lighting system that illuminates all 5,389 glass elements individually, with a system that changes the colour and brightness of each glass pane 20 times per second.

The 2010 title decider is one of the most memorable four drivers Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber and Vettel, went into that race mathematically able to take the championship. Vettel took pole which meant it was up to Webber and Alonso had it all to do, when the German converted pole into a lead.

Both Webber and Alonso dropped down the order, while Vettel built a ten second lead over Hamilton. Hamilton needed Vettel to retire and victory to secure his second title, with the closing stages Alonso and Webber dropped to seventh and eighth. That didn’t happen allowing Vettel to become the youngest champion.

The penultimate race of 2011 season saw Vettel retire, he had already wrapped up his second driver’s title in India. It denied him a chance to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of thirteen wins in one season. Kimi Raikkonen took victory the following season after Vettel was excluded from qualifying, it allowed the title race to continue to Interlagos.

2013 saw Vettel take his seventh in a row and with victory at Interlagos and Austin that allowed the German to set the record for consecutive race wins and also marked the 100th podium for Red Bull. Vettel’s teammate Mark Webber was second in his final race.

2014 one of many races in the region billed as ‘the dual in the desert’ saw Rosberg and Hamilton go head-to-head for the driver’s title. However, it turned into a easy procession for the Englishman, after Rosberg developed an ERS issue and dropped 7.1 seconds behind Hamilton, before being pushed down to fourteenth by the end of the race. It didn’t matter as Hamilton was guaranteed the title with victory.

Rosberg would lay the foundations for his 2016 title win the following year, winning the 2015 race after taking a sixth consecutive pole position. Hamilton had been slow away at the start, by lap sixteen Rosberg built his lead to six seconds, Hamilton then reduced to under two around the halfway stage. Hamilton proved unable to reach his teammate, who took the chequered flag for his sixth win of the season.

Hamilton was on the back foot going into the 2016 decider, Rosberg could finishing on the podium and still be champion. That was exactly what happened, the Englishman won the race, but Rosberg was second despite Hamilton trying had to push the German into a position where he could have been overtaken by Vettel and Max Verstappen.

Mercedes have arrived in Abu Dhabi every season since with the drivers and constructors decided. Yas Marina has been a circuit which suits high speed and downforce, Bottas took victory in 2017 with Hamilton winning the last two races. They are the favourites as it’s a circuit with long straights and high downforce.

Facts and figures

Round 18
Race Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2020
Venue Grand Prix Circuit, Yas Marina Circuit, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Circuit Length 5.554km (3.451 mi)
Laps 55
Race Distance 305.355 km (189.739 mi)
Lap Record 01:39.283 (Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 2019)
Most wins drivers Lewis Hamilton (5)
Most wins manufacture Mercedes (6)

Fast facts

  • Yas Marina Circuit is the largest permanent sports venue lighting project in the world; previously that title was held by Losail International Circuit in Qatar.
  • The drivers are on full power for 69% of a lap at Yas Marina, including over 14 seconds on the back straight (the longest straight inF1). Drivers make an average of 68 gear changes per lap or 3740 gear changes over the full 55-lap race distance.
  • The pitlane exit is the only underground one on the calendar. After leaving the pits, the drivers descend into a tunnel that turns 90 degrees left and runs underneath the track after Turn 1.
  • The thicker blue lines around the circuit between white lines was chosen because it matches the colour of the water in the marina.
  • The race is the only one on a normal F1 calendar to be named after the city its in Abu Dhabi, rather than the country it is in the United Arab Emirates.

Event timetable

Session

Local

GMT

Friday

P1 13:00-14:30 09:00-10:30
P2 17:00-18:30 13:00-14:30

Saturday

P3 14:00-15:00 10:00-11:00
Qualifying 17:00-18:00 13:00-14:00

Sunday

Race 17:10 13:10

What happened in 2019?

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas maintained Mercedes status as the team to beat in Abu Dhabi locking out the front row. Hamilton improved by a few hundredths off that time on the second run to post a 34.779, to consolidate his position at the top of the timesheets.

Max Verstappen started alongside the six-time champion, thanks to a back-of-the-grid penalty for power unit changes for Bottas. Charles Leclerc accused teammate Sebastian Vettel of holding him up on his final run in Q3, the team admitted they had “screwed up” as they tried to maximise track conditions.

