The Big Preview: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit

After a decisive Indian Grand Prix, Formula 1 makes the short trip to the United Arab Emirates. The destination this week is the Yas Marina Circuit, home to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the 17th round of the 2013 FIA Formula 1 World Championship.

F1’s only day-night race presents an interesting challenge to teams and drivers alike, with each sector asking a different set of questions. Sector one features high-speed cornering, then, after the hairpin the two long back straights make for a high-speed, heavy-braking section demanding good traction out of the corners.

Etihad grid girls at the Abu Dhabi GP

Etihad grid girls at the Abu Dhabi GP

Finally, Yas turns into a street circuit with a twisty, low-speed final sector, skirting the perimeter of the yacht basin and diving under the Yas Viceroy hotel. The demands of each sector are far from complimentary, making the best compromise on set-up even more difficult to locate than is usually the case.

Tyre wear may be less of a factor than was the case in India. While Pirelli is bringing the same pairing of Medium and Soft compounds to Yas, this circuit in the past has shown itself to induce less wear than Buddh International.

2012 Abu Dhabi GP podium

2012 Abu Dhabi GP podium

The race does, however, introduce the quirk of a swiftly falling temperature gradient. The rapid transition from day to night in the Gulf state means the race may finish with track temperatures 15° C lower than those experienced in the early laps.

Despite both Championships being mathematically decided last week, the final three races of the season are far from dead rubbers.

The battle for second place in the Constructors’ Championship is intense: thanks to a double-points finish in India, Mercedes moved marginally ahead of Ferrari, while Lotus also made ground. Meanwhile, at the back Marussia and Caterham are scrapping over the all-important tenth spot. There’s much at stake this weekend.

Yas Marina Circuit boasts some iconic features

Yas Marina Circuit boasts some iconic features

Yas Marina Circuit Data

  • Length of lap: 5.554 km
  • Lap record: 1:40.279 (Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing, 2009)
  • Start/finish line offset: 0.115 km
  • Total number of race laps: 55
  • Total race distance: 305.355 km
  • Pitlane speed limits: 80km/h throughout the weekend.

Changes to circuit since 2012

  • Speed bumps similar to those used around the first chicane at Monza have been installed two metres from the track edge around the outside of Turns Eight and 11.

DRS Zones

  • The DRS zones at Yas Marina are on the two back straights. The first zone has a detection point 40m before Turn Seven, with activation 390m after Turn Seven. The second zone’s detection point is 50 m after Turn Nine with activation at the apex of Turn 10.
The only day-night race on the calendar

The only day-night race on the Formula 1 calendar

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Fast Facts

  • Qualifying in pole position at Yas Marina has been a poisoned chalice. The driver in P1 has failed to finish three out of the four Abu Dhabi Grands Prix. In the inaugural race, Lewis Hamilton retired with a brake problem, and again in 2012 after losing fuel pressure. He went further than Sebastian Vettel who led away from pole in 2011 only to suffer a first corner puncture.
  • Kimi Räikkönen’s victory from fourth at last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is the only occasion on which the race has been won from behind the front row. Vettel won from second place in 2009 and from pole in 2010. Hamilton won from second in 2011.
  • Räikkönen’s victory was the first of his return to F1 after a two-year sabbatical. It was the 19th F1 win of his career and the first victory for the Enstone-based team since Fernando Alonso’s win at Fuji in the 2008 Japanese Grand Prix. It was also the first victory for the Lotus name since Ayrton Senna triumphed in 1987 on the streets of Detroit.
  • Räikkönen’s previous grand prix victory came on 30th August 2009 at the Belgian Grand Prix, making his interval between victories 1163 days. That’s less than half the interval of record-holder Riccardo Patrese who went 2403 days between wins at the 1983 South African Grand Prix and 1990 San Marino Grand Prix.
  • When he collects the Drivers’ Championship Trophy at the FIA Gala Prize-Giving in December, Sebastian Vettel will draw level with Alain Prost as a four-time World Champion. He now has only Juan Manuel Fangio (five) and Michael Schumacher (seven) ahead of him. Like Fangio and Schumacher he will have the distinction of four consecutive championships – though neither of the latter pair managed the feat with their first four titles.
  • By virtue of a fourth place for Jenson Button, McLaren set a new record for consecutive races in the points at last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. It was their 56th consecutive score, beating the record previously set by Ferrari. The run, which started at the 2010 Australian Grand Prix, eventually extended to 64 races, halting when Sergio Pérez and Jenson Button finished 11th and 12th at the 2013 Canadian Grand Prix. Ferrari can take the record back this weekend: they pulled level in India thanks to Felipe Massa’s fourth place, having started their latest run at the 2010 German Grand Prix.
  • Last year McLaren, Lotus, Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Sauber and Caterham stayed in Abu Dhabi after the Grand Prix to conduct the Young Drivers’ test. From the 14 drivers that took part, Esteban Gutiérrez and Giedo van der Garde advanced to F1 race seats for 2013. Marussia race driver Max Chilton also made his debut in Abu Dhabi – though he appeared in the first free practice session of the race weekend rather than the test (in which the Anglo-Russian team was not participating).
Fans at the Abu Dhabi GP

