Will Abu Dhabi finally give a race worth watching?

2011 Abu Dhabi GP preview

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Lewis Hamilton leads at the start of the first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Neither of the previous Abu Dhabi races provided the excitement to match the spectacle of the ultra-modern venue.

With no alterations to the track this year, it’s down to the much-vaunted 2011 rules changes to buck the trend of tedious races at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Will they make a difference – and can anyone keep Sebastian Vettel from his 12th win of the year?

“A very, very popular event”

That got a lot of things right and at least one thing spectacularly wrong when they built the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi two years ago.

The architecture is ambitious and exciting, and helps make this a desirable event for the money men, as Renault’s Eric Boullier explains:

“Abu Dhabi is a very, very popular event and racing spectacle. To give you an example: we are absolutely jammed to the rafters in terms of the number of guests we have, and the interest we have received.

“It arrived on the calendar back in 2009 and since then it has acted as an extremely important race for the annual F1 circus. It brings motorsport to the United Arab Emirates in a big way.”

As you’d expect for a modern circuit, its safety standards are impeccable. These were put to test in a big way during the first round of the GT1 world championship in 2010.

Sebastien Buemi’s cousin Natasha Gachnang, driving a Ford GT, experienced every racing driver’s worst nightmare: brake failure at maximum speed heading towards turn eight. In her attempt to slam the brakes on as hard as possible she inadvertently caught the accelerator, and hurtled into the barriers with the front wheels locked and rear wheels still spinning.

This had the makings of a truly appalling accident. Gachnang’s life was saved thanks to the large run-off area and TecPro barrier, which contained the car’s deceleration at between 20-40g. She survived with only a broken leg.

The worst track in F1?

Yas Marina circuit information

Lap length5.554km (3.451 miles)
Distance55 laps (305.5km/189.8 miles)
Lap record*1’40.279 (Sebastian Vettel, 2009)
Fastest lap1’39.394 (Sebastian Vettel, 2010)
TyresMedium and Soft

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Yas Marina track data in full

But while the facilities may be first-rate, there is one significant flaw with the Yas Marina circuit: it is an irredeemably awful track, perhaps the worst in F1.

Slow corner after slow corner with straights too long and wide to give any impression of speed. It’s broken up by chicanes which hinder overtaking and is too long for traffic to have much effect on the leaders.

“It’s not one of the most challenging venues of the season,” admits Mark Webber, “with every real corner being second and third gear.”

The hotel the track passes under may look spectacular, but the two races held at this circuit previously have been anything but.

There were rumours the circuit owners would address the track’s many manifest flaws before this year’s race. Sadly, that has not happened. Once a track is built and its infrastructure is in place, further renovations are costly, as Silverstone architects Populous explained in an article for F1 Fanatic last year.

The chief executive of the Yas Marina circuit, Richard Cregan, decided they would wait and see if the 2011 regulations changes improved the racing at the circuit before deciding on any alterations.

Last year provided a graphic illustration of the difficulty of overtaking at the circuit as Fernando Alonso spent 40 laps stuck behind Vitaly Petrov, losing the championship in the process. Despite being quicker, at no time was the Ferrari driver able to get close enough to even try to make a pass.

But would it really have been a more satisfactory outcome to see Alonso press the DRS button on his steering wheel and fly past the Renault on the straight?

Vettel eyes 12th win of 2011

Alonso gets stuck behind Petrov in last year's race

As was the case at the first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix two years ago, both championships have already been decided. So will this race see a continuation of Sebastian Vettel’s dominance?

He is the only driver to have won here, though Lewis Hamilton has also gone well here in the past. The McLaren driver took pole position and led before retiring in the inaugural race, and finished runner-up to Vettel last year.

Once again, the question facing Hamilton going into this weekend is whether he can stay out of trouble and away from Felipe Massa.

The most significant action from a championship point of view is among the midfield teams. Toro Rosso appear to have single-handedly saved Renault from losing fifth in the championship by keeping Force India and Sauber from catching them. The latter pair are fighting a rearguard action to keep Toro Rosso behind.

Sauber’s efforts in this are not being helped by Kamui Kobayashi enduring a seven-race streak out of the points. He needs to bounce back at the circuit where he scored his first points finish two years ago.

Another unusual feature of the race is its late evening start, with darkness falling throughout the race: “The challenge doesn’t really come from the changing light, but the track temperature drops significantly when the sun sets,” says Kobayashi. “This makes it quite difficult to adapt during the race.”

Novel it may be, but it’s made little difference to races here in the past – just another example of how this Grand Prix is an exercise in style over substance.

Who do you expect to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix? Can anyone keep Vettel from victory? Have your say in the comments.

