2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix track preview

2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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The Yas Marina circuit was built on a man-made island at a vast cost, reputed to be as much as £800 million when it was finished in 2009.

Track data: Yas Marina

Lap length5.554km (3.451 miles)
Grand prix distance305.355km (189.739 miles)
Lap record (race)1’40.279 (Sebastian Vettel, 2009)
Fastest lap (any session)1’38.434 (Lewis Hamilton, 2011, qualifying two)
Tyre compoundsSee drivers’ choices
2016 Rate the Race7.59 out of 10
2016 Driver of the WeekendSebastian Vettel

Yas Marina track data in full

But despite having a blank canvas and no shortage of funds, the resulting track is one of Formula One’s least imaginative and challenging. It doesn’t lack novelty, with its underground pit exit and track-straddling hotel, but it is bereft of character.

This may seem a harsh assessment, but what else can be said of a track which has three purpose-built slow chicanes? Tight corners lead into yet more tight corners. There are two vast straights where drivers can jab their DRS buttons.

The few quick corners on the track have a fairly low arrival speed and are likely to pose little challenge to the current generation of cars. And, of course, enormous asphalt run-off areas border almost every corner. These are ideal for safety but useless for forcing drivers to obey track limits. Rows over the latter are not uncommon at this circuit.

As the race takes place at nightfall the track conditions cool once the lights go out. This means the first and third practice sessions, run in hotter daytime temperatures, tend to be unrepresentative.

Pirelli has again brought its softest range of compounds. One-stop strategies have been standard at most races so far and with few quick corners to put the tyres under severe stress that will probably by the case again this weekend.

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A lap of Yas Marina

The lap begins with some of the track’s quickest corners. Turn one, a 90-degree left-hander, is taken at around 150kph. A quick left at turn three leads into a longer right-hander where the pit lane exit emerges from underneath the track. Drivers rejoin the track here can find themselves disputing the racing line with rivals who are already at full speed at the apex of turn four.

Esteban Ocon, Manor, Yas Marina, 2016
The hotel is Yas Marina’s defining feature
Sector one ends here as drivers get on the brakes for the first of many slow corners, a sharp left-right chicane. This brings them to another slow corner, the left-hand hairpin at turn eight.

Getting a perfect exit here is vital as the straight which follows is extremely long. There is a slight kink at the end as turn nine approaches and drivers tackle another left-right chicane. There is slight negative camber at the exit which drivers must treat with caution as they apply all the power again for another long straight.

Again braking from over 300kph, the drivers hustle through three turns in rapid success, again with a crest in the middle creating negative camber at the exit. Each slow turn leads quickly into the next. After a brief stab at the brakes for turn 14 they accelerate along the waterfront and back towards the hotel and pits.

Three consecutive right-handers are tackled as a single corner with a fast, curved approach to the braking zone for tight turn 17. It’s not uncommon to see drivers making mistakes and running wide here as tyres become worn. A pair of slow left-handers follows as they pass under the hotel, the latter bringing drivers close to a barrier at the exit.

The current cars should look impressive through the quicker turns 20 and 21, though the generous run-off here gives drivers plenty of room to recover if they run wide. Expect the stewards to turn a blind eye to this as they have done for much of the season at other tracks.

2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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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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30 comments on “2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix track preview”

  1. Makes Long Beach look like Spa.

    A symbol of what f1 became under BCE. All Helipads and tiara’s. It could’ve been amazing, how many times do you get a blank canvas and a blank cheque book?

    But i think human beings generally are best when there ARE constraints, so maybe its just a symbol of what humans are capable of when there are no limitations. Yas Mess.

    1. Agreed. Dullest track on the calendar. Interlagos should be the real final race.

      1. @ho3n3r I disagree. I find Circuit de Catalunya and Hungaroring, for example, duller to drive than this one. Don’t get me wrong; I like to drive them as well, but just not as much as some of the modern/modern-ish ones. Regarding your ”Interlagos should be the real final race.” part: I’d be okay with the Brazilian GP being the final race of the season again if the Abu Dhabi GP would move to early-season.

        1. @jerejj You might find yourself in a minority about this. Most drivers and fans hate Yas Marina. Ask the drivers and you’ll be lucky to find one that doesn’t prefer Catalunya and Hungaroring to this abomination

      2. Even duller than Sochi?

        1. I know a couple of sim racers who love Sochi. But I don’t remember hearing the F1 drivers’ opinions on the circuit.

  2. If you squint your eyes the track looks like a partial drawing of a revolver (hand-gun). Especially the top part (7-8) and the left part (8-11).

    1. Someone should pull the trigger

    2. @aliced – riffing on this theme… one can say that the northward-pointing arrow is the bullet that has been fired from the gun-shaped circuit.

      And guess what lies beyond the turns 5-6-7 complex? Ferrari World :-)

  3. Abu Dhabi is one of the worst, maybe even the worst Tilke design. An amazing failure despite the unending funds they had at disposal.

