PRIXVIEW – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Features Prixview

The sunsets on the 2021 season with the final day-night race at the newly refigured Yas Marina Circuit. Since joining the calendar, apart from 2011-12, the race thirty minutes from the capital of the United Arab Emeries has been the traditional season closer as the sunsets on the season.

This weekend is just the second time after the 1974 season that two drivers have gone down to the wire tied on points. Leading to another classic sunset race in Abu Dhabi, but adding a further twist we have a revised circuit with new corners designed to

The circuit which joined the calendar in 2009 is not known for overtaking but organisers are hoping that the re-profiled hairpin at Turn Five, and the replacement of the stop-start Turns Eleven to Fourteen with a new sweeping banked kerb will improve overtaking.

Organisers are hoping that the new Turn Nine is like the final corner of Zandvoort, in along cars to get a long side and try to overtake as they enter the street style start-stop nature harbour/hotel final sector. Although the full effects of these changes may not be clear until next year’s regulation changes.

Since the beginning of the hybrid era, this race has been dominated by Mercedes making the circuit one where power is very important that’s thanks to the effective two straights between Five and Nine. That is only broken up by two ninety-degree corners at Six and Seven.

Like Lusail, Sakhir and Jeddah the track surface is made up of graywacke aggregate, shipped to Abu Dhabi from a Bayston Hill quarry in Shropshire, England. The surface material is highly acclaimed by circuit bosses and Formula One drivers for the high level of grip it offers, as well as withstanding the hot summers in the region.

Yas Marina is a circuit which seems to suit cars that perform well with long straights, but yet on the old configuration, the stop start nature of the final sector has been changed meaning it’s no longer about good stopping acceleration into the ninety-degree corners.

Red Bull could go into this weekends race giving Mercedes their biggest challenge on Yas Island in the hybrid era, if there’s one lesson from this season is nothing is guaranteed and we should expect surprises.

The circuit made its debut in 2009, where Sebastian Vettel took victory. But the most memorable race in Abu Dhabi was the following year, Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton all headed to the race to decide the championship.

The four-way title fight saw Vettel take back to back wins, with his victory with his three other rivals finishing out of position they needed to be in. the German was the outsider but with Alonso and Webber stuck in traffic and Hamilton not winning the race, Vettel became the youngest ever champion with a four-point lead over the Spaniard,

Vettel had already wrapped up the title the following season, however, it was a disaster for the world champion. He was forced to retire from the race with a puncher on the opening lap which stopped him equalling Michael Schumacher’s record of thirteen wins in one season, but Vettel did beat Nigel Mansell’s 1992 then record of fourteen pole positions in one season.

But Vettel’s third place in 2012 to beat Alonso was remarkable, the Red Bull driver had been excluded from qualifying and worked his way up to third to secure his third world title. That race saw Kimi Raikkonen’s first win for Lotus and his first since returning to F1.

Vettel had already wrapped up his title in 2013, and on the opening lap he overtook teammate Mark Webber before holding him up to take victory.

The 2014 race saw a Mercedes fight the first of two showdowns in Abu Dhabi, however that race soon unravelled as Nico Rosberg suffered issues during the race and dropped out of the points. Since the beginning of the hybrid era, this race has been dominated by Mercedes.

Rosberg would arguably lay the foundations of his 2016 title the following season, he took his third back-to-back win after Hamilton wrapped his third title up in Austin. The German went into the race with the title race in his own hands, he only needed to finish on the podium.

Hamilton did his best to back his teammate into Vettel in an attempt to try and get the Ferrari driver, as well as Max Verstappen, to overtake thus pushing him off the podium allowing him to claim another title, that failed, and Rosberg took his only championship before retiring.

Hamilton’s new teammate Valtteri Bottas took victory the following year from pole with his teammate controlling much of the race to take victory. Although the Englishman did manage to briefly take the lead, the Finn retook the lead following the pitstops and in the closing stages the top eight, excluding Ricciardo finishing in the order they started.

Hamilton returned to the top step of the podium in 2018 winning the race from pole position. There was a dramatic incident between Romain Grosjean and Nico Hulkenberg on the opening lap, the German barrel rolling into the barrier. Apart from the opening lap incident the race proved largely uneventful.

Mercedes domination continued the following season with the Englishman taking his fifth victory in Abu Dhabi, again the opening lap drama was behind, with Lance Stroll making contact with Pierre Gasly dropping them all towards the back. Bottas meanwhile made progress gaining five places on the opening lap.

Having also led every lap, taken pole position and recorded the fastest lap of the race, this marked Hamilton’s sixth “grand slam”, his last of which came at the 2017 British Grand Prix.

Last year, Max Verstappen broke the Mercedes stranglehold on Yas Island in the hybrid era beating both Hamilton and Bottas to pole before going on to take victory, Red Bull’s first in Abu Dhabi in the hybrid era.