2011 driver form

Q avgR avgR bestR worstClassifiedForm guide
Sebastian Vettel1.291.531417/17Form guide
Mark Webber3.883.442516/17Form guide
Lewis Hamilton3.653.931815/17Form guide
Jenson Button4.653.071615/17Form guide
Fernando Alonso4.533.51716/17Form guide
Felipe Massa5.716.5751114/17Form guide
Michael Schumacher10.477.8341712/17Form guide
Nico Rosberg7.657.851215/17Form guide
Nick Heidfeld13.368.53128/11Form guide
Vitaly Petrov10.1210.5731714/17Form guide
Rubens Barrichello14.4713.2991714/17Form guide
Pastor Maldonado13.8814.67101812/17Form guide
Adrian Sutil11.9410.2761515/17Form guide
Paul di Resta11.8211.3861816/17Form guide
Kamui Kobayashi13.5910.6951613/17Form guide
Sergio Perez1411.6471711/15Form guide
Sebastien Buemi14.7111.1581513/17Form guide
Jaime Alguersuari14.3511.6472114/17Form guide
Heikki Kovalainen18.1815.75131912/17Form guide
Jarno Trulli19.3116.67132012/16Form guide
Narain Karthikeyan23.132017247/8Form guide
Vitantonio Liuzzi22.4719.73132311/15Form guide
Timo Glock20.7117.75152112/17Form guide
Jerome D’Ambrosio21.9418.07142215/17Form guide
Pedro de la Rosa171212121/1Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo22.8919.1418227/9Form guide
Karun Chandhok202020201/1Form guide
Bruno Senna11.67139166/6Form guide

2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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    Images © Yas Marina Circuit, Renault/LAT

    Author information

    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    98 comments on “Will Abu Dhabi finally give a race worth watching?”

    1. I thought there were changes being made to the circuit this year?


      1. I read that article but as far as I concern they decided to wait until this year’s race because DRS and tyre could make some difference. They said if it doesn’t work, they should modify the track.

      2. @tomccoll They aren’t – see the link in the article, which post-dates the one you’ve linked to.

        They later said any changes that may be made would not take place before this year’s race:


        1. Aah apologies – shame they’re sitting on their thumbs rather than making changes to the sections that most obviously need attention – namely the entry to the hairpin before the main straight and the two chicanes after each of the longer straights.

      3. @tomccoll and @keithcollantine

        I seem to recall the organisers promising upgrades; it was more than rumour. However, I also recall them deciding against the changes because they felt the Pirelli tyres and DRS addressed many of the issues with the circuit. They have promised that if the Pirellis and DRS do not work, they will reconfigure the circuit for 2012.

        1. Looks like the track will certainly be reconfigured….

        2. Lets hope they are prepared to have the bulldozers get out there in about a week then, as there is not much hope for either the Tyres or DRS really improving much.

          The tyres might have done something early in the year, when not everyone knew how to handle them, and with the added challenge of the day/night change. But by now, everyone more or less knows how to cope, or at least they know what to expect of the tyres.

          And I think not even 2 DRS zones would really help passing on this track because of the layout.

    2. Even if DRS and Pirelli tyre spice the track some excitement it’s the fundamentally flawed track. DRS and tyre would conceal its weakness. I hope DRS and tyre don’t work well so it make them decide to modify the track design.

      1. +1.
        Nothing should stop VET to win yet another race.

        So, overall – good facilities, nice hotels, built by a people with a lot of money (“We have to be there” – Mr. E.), but totally useless track.

        Unless some team just want to have fun and not care about the results, the race is likely to turn into procession.
        I’m even likely not to watch it at all.

      2. Same old argument: how could they do this if they had an empty island to start with and bags and bags and bags and bags full of money?

        They say “it’s Asia’s answer to Monaco”, when it just isn’t… not only the track is not as challenigng as Monaco, the surroundings have nothing to do with the principality either.

        The sad thing is that Abu Dhabi is a good location. They deserved a much better track…

    3. My opinion seems to go against the grain somewhat. Although the circuit may not be all that great, I feel we have witnessed some exciting moments at the track so far.

      In 2009 we had Kamui Kobayashi’s (short) battle with Jenson Button as he exited the pits, and then the late tustle for second between Button and Mark Webber. I thoroughly enjoyed that race and didn’t find it any worse than, say, Valencia, Barcelona, Bahrain or many of the “boring” circuits.

      Then last year, we had the tension of the championship balanced on the battle between Petrov and Alonso, Webber’s attempt to fight back through, and whether Vettel could make it to the finish.

      You may say that it is circumstance that the WDC went down to that race and that it would’ve been the same excitement at Bahrain, for example, had that been the last race of the year, but I feel Abu Dhabi adds something.

      With the long straights into heavy braking zones, and DRS/KERS/Pirelli, i’m really excited for this race.

      But… that’s just me… I have never witnessed a GP that I rated ‘boring’. I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed every GP I’ve watched, even if I have enjoyed them for different reasons sometimes…

      1. We’ve had at least some exciting moments at every track though, haven’t we? Although to be fair Valencia’s most exciting moment so far is Mark Webber’s backflip, and a driver in danger shouldn’t be…

        To be fair, I enjoy racing this track a lot on the game and I always do pretty well at it. Watching it is a different story though, and the most frustrating thing is that it could be as great as they hype it up to be.

