Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Yas Marina, 2020

Yas Marina changes will slash F1 lap times by “10 to 15 seconds”

2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Revisions to the Yas Marina circuit could cut Formula 1 lap times by as much as 15 seconds, according to the team behind the changes.

Redevelopment work is largely complete at the venue which will hold F1’s season finale in December. FIA F1 race director Michael Masi is due to inspect the track tomorrow.

Three areas of the circuit, involving more than half of its turns, have received attention. In each case corners have been eased or slow sequences replaced with individual, quicker bends.

It is