McLaren preview the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

McLaren preview the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend, Round 21 of the 2018 Formula 1 World Championship, at Yas Marina Circuit in the United Arab Emirates.

The Essentials

  • Focus points Straight-line speed. Even with two long straights, along which cars exceed 330km/h (205mph) on both occasions, it’s hard to overtake at Yas Marina. To be competitive in race conditions, it’s vital to have a car that has a high top-speed. But engineers mustn’t shave off too much downforce, otherwise they risk compromising competitiveness through the twisty final sector.
  • Unique difficulty Temperature change. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is the only race on the calendar that starts in the heat of the day and finishes after sunset. The track temperature drops significantly during the course of the race, altering the balance of the car and the performance window of the tyre. Added to which, the wind direction often changes direction after dark, making the car more unpredictable to drive.
  • Biggest challenge Visibility. Sunset is 36 minutes after the start of the race and as the sun gets lower during the early laps, it can be particularly blinding between Turns 14-19. This makes visibility tough, especially for the drivers involved in tight battles with other cars.

Race Engineer’s Lowdown

  • Braking Heavy. There are 13 braking events around the track, resulting in more than 20 per cent of the lap being spent on the brakes. There’s an average deceleration of 2.9g and the track is regarded as one of the toughest of the season on brakes – similar to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.
  • Power The cars use 1.8kg of fuel per lap, which is relatively high.
  • Aero Medium-to-high downforce. Aero set-up is a compromise between low-speed grip during qualifying and straight-line speed in the race. The drivers and engineers will trim the cars as much as possible during practice, until tyre life begins to be affected.

Fernando Alonso: “Abu Dhabi will certainly be very emotional race for me, as it will be the end of a long and happy 17 years in Formula 1. The time has come for me to move on, but I’m looking forward to ending the season – and my F1 career – on a positive note.

“I’m also pleased that my relationship with McLaren will continue with the Indy 500, and there will be more new challenges together. There are very exciting things ahead, and I’m enthusiastic for what the future will bring. For now, I’m not ruling anything out.

“I’m fully focussed on this weekend in Abu Dhabi, and making the most of every day – in the car, with the team, and with my friends and family. Abu Dhabi is a tough circuit, but we don’t have anything to lose, so both Stoffel and I will be fighting hard as always.”

Stoffel Vandoorne: “I’m heading to Abu Dhabi with mixed emotions. Although I’ve spent two years as a Formula 1 driver with McLaren, I’ve been with the team for five years and call many of them my friends. I’ve built a great relationship with McLaren and it’s been a significant part of my life. My final grand prix as a McLaren driver on Sunday will be sentimental, but also the right time to say goodbye to this chapter in my career.

“I want to leave Abu Dhabi on a high, so we’ll be putting everything we can into maximising our weekend and getting the most out of it. I have great memories from Abu Dhabi in my junior career, and it’s a really cool atmosphere as you race from day into night.

“I’m excited for the next challenge – which begins in only a few weeks – but I also want to enjoy every moment in the car and with the team this weekend for the final time.”

Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director: “The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will certainly be a significant end of the season for everyone at McLaren, as we bid farewell to Fernando and Stoffel in their final grands prix for the team. They have been incredible team-mates and ambassadors for McLaren and for the sport, as well as great guys to work with.

“Operationally, we will approach the weekend in Abu Dhabi as any other – with complete focus on our performance and maximising what we have within the capabilities of our package. Yas Marina is an incredible venue, and racing into twilight makes for a unique atmosphere that’s special for all the fans.

“As this season draws to a close, as well as this particular chapter for McLaren, we’ll be giving it our all to give our drivers the best send-off possible, and reward the incredibly hard work all year from everyone in the team, during what has been a challenging 2018. Together with our people, drivers, colleagues, fans, partners and guests, let’s enjoy every moment of the final grand prix weekend of the year.”