      2. I agree… I think too many people think its dull because they were not there…and it isn’t the same watching on TV

        At the track, in 2009 Jenson’s battle with Kobayashi was great… and last year’s 40 lap battle between Alonso and Petrov was really exciting…

        40 laps of will he won’t he. The sense, every lap, of how close is he this time, yes he is closer, he’s going for it, yes, yes, this time….. Noooooooo…

        That was happening right in front of me for 40 laps and it was fantastic. The crowd were whooping and hollering at the exciting action.

        Now I can quite understand that those watching on TV just don’t get that excitment and atmosphere and don’t experience it in the same way as someone who is 30 yards away.

        And it clearly doesn’t satisfy those people who just want a time trial where the cars parade around and the faster cars are let past and where NOBODY ACTUALLY HAS TO OVERTAKE. Letting people past either by moving over due to the scandalous blue flag rule or people getting past with technological gimicks is NOT ACTUALLY “OVERTAKING”.

      3. But… that’s just me… I have never witnessed a GP that I rated ‘boring’. I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed every GP I’ve watched, even if I have enjoyed them for different reasons sometimes…

        I’m totally with you on that, @ben-n. I’m able to recognize people’s points about tracks like Abu Dhabi, but I think I’m physically incapable of being bored during any GP!

      4. Any other year, I would be excited. But for some reason, I just can’t wait for this season to be over. It’s gone so quick – as usual – but I just want it to finish so we can concentrate on having a proper championship battle next year. I feel so bad saying this, but I just don’t have that same enthusiasm coming into race weekends last year and for the first few races of this season.

        We’ve recently seen the deaths of two amazing talents and I just can’t wait until we’re finished for the year. I don’t care if Abu Dhabi and Brazil are boring and processional, led from start to finish by Vettel. I’ve given up and I’m focusing on regaining my enthusiasm for 2012.

        I’m not falling out of love with F1, I am convinced and almost entirely certain that Vettel’s dominance is the cause of everyone’s misery. I’m happy for him that he won, but I’d always rather it to be close.

    4. I honestly think that even if we have another snoozefest, they’ll refere to it as a ‘grand occasion’ or a ‘Grand Prix to remember for all involved’.

      Because afterall, this is the most ‘popular race of the season’…

    5. Slight correction Keith – when Hamilton retired in 2009; Vettel and Hamilton had both pitted once; and Vettel had jumped Hamilton into the lead. Hamilton retired from 2nd rather than the lead

    6. Last year, there was a huge build up for the race being a championship decider. I managed to gather my 12 non-F1-follower friends to witness the spectacle after forcing them to change their pre-decided plans. An hour into the race, 2 of my friends went to bed at 6PM here in India and others were cursing me for ruining their Sunday.
      I feebly remember that it was one of the most watched race of the season, and obviously many were seeing it for the first time. And I say, these kind of races have/would really hurt the F1, potentially loosing the viewership at least for the medium term (As now I sit alone in front of TV for 19 weekends).

    7. I think Abu Dhabi is a lot like Valencia. Not in that is produces bad racing, but in the sense that all it would need is a few minor changes to completely change the character of the circuit. If given a blank cheque to do what I wanted with Abu Dhabi (on the condition that I could only build; I could not demolish), this is what I would do – I’d turn Abu Dhabi into a Suzuka-style figure-of-eight:


      The big problem with the circuit is the section along the waterfront and under the hotel. It’s slow, and it’s boring. It’s also the biggest problem with reconfiguring the layout because there is no space in the infield to circumvent it. So it has to be used. The trick is to use it effectively.

      In this version of the circuit, the cars line up on the grid in the opposite direction to what they currently do. The last turn becomes the first. The cars then use the roads that are in place to allow for shorter layouts to enter the back section of the circuit. They then go down to the bottom of the circuit, where the chicane has been reprofiled to become a single corner. Hopefully, this corner and the next will actually be a long double-apex bend that can either be treated as one corner or two.

      The cars go up around the hotel, and as they exit it, they hit a purpose-built flyover that carries them over the first turn. This is the only new section of the circuit, curving around to the run-off under the grandstands at the switchback (which no longer exists) and onto the back straight. The cars then take the current first sector of the lap in reverse, bypassing the chicane after the hairpin and then zig-zagging up over the hill to the current first corner, which is now the last turn.

      1. Won’t work. Cars will arrive at the hairpin much to fast for the runoff available. That’s whythey put in the stupid chicane in the first place remember.

        1. And that right there is the stupidity of modern circuit design in a nutshell. A literal blank canvas to work on and they end up having to put in a chicane because of safety concerns….? I don’t get why they didn’t make the whole grandstand there with an open bottom like the stands at the other end of the straight.

          1. *Round of applause*

      2. I’d make that switch-over run more parallel to the existing bridge from outside the track to the hotel by making the track/flyover bend left as it starts to rise.

        That way those coming to the hotel can see the cars go by even better, the straight becomes bent so that cars don’t just have another, now longer, bit of straight, but a one with a slight bend, leading up to a more gradual curve as the flyover descends down again after crossing over the track and has to bend to align with the “hole” in the stand.