Fans at the Abu Dhabi GP

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Statistics by Reuters

  • Vettel won his fourth successive title in India on Sunday, becoming the youngest quadruple champion and first to win his first four titles in a row.
  • He is the third driver to win four consecutively, the others being Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio and Germany’s Michael Schumacher.
  • Vettel is one of just four quadruple champions, joining Fangio, Schumacher and Frenchman Alain Prost.
  • Red Bull took the constructors’ crown for the fourth year in a row, becoming only the third team to perform that feat after Ferrari and McLaren.
  • Four teams have won the 16 races so far (Lotus, Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes)
  • Vettel has won 10 races in 2013. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Mercedes’s Nico Rosberg have both won twice and Raikkonen and Hamilton once. Vettel has won the last six races.
  • Vettel has 36 career wins, Alonso 32, Hamilton 22, Raikkonen 20 and McLaren’s Jenson Button 15.
  • Ferrari have won 221 races, McLaren 182, Williams 114 and Red Bull 43.
  • Mercedes have been on pole in half the races. Vettel has taken another six and Red Bull team mate Mark Webber one.
  • Caterham and Marussia have yet to score a point after three seasons in F1.
  • Sauber’s Mexican Esteban Gutierrez is the only rookie to have scored a point this season.
  • Vettel (2009 and 2010), Hamilton (2011) and Raikkonen (2012) are the only drivers to have won in Abu Dhabi. They are also the only ones to have started on pole position.
  • Only one of the four Abu Dhabi GPs so far was won from pole position. The driver on pole has failed to finish in three of the four races.
  • Vettel won his 2010 title in Abu Dhabi, becoming the youngest Formula 1 champion at the age of 23.
  • Raikkonen’s victory from fourth place on the grid last year was the first time the winner had started off the front row.
  • Vettel can equal Schumacher’s 2004 run of seven wins in a row this weekend, the best run of success of the modern era. The record of nine was set by Italian Alberto Ascari in 1952-53.
  • Ferrari can set a record for most consecutive points finishes, dating back to the 2010 German Grand Prix. They equalled McLaren’s run of 64 in a row in India last weekend.
The Viceroy Hotel is a landmark at Yas Marina Circuit

The Viceroy Hotel is a landmark at Yas Marina Circuit

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Race Stewards

  • Lars Österlind is a highly experienced FIA steward who has officiated at more than 100 grands prix and a similar number of World Rally Championship rounds. A social sciences graduate and lifelong motor sport enthusiast, Österlind was President of the Swedish Rally Commission from 1978-1982, then President of the Swedish Automobile Sport Federation from 1982-1996. He became Honorary President in 1996 and has been a member of the FIA World Council since 1984. Outside motor sport Österlind has specialised in management, working as a consultant and pursuing his own business interests. He is also experienced in local government at city council level.
  • As the son of former McLaren team principal Teddy Mayer, Tim Mayer grew up around motor sport. He organised IndyCar races internationally from 1992-98, aided in the construction of several circuits, and produced international TV for multiple series. In 1998 he became CART’s Senior VP for Racing Operations. He also became VP of ACCUS, the US ASN. In 2003, Mayer became COO of IMSA, operating multiple series at all levels, and also took on the role of COO and Race Director of the American Le Mans Series. He was elected an independent Director of ACCUS and FIA US Alternate Delegate, responsible for US World Championship events.
  • Ulsterman Martin Donnelly was a star of junior racing categories in the 1980s before making his grand prix debut with the Arrows team at the 1989 French GP at Paul Ricard, substituting for Derek Warwick. He qualified 14th and raced to a creditable 12th. He was offered a race drive at Lotus alongside Warwick for 1990 and started 12 races, recording a best finish of seventh at the Hungarian GP. However, his time in Formula 1 was cut short when, later in the season, a suspension failure caused a huge accident in practice for the Spanish GP at Jerez. Despite the serious injuries he suffered, Donnelly recovered sufficiently to race competitively in national events. He now runs Donnelly Track Academy in Norfolk, England and has held a number of racing team management positions.