Norris won a very tight battle with engine supplier Renault to put his McLaren seventh. He was two-hundredths faster than Ricciardo, who himself was just three-hundredths ahead of the second McLaren of Sainz.

Hamilton continued his strong weekend to build a sixteen second lead over his teammate Bottas by the end of the race. Despite being champion he hadn’t taken victory since Budapest, and he took a sixth career Grand Slam, with Hamilton untouchable when it mattered all weekend.

Verstappen also delivered a strong race, despite losing out early on to Leclerc a long first stint proved key and a bold move allowed him to gain second later in the race.

Leclerc tried to go late on the brakes around the outside at the end of the straight but was able to hold him off. That then allowed the Dutchman to follow Hamilton into the sunset a take second by twenty-six seconds.

It was an interesting battle between Red Bull and Ferrari, Leclerc tried to undercut Verstappen on lap twelve. But the Dutchman emerged ahead of him. Leclerc made a second stop after regaining the position on lap thirty, but Verstappen retook the position.

An extremely good race from Bottas could see him take third as Leclerc went into the race with an investigation over him for a “significant” pre-race fuel declaration discrepancy.

Race Result – 1) L. Hamilton, Mercedes, 01:34:05.715, 2) M. Verstappen, Red Bull – Honda, +16.772, 3) C. Leclerc, Ferrari, +43.435

What to watch for?

Abu Dhabi is a race which Mercedes have dominated since the beginning of the turbo-hybrid era, and with that car, they are likely to be the favourites given the layout of the circuit. If Lewis Hamilton is able to drive Valtteri Bottas has beaten him once, or following last weekend’s race will George Russell get another chance?

If we still have the same driver line ups as Sakhir, it will be interesting to see how Russell, Jack Aitken, Pietro Fittipaldi approach this weekend with their new teams. It could be possible as Haas hasn’t announced Fittipaldi as racing, Mick Schumacher makes his practice debut and said he is prepared to race for Haas. Aitken will I think will race for Williams if Hamilton is still unwell.

Yas Island is a circuit which has high-speed corners and straights, but the final sector is one which is a street style circuit. Over the last few years, we have the Mercedes strong in the first two sectors with Red Bull and others could be closer in the harbour/hotel section.

Like in Bahrain the FP1 and FP3 session are not important as these take place in the afternoon when we know it cools down in the evening. The teams need to remember this, last weekend proved unpredictable the championship is still close for third in the constructors as Sergio Perez’s win in Sakhir was a big boost for the team in the constructors, but there are just twenty-two points between Racing Point, McLaren and Renault.

These teams will be pushing hard, but it can be difficult to overtake and we have seen drivers lose championships because they have got stuck behind slower cars. Traffic will not be as big an issue as in Sakhir, but it can be an issue in the final sector.

2018 vs 2019 Race Data

P1 Fastest

P2 Fastest

P3 Fastest

Q1 Fastest

Q2 Fastest

Q3 Fastest

Race Time

Fastest Lap

2019

01:36.957 01:36.256 01:36.566 01:35.851 01:35.543 01:34.778 01:34:05.715 01:39.283

Diff

-1.534 -0.980 -0.610 -0.924 -0.410 -0.016 -05:35.333 01:01.625

2018

01:38.491 01:37.236 01:37.176 01:36.775 01:35.693 01:34.794 01:39:40.382 01:40.867

A lap of … Yas Marina

Valtteri Bottas come out of the final corner goes to the outside as the crosses the start line, gets up to eighth gear before breaking about 100m before Turn One. Crosses the track gets close to the apex of the corner, runs to the outside. He builds speed as he enters Two stays around the 274kph through Three and four.

Big stop as he enters the chicane at five and six. Good entry and exit runs close to the inside before crossing the track to the outside on the way into the hairpin. Runs around the apex, and straight across the track to the outside. Builds speed in eighth gear opening the DRS on this long run to eight. He breaks about 125m before eight hits the apex as he does at nine. Goes to the inside opening up the car through the kink at ten, breaks into eleven.

Takes the corner at 98kph in third gear, then through twelve and thirteen. Through the ninety degree fourteen runs to the outside then build the speed as he goes through fifteen and sixteen before a huge breaking point for seventeen. Good through the ninety-degree corner, as he does the same for eighteen and nineteen then to the outside before back to the inside for twenty. Good through twenty-one going to the outside and across the line with a 01:36.231

Tyres

White Hard (C3)

Yellow Medium (C4)

Red Soft (C5)

2 3

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Jack

Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.