        The way you have it currently that straight is long and ends with a tight corner, so it would need space for run-off, which isn’t currently there (there’s a probably busily used road to provide access to the track).

        1. That seems like a clever thought @bosyber, use @prisoner-monkeys favourite cross-over Idea but do something a bit different while thinking of what those high-paying hotel guests would see!

      3. I rather like your idea, first smart new concept I have seen after last weeks bashing by Yas Marina haters…

    8. Perhaps at this race more than any other, it is easy for the leader to hold his position and pull away effortlessly. This means that Saturday’s results will be more important than normal, perhaps more than the race itself.

      I wouldn’t be surprised to see Toro Rosso doing pretty well again (this time Buemi must dominate if he wants a hope next year!) and this is of course down to the long straights. I see a Renault going out in Q3.

      Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton must at least give their team mates a run for their money this weekend or we could well see a Vettel followed by Button finish again.

      1. More than Monaco?

        1. Monaco in terms of holding position maybe, but in terms of coasting off into the distance there seems to be something about the design of Yas Marina and positioning of the corners that aids anyone with a clear path in front of them. So by the time the pits come around there isn’t even a lot of leapfrogging going on, like in Monaco.

    9. GT1 World Championship in 2009

      I believe it was the 2010 round in which Natacha broke her leg. It must have been, as that series didn’t exist in 2009.

      Fingers crossed that the DRS and KERS rules somehow provide at least a semi-exiting race this year. I won’t be holding my breath though. Valencia, Turkey, Korea and India weren’t much to shout about.

      1. Changed, thanks.

    10. Regardless of the intrinsic virtues of Abu Dhabi as an F1 circuit, I find it hilarious for Populous to give advise on circuit design, given their track record with Silverstone.

      1. @Proesterchen

        given their track record with Silverstone.

        The changes to the track were well-received:

        Was new Silverstone a success? (Poll)

        It was built in time and on budget, not sure what you’re referring to.

        1. I know I’m somewhat of a contrarian on the changes to Silverstone, I’ve seen people express satisfaction with the changes.

          I’d even go so far and say that Populous’ choices make sense in the bigger picture of MotoGP coming to Silverstone and the Grand Prix going to Donnington for 17 years, which is what it looked like when they did their planning.

          But as a F1 fan, I lament the loss of Abbey, Bridge and Priory, and the addition of the slow mess that is the Arena. (much like a similar addition at the Nurburgring a decade earlier)

          And as a human being, I’m flabbergasted by the design of the pits, or rather the hiding of half the pits behind a 3 or 4m wall of dirt. Who signed off on this? Is this modern design? This is the best and most spectator-friendly solution you could come up with for a sloped start/finish-straight?

          When Populous came out with their ideas for Abu Dhabi, I was actually glad that they wouldn’t get that contract. Adding another extra-slow, tight and flat piece of track is worse than the chicane currently employed there as a speed breaker.

          Maybe you have more examples of where Populous was responsible for the design of a FIA class 1 track, and actually came up with exciting solutions, I’m open to look at them and revise my views on them as a company.

          1. I must say, while I disagree (to a certain extent) on Silverstone, I think their suggested changes to Abu Dhabi were very disappointing.

            You’re right, it was just replacing slow for slow.

            I have a sketch somewhere I actually sent through to the track that included many of the original sections in use now.

          2. @Proesterchen Criticising them for “their track record” suggested to me you were referring to some widely-acknowledged failings. In fact what you meant was “I don’t like it”.

            1. Track record as in their published works and finished projects, as related to F1 racing.

              Keith, do you like the new Arena better than the part of the circuit it replaced? Do you think paying visitors are helped by hiding the leading team’s pit stops from their view by essentially having parts of the pit lane ‘under ground’?

              Or, referring to Abu Dhabi, do you think their ideas for S1 would help the spectacle and improve the track?

              Of course, some of my opinions are purely a matter of personal taste, that’s what architecture comes down to on the conceptual level, but beyond that, their solutions seem less than optimal answers to the challenges they were faced with.

              It is my fundamental belief that Silverstone could be a better F1 track with a different Abbey and Arena layout, maybe in addition to the current layout used for MotoGP.

          3. I’ve experienced the new Silverstone on a couple of occasions over the past 2 years for the GT1 World Championship. Most of the pitlane is visible, but then with a rising start/finish straight, it was clearly much cheaper and easier to excavate a large flat piece of land alongside the straight to build the pit complex and lane on. Certainly having a flat pitlane is better for everyone involved than a slope. Look at Suzuka and the support pits at Spa. I bet they’d be a nightmare to work on/in.

            And so the ‘sharp end’ (depending on which end the teams are ordered from) is a little hidden depending on where you’re sitting, but why would you watch a pit stop happen when there are cars passing by at full speed?