Facts and figures

Round 22 of 22
Race Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2021
Venue Yas Marina Circuit, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Configuration 2021 Grand Prix
Circuit Length 5.281km (3.281mi)
Laps 58
Race Distance 306.183 km (190.253 mi)
Lap Record N/A
Most wins drivers Sir Lewis Hamilton (5)
Most wins manufacture Mercedes (6)

Fast facts

  • Ferrari World Abu Dhabi has the fastest roller coaster in the world. It is situated at the hairpin. Ferrari World is also the largest indoor theme park in the world.
  • Including built-up urban areas surrounding the city core, Abu Dhabi has a land area of 310 square miles (803 square kilometres) which served as home to an estimated 1.7 million inhabitants in 2015.
  • The drivers are on full power for 69% of a lap at Yas Marina, including over 14 seconds on the back straight (one of the longest straights in Formula 1). Drivers make an average of 68 gear changes per lap or 3740 gear changes over the full 55-lap race distance.
  • Red Bull have never failed to get both of their cars through to the final part of qualifying on all their appearances at the Yas Marina Circuit.
  • In three of the first four Abu Dhabi Grands Prix, the polesitter failed to finish the race. In the last six years, the polesitter has never failed to win.
  • Until the addition of Doha this year Abu Dhabi was the only twilight race. The race normally starts around 30 minutes before the sun sets, though the circuit’s floodlights are illuminated for the duration of the race.

Event timetable

Session

Local

GMT

Friday

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

Saturday

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

Sunday

Race 17:00 13:00

What happened in 2020?

Max Verstappen beat Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton by two-hundredths of a second, despite the dominance all season and at Yas Island since 2014 it marked the first time in the hybrid era that Mercedes had been out-qualified in Abu Dhabi. It was also Hamilton’s worst qualifying of the season.

Until Q3 it looked as if Verstappen didn’t have enough, but that soon changed, the Red Bull driver soon spilt the Mercedes but was a tenth and a half behind Hamilton. The Dutchman then had enough on his final run to take pole for the first time since Interlagos last year.

Lando Norris had his best qualifying since the opening race of the season, he put his McLaren fourth and was only a quarter of a second behind Verstappen. The Englishman was seven hundredths faster than the second McLaren of Carlos Sainz.

Verstappen went on to dominate and control the race from the start as Mercedes looked not to have the same pace following a safety car. Bottas finished second ahead of Hamilton, during the closing stages the world champion struggled to get close enough.

Race Result – 1) M. Verstappen, Red Bull – Honda, 01:36:28.645, 2) V. Bottas, Mercedes, +15.976, 3) L. Hamilton, Mercedes, +18.415

Title Maths

  • With the championship tied on 369.5 who ever finishes highest wins the championship.
  • However, if neither finish Max Verstappen would win the title based on having more second places.

What to watch for?

Since 2014 until last year this has been a stranglehold for Mercedes that is because the circuit is about high downforce and straight-line speed. We have been saying all season to expect the unexpected and you need to think that Red Bull are going to be good fighting with Mercedes.

This is championship decider, we know Yas Marina is a difficult circuit to overtake but there is hope that the improvements to the final sector can improve overtaking. Red Bull took a surprise victory here last year, admittedly Hamilton wasn’t at his

In a season with so many different twists and turns you don’t know what is going to happen, but we can expect drama, a race I think we’re going to see a race full of intrigue and drama. Both teams need to be on the top of their game as one mistake can decide this championship.

I think its going to be another about fine margins, Mercedes if they continue to see the shift in Jeddah are likely to be the favourites given the records they have in Abu Dhabi. I think this is a circuit which you need to attack the corners with a mixture of ninety-degree and sweeping corners, there are also hard stops going at the end of the straights.

The final sector around the marina and hotel is street circuit style which could make following difficult, but you need to wonder if the new sweeping banked Turn Nine will allow cars to get alongside each other and to overtake. But you need to think that we won’t see the full impact of these changes until next years regulation change.

While the focus will be on the drivers and constructors championship, there remains an interesting battle between McLaren and Ferrari, well Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris for fifth in the drivers. The constructors have been settled, by you still need to think they will still be fighting hard for best of the rest.

I think McLaren have slipped back a bit in this latter part of the season, Leclerc and Norris are separated by four points, Norris in my view has been the stronger over the whole season, but in the latter races Ferrari has in my view been stronger. But anything can happen.

2020 vs 2019 Race Data

P1 Fastest

P2 Fastest

P3 Fastest

Q1 Fastest

Q2 Fastest

Q3 Fastest

Race Time

Fastest Lap

2020

01:37.378 01:36.276 01:36.251 01:35.528 01:35.527 01:35.246 01:36:28.645 01:40.926

Diff

-0.421 +0.020 -0.315 -0.323 -0.016 +0.468 +02:22.130 +1.643

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

2009-20 Grand Prix Circuit

Tyres

White Hard (C3)

Yellow Medium (C4)

Red Soft (C5)

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.