  4. A great shame, this track is definitely a case of what could have been. It would have been infinitely better without the silly, low-speed chicane at Turns 5 and 6 because someone forgot about run-off areas at the hairpin. Same again at Turns 11, 12 and 13. Mind you, I’m not that keen on the square bits around the marina and under that blob of a hotel either.
    A disappointing track on which to close a season, but money talks.

    1. @nickwyatt Agreed, apart from the exit under the hotel, which is IMO one the very few good corners at the track as there’s a wall on exit.No huge runoff area, you make a mistake you pay in cash. Which is how it’s always should be.

      1. Yep, to me the whole trackand surrounds is a display of gross, ostentatious, sickening wealth. The initially amusing underground pit lane exit and the one vaguely interesting corner, as @Montreal95 mentions, do not make for a memorable or worthwhile f1 track.

  5. Personally, I like this circuit although, it doesn’t quite match the likes of Spa, Suzuka, Silverstone, and Monza, for example, I still enjoy driving it, and I especially like this race as an event. The sunset view is spectacular as well.
    Regarding lap times: I expect the official lap record to get beaten as well as the qualifying one as it’s from 2009 like in Spa where it got officially beaten this year despite the fact 2009 was a refuelling-era season. BTW, technically the fastest ever lap of this circuit set in any session for an F1 car is 1:38.102 by Daniel Ricciardo in 2010 post-season testing.

    Furthermore, just in case if anyone’s interested the times for the sunset and the twilight phases that occur during the race for the upcoming weekend can be seen here: https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/united-arab-emirates/abu-dhabi

  6. Too many slow chicanes. If they ever place the walls closer in the final section, we could have some sparks, missing parts, and more safety cars.

  7. The one aspect that baffles me the most about this abomination of a track is the pit exit. They had complete freedom in shaping the land according to their needs, and the result is one of the most awkward pit exits on the calendar, that squeezes the drivers coming from the pits into the way of the drivers that take the normal line. They had one job!

    1. To be fair, they had all the jobs…

  8. I know this track gets a lot of hate, but I actually enjoy driving this course in the F1 games. Turns 2 and 3 are a lot of fun, and the 15, 16, 17 complex is a nice challenge especially when racing another car.

    1. did you drove it in game into and from the pit? It almost looks like that the pit lane is an last minute design as they probaly had another design.

  9. This place is one of the great spectacles in racing today. The transistion of afternoon to evening is a visual stunner. The track offers a bit of everything too. How can anything negative be said about Abu Dhabi when comparisons to tracks like Baku exist. That is a race track joke but its all about the money. Money cant make a silk purse out of a pigs ear. Compared to Baku, Abu Dhabi is a modern beautiful challenging race track that is unlike anything anywhere and is what F1 needs and what F1 is about. A unique and special place.

    1. I don’t understand how a track lined with concrete walls with some of the highest speeds in F1 is less challenging than this. There is literally nothing in this track, not a bit of everything. Every corner is exactly the same sharp apex with negative-camber, resulting in terrible racing.

      I agree it’s visually stunning, but I might as well look at a few visually stunning pictures than spend 2 hours watching the race

    2. Not sure if sarcasm. Baku isn’t exactly a classic, but as street circuits go it’s not bad, similar to Singapore.

      1. Yeah and the track layout at Singapore isnt much to write home about but the event itself at night is spectacular

  10. I wonder if the chicanes will have any track limit kerbs this year. The 11–13 chicane has been particularly problematic in the past.

    I remember Massa spinning to avoid a collision with Webber at that corner

  11. That awful Turn 5/6 chicane is probably the single most pointless, race-spoiling pair of corners on the entire calendar. They present pretty much zero challenge and serve no racing purpose other than spreading the cars out ahead of the straight.

    Sadly, they were obviously shoved in there because some genius forgot to leave a big enough space for run-off at the hairpin, so the approach speed needed slowing and they can’t be safely bypassed… unless the hairpin was moved and redesigned a little bit…

  12. Boring and slow. No doubt. May be they can try out by-passing a few corners to add a few heavy braking/fast sections.
    Skip turns 5 and 6. Go from 4 to 7 directly–>Heavy braking.
    Avoid turn 18 and connect turn 17 to the 19-20 straight with 90deg left.
    Shorten the pit exit and maybe release the car into the 1-2 straight.

    Yours truly
    i-am-not-a-circuit-designer

    1. @webtel It wouldn’t be safe enough to go from turn 3 straight into 6 (the hairpin) as there’s minimal run-off area.

      1. The few quick corners on the track have a fairly low arrival speed and are likely to pose little challenge to the current generation of cars. And, of course, enormous asphalt run-off areas border almost every corner.

        I took this statement for granted. My bad.

  13. Couple of changes could be made and would make a difference. Get rid of corners before the hairpin leading to main straight, track already exists, this is no more dangerous than Monaco chicane after the tunnel.

    End of main straight get rid of chicane and make sweeping left hander into next straight or shorten the straight slightly and make some forms of Beckett complex.

    Remove 3rd chicane for a left hander maybe a reverse of Copse.

    Replace run off area for Sand Dunes to give a more Middle East feel and prevent driving off track. Add polystyrene camels to better the effect.

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