            As for the new Arena complex, I think it’s great. at the GT events pars were passing into Village, conter-passing through the loop (sometimes 3-abreast) and then getting a run on each other onto the Wellington straight. There were also plenty of drivers losing time and places running wide throughout the complex. That Village grandstand was a joy to watch the races from.

            As for the loss of Abbey. They’ve turned a slow-ish chicane into a spectacular and blind right-hander, the now-efortless and one-at-a-time Bridge corner isn’t really a great loss, and Priory… well, because the preceding Bridge was a corner with a single fast line, you never got any overtaking int othere anyway. The only time I remember an overtake happening there was when Hill took Schumacher off in 1995. All that has been replaced with a switchback where lots of overtaking happens in all diciplines of motorsport, and another straight to bring the acverage speed back up, with a corner at the end which gives half a chance for more overtakes.

            I’d gladly let Populous loose on Abu Dhabi. Not that much can be done now, as the dull track is hemmed in on all sides by marinas, permament grandstands, a hotel that twinkles, the track itself coming in the opposite direction… and a massive theme park dedicated to a sports car company, thousands of miles from their homeland.

      2. I like what they did to Silverstone in fact…

      3. Why? Silverstone’s pit and paddock has pleased Bernie, fans have reported the new grandstands and viewing areas are a great improvement, the drivers like the new layout and it produced some passing this year, which it normally doesn’t. Everyone seems quite pleased with their work.

      4. The new Silverstone layout has overtaking chances that just weren’t there with the old layout. As good as the old Silverstone was, overtaking chances were somewhat limited due to the lack of suitable heavy braking areas at the end of long straights. The new corners add this heavy braking zone.

    11. I don’t know why the Abu Dhabi track gets so much abuse for being incapable of producing decent racing due to its layout.

      The media, teams, pundits and drivers all pronounced the Buddh Indian circuit as one of the best on the calender, right up there with the greats. It produced the most boring race of the year, one I turned off half way through once I’d watched the Massa incidents. More boring than Valencia, even.

      Bear that in mind when you’re moaning after Abu Dhabi about watching Vettel stream off uncontested into the distance for a third successive win. He’s done the same thing at about 10 other tracks this year, but I don’t see the respective track owners getting the same sort of kicking for that.

      1. Most people, me included, won’t agree with you about India being more boring than Valencia. But that’s beside the point.
        Because even if India wasn’t the greatest race of the season it’s still a fast challenging layout with elevation changes that drivers liked very much. Australia wasn’t the most thrilling race of the season as well but the circuit is universally liked, both by drivers and fans, why do you think?

        I haven’t seen a single driver praising Abu Dhabi yet, beside the PR drivel about the great facilities. This track is not a challenge, it’s not good to watch on TV, it has no elevation changes and it produced boring racing at both times. IMO it’s by far the worst track ever made by Tilke and that’s saying something. At Valencia it’s a street track when he had mitigating circumstances in the area he was given to work with. He has no excuse for producing Abu Dhabi.

        1. @montreal95 But my point was: “Even if they had a better track, it wouldn’t necessarily make a good race.”

          1. Hairs, I can agree that a good track will not necessarily produce a good race, even Spa had 1 or 2 dull ones(i.e. 2007), but that doesn’t it’s an excuse for Tilke to produce bad tracks like Abu Dhabi. And the chance that a good track will produce a good race is higher. In addition, when the race on a good track is not so good you can at least enjoy yourself watching the cars in spectacular corners like Eau Rouge or Istanbul turn 8 or India’s fast downhill chicane at 7-8 for example. There’s nothing to distract you from a rubbish race on a bad track.

            1. Ha but that’s where Abu Dhabi’s fancy hotel with changing lights kicks in @montreal95!

      2. India wasn’t the best race of the year because Pirelli went too conservative with their tyre choice and took the hard tyre for goodness sake. There was little to no degradation that we saw in China, Monaco, Hungary and other places. As a result the race positions were dictated by pace alone and not tyre performances. And with no tyre degradation it was simply a Red Düll walkover.

        1. Also I forgot to mention that the India track had a lot of driver input into the design so this is one occasion that the track wasn’t to blame for the lack of action, but the lack of tyre degradation

          1. I agree that tires played a role in it, but also the fact that the track was finished barely a week before the race meant that it was extremely dirty offline so overtaking was very hard.

    12. I find the title a little bit harsh: after all, last year’s race WAS worth watching , be it only for the championship decision.
      And the year before was Abu Dhabi’s first, and quite a visual shock for us viewer. And i can recall some decent action (Button/Webber, Kobayashi).
      So I agree about the boring layout, but for me the last 2 events here were enjoyable.

      1. @gwenouille

        Worth watching as an event, absolutely.

        Worth watching as a race, absolutely not.

        1. Yes, i see what you mean. In fact it always boils down to the layout. Does Spa have a rotating/moving/vibrating/glass-covered/levitating/pulsating hotel ? No, but what a track.

          Money can’t buy everyting after all…

        2. I’m afraid I still disagree with you here Keith! I think every race is worth watching! There is always some level of intrigue to a race – whether it’s a four way battle for a drivers title at the final race, or a close fight for 8th and 9th in the Constructors.

          There are always reasons to enjoy watching a race!

        3. +1 to Keith’s last comment.

          Event, yes. Race… definitely not.

        4. I didn’t actually mind last year’s race. Certainly not the first half of it. Vettel romped away at the start, but he needed certain other results to go his way in order to win. When Webber and Alonso pitted early to try and undercut everyone else, it became an exercise in trying to claw their way back up through the field (and wisely, the FOM television director kept out attention on the Alonso-Petrov battle). However, at around the 60% distance mark, it became boring when it was obvious that even if Alonso got by Petrov, he would not have enough time to reel in the others he needed to fight Vettel, and Petrov was backing him and Webber up enough that cars in front of him were pitting and emerging in front of them, making Alonso’s job harder.

          But I think the first half of the battle was an intersting strategic fight; certainly one of the more-intense we’ve seen in a while given the nature of the circuit and the championship stakes.

    13. I think one of the things the organisers in Abu Dhabi got right was the grandstands. There are only about 50,000 seats at the circuit, which is a good number considering that motosport doesn’t have the dedicated following in the Middle East the way it does in Europe. So while the total crowd numbers are always smaller than, say, Silverstone, it’s easier to get a capacity crowd and there are no Istanbul-style covered grandstands.

      1. And its fully seated, and relatively comfortable and covered (important given the heat).

        There is no question that the facilities were great.

        The biggest thing they got right was how close the grandstands are to the track. From my seat 2009 and 2010 it really felt as if the cars were right underneath me, I wasn’t watching some action way off in the distance, the cars past only 20-30 yards away and you are high up looking down on them so they just seem like touching distance.


        1. But their closeness is also a reason some for some of the compromises, as with that chicane before the hairpin, at least for F1. Had they not been permanent, something else could have been done later. So yes, everything around the track really seems great, but they should have thought about the space it left for the track, and developing it, before finalising the decision of where and what to build around it. I don’t really get why Tilke got that wrong.

      2. @prisoner-monkeys, I think I read the number is about 45.000 in the grandstands + some paddock club members.

        But you are perfectly right. It makes it a perfect place to be amongst the select few and enjoy seeing the same people, drink a good wine and have a nice dinner while a car race is going on right next to you. Boulliers words prove its a success for the teams and FOM.

        Shame they did not think as much about the other few million people watching worldwide, but those probably were just an afterthought. And with the race being famous for bling but no racing, it did a perfect job of putting Abu Dhabi on the world map!

        1. Your sarcasm is noted, @bascb

          The organisers knew that they wouldn’t be drawing record crowd figures. Not to begin with. So they built limited seating to begin with, enough to accomodate a realistic number of people for the event. As the race establishes itself and – as the organisers no doubt hope – gains popularity in the region, more grandstands can be added.

          1. Yes, one would hope that actually being there for a couple of hundred thousend people makes it a memorable experience. The racing on track will probably not be the biggest crowd pull.

            I agree, that it makes far more sense to build for 40-50.000 one expects to sell, than have a capacity of some 120.000+ and cover it with billboards or colored tarpaulins so it does not look empty (Korea, China, Turkey, …).

    14. Bloody awful track. Far too long, and why is it so wide? Totally pointless place to hold an F1 race. In fact any racing whatsoever – from what I have seen of other events held there, the grandstands have always been completely empty.

      Never understood this ‘need’ for F1 to go new places all the time, most of the time it never works. Much rather see two races in Germany/Britain/Italy then these outposts where the locals dont really give a stuff about motorsport.

    15. For entirely selfish reasons…I hope it’s a cracker!

      1. Everybody hopes every race is a cracker

      2. But I certainly wish you much viewing pleasure :-) @malarkay’s experiences seem to indicate that even if we don’t have a great race, you’ll have plenty of enjoyment anyway!

    16. @keithcollantine did you really have to bring those bad memories of Fernando and Vitaly back? :P
      Last year the race was boring, but I couldn’t notice as I was focussed on Alonso trying to pass Petrov. Those moments were so tense I couldn’t care of anything going on in the rest of the track.
      Obviously the track, apart from the surroundings which are great, is not ideal for a good motorsport race. Alonso would’ve passed Petrov (despite him having a great race) in any other track.
      I’m hopeful of this year’s race though, let’s see what it brings.

    17. I think the track could do with modifications but the main problem with the track is the element of surprise, or huge lack of it. The event hypes you into thinking you’re looking into a defining moment of the sport (last year aside lol) and then the track gives noah’s arc type performance with very little overtaking possibilities. If the tyres die every 5 laps here then we could have an absolute classic, but I think that is unlikely in the extreme.

    18. OmarR-Pepper (@)
      8th November 2011, 16:13

      I don’t know if I can make it clear without a map photo, but probably a way to improve the track could be to follow the Susuka “eight” layout, after the hotel they could connect that section with the main straight (running on the other way) and then when the track is going to crossover again they could create a 130R-like fast left turn. That would give some thrill ihaving at least one really demanding corner

      1. See an earlier post by @prisoner-monkeys for something like that (and using gmap-podometer.com to show his ideas).

        I think they’ll find it too costly, but yes I agree it would likely make for a better track in a lot of respects.

    19. It is sad isn’t it.
      They the biggest check one could ever imagine. A flat dessert and a blank sheet of paper.
      It seems like they designed a track layout and then an hour before deadline they realised that the cars would be going too fast into certain corners for the amount of run-off so they just threw in a few chicanes on the paper.

      They had the money to design the most amazing facility on the calender, but they didn’t bother to make sure that there were sufficient run-off for the cars to actually turn at speeds above 5km/h.

      I appreciate that the spectators want to be close to the track, but that is why they have a blank sheet of paper.
      They can come up with any shape they want. Why not design a circuit with actual corners instead of horribly long straights glued together with slow and too tight chicanes.

    20. petebaldwin (@)
      8th November 2011, 16:49

      There will be overtaking with DRS but it will all be done on the straight. Most likely, it’ll be over and done before the end of the straight and it’ll simply function as allowing faster cars past. There will still be no real overtaking as the track doesn’t allow it.

      The track is very dull and the only way for it to improve in the future is for various changes in order to allow overtaking.

    21. I actually thought the 2009 race was pretty entertaining. It was a shame to lose Hamilton, but there was plenty of overtaking and battling. The scrap between Webber and Button at the end had my heart pounding and it was a brilliant way to finish the year.

      But I won’t deny the track is pretty average. They had a clean slate to work with, but decided to fill it with fiddly chicanes and 90 degree, street circuit-esque corners. The first few corners are actually quite interesting, but the rest of the track seems to be about showing off spectacular architecture and expensive yachts rather than showing off Formula 1. It basically makes a mockery of Formula 1 and treats it like a show – which to an extent, it is – but fails to take into account the fact that people aren’t going to want to tune in to watch a sunset and glowing hotel every year. No-one looks forward to it any more.

      I can’t see anyone but Vettel winning it for the third year in a row this weekend. The track doesn’t lend itself to overtaking, but that shouldn’t be too much of a problem with the DRS this weekend. However, with Vettel in his Red Bull, in the form that he’s in, it seems highly unlikely that we’ll see anyone within a second of him after 3 racing laps on Sunday.

      That said, I’d be all too happy to be proven wrong.

    22. Even if Fred had DRS last year, he would not have been able to get past Petrov. He was bouncing off the limiter. Petrov was simply faster in a straight line.

      1. Exactly, Thats something people often ignore.

        Alonso been stuck behind Petrov was purely down to Renault having a very efficient F-Duct, going for a low downforce setup & gearing the car for maximum top end speed. Both Petrov & Kubica were the fastest in the speed traps most of the weekend.

        Plus don’t forget that Ferrari simply made an error with Alonso’s pit strategy, Petrov ended up with the best pit strategy.

        Petrov then drove well enough to hold Alonso behind in the corners & under braking (Where Renault’s setup wasn’t ideal) & was able to easily build a gap down the straghts with his top speed.

        1. Don’t forget about Webber as well, he couldn’t pass Alonso either, but Red Bull don’t have great straight line speed

      2. FRED? lol Flistone?

    23. Will this years race be any better?

      No because DRS will just make passing easy, dull & unexciting!

      1. Not necessarily. It’s been pretty even this year as to how it’s affected race action.

        1. No it hasn’t, Every DRS pass I have seen on both the world-feed & BBC incar feed has been far too easy, dull & none of them have been exciting to watch.

          All the best overtaking has been well outside the DRS zones which just proves how ridiculous DRS is!

          I hope F1 ditches the stupid system & it never gets used anywhere again!

    24. I needs chopping in half, something like this


      Laptimes somewhere near 1.15.ish.

      And some gravel traps!!!

      1. Johnny b goode
        9th November 2011, 10:52

        Yes! I know cars can fly through gravel at high speed, but absolutely no reason why they can’t have it at the low speed corners, and the chicanes (which is pretty much every corner on the circuit anyway) :P

        I hate how easy it is to just cut a chicane if you make a mistake.

      2. Actually I think that is a very good layout, but the problem is, some moneybags could not see the action from their yachts.

        At the current layout they have this very combination of corners after the 2nd straight, just to slow the cars down, and show them to the top dogs. //as the track goes around the marina//

        1. I meant very stupid combination of corners

          1. yeah i thought about that problem @bag0 … they could always get off their yachts!!!!

            This layout reminds me a bit of Montreal and Hockenheim. Tilke should be afraid!

    25. I do think it’s sensible for them to hold off with any proposed changes until they can evaluate the race after the 2011 rules have had an outing. The only bit of this circuit that stands out is turns 3 to 7, that’s the long sweeping corner before the chicane that leads into their hairpin.

      I do think we could see another winner here, the circuit doesn’t particularly suit the RB7 (though, that was meant to be the case with Spa and Monza!). This one could be won from the pits.

      1. “I do think it’s sensible for them to hold off with any proposed changes until they can evaluate the race after the 2011 rules have had an outing.”

        To me that comment highlights the biggest flaw with DRS especially. Because people within F1 apparently see DRS as a success they don’t seem to want to try & do anything to actually solve the heart of the problem be it car or circuit design.

        Don’t forget DRS was originally only brought in as a temporary fix before the 2014 regulation changes came in with the planned return of ground effects. However that planned switch to ground effects has now been dropped with DRS been retained as a more permanent measure.

        1. Cynically one could think that it does exactly what it was intended to do by some: take some of the symptoms away so F1 can go on as it has without many changes in aerodynamics and track layout :-)

    26. No.

      But I’ve been proved wrong before!

    27. Now, what to hope?
      Do I prefer short term entertainment over structural long term solutions?

      What’s clear from all the comments, is that we are stuck with this one. So, I hope they will adjust the circuit, either by Populous, Prisoner Monkeys or someone passing by with a pen in his hand…

      But maybe that’s just denial at my side, maybe we’re also stuck for the next ten years with DRS. Oh my, then I’m gonna be grumpy father, explaining to my son that everything used to be better.

      …got…to…think…positive… …arrrgh…

    28. Previously, in the good old days when you had no limitations on development, you often saw a team with a good car but a dog of an engine, and another team with an absolute dog of a car, but a great engine. Boy, did we have some racing in those days! Now, if one team ekes out a little advantage on car, but engines are all limited to 18000 rpm… so little to differentiate between 2 cars there. End result, is you have Red Bull stomping to victory in most of the races, and behind them nothing is happening. At least in ’04 when Ferrari was stomping away, there was action in midfield. Williams had the formidable BMW powering them.

      We have come down to measures like DRS for overtaking. Seriously, any one who thinks DRS solves the problem, is delusional. Problem is that the cars are too similar, thereby giving no competitive edge to anyone, and the result of which is little overtaking action. DRS is a stop-gap at best. Rules need to modified to allow cars to differentiate more than they do now. Development over the year will also go along in ensuring more competition. It sucks for smaller teams because of lack of resources, but something’s got to give. You wouldn’t sand bag winners like in WTCC. Doesn’t do much to enhance image of the sport.

      Oh yes, i don’t find any race boring. People who complain about boring F1 races should try watching golf for a bit. It is not easy to dominate. Now easy when McLaren did it, or Ferrari in ’04 and not now when Red Bull is doing so. I enjoy watching the best doing what they do best on a given day.

      Funnily enough, i see a lot of British publications complain about boring races when German drivers are winning (first Schumacher and now Vettel). Didn’t see them complain much when Macca do the winning.

    29. With two DRS zone,second place to grab & Hamilton & Massa out there,I won’t bet against a good race,even if that’s not possible just bring Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) he will proved the entertainment.

    30. I personally think that this track actually would run a lot better in reverse but they can’t really change it

    31. DRS and Abu Dhabi go hand in hand. Not because the are both dull and boring, or that no one i keen on either. But Because they are both under thought solutions to a unnecessary problem. We dont need DRS, 2010 was an amazing season! and passes were down purely to driver vs. driver. Abu Dhabi has been designed so poorly by a man with a blank canvas and an unlimited budget who clearly knows how to deliver a good track (Turkey and India), but designs too “copy and paste” to consistently turn out good tracks.

    32. Worst track?? not at all. This title is well deserved by Valencia, closely followed by Hungary. Anyway, Yas Marina would reach the third position in this podium of mediocrity and boredom. :(

    33. Pretty much all of the Tilke tracks have fantastic facilities, but incredibly dull track layouts consisting of mile long straights into hairpins (Instanbul is a welcome exception). They’re also full of acres of bland tarmac run off which looks appalling, and doesn’t punish a driver for their mistakes. Little wonder that 24 cars finish the race and the order never changes. Mess up your braking at Monza, and you’re struggling through the gravel and losing places. Mess up at Abu Dhabi? Cut the chicane, barely lose a couple of tenths, and come out in the same position.

      And why are the new circuits so damn WIDE? Monza, Spa, Montreal, Suzuka, etc have a much more narrow look to them. They feel faster. They provide far much more excitement. They are proper race tracks. I’m not saying that new circuits shouldn’t put run off areas in, but they don’t need to be so huge, and slow corners and chicanes should have gravel traps.

      As long as F1 keeps going to these dull new venues, and ripping up old circuits to put in ‘get out of jail free’ tarmac run offs (Hungary is now a joke), the less and less interested I’ll be.

    34. ‘But would it really have been a more satisfactory outcome to see Alonso press the DRS button on his steering wheel and fly past the Renault on the straight?’

      Imagine if Alonso had won the championchip last year using DRS? If the majority answer no to Keiths question above, its clear DRS has no place in F1.

    35. Abu Dhabi would be worth watching if!
      A. it was in a better location, say France?
      B. it had some gradient to it.
      C. it had a different better layout
      D. had an atmosphere to it, and not a glowing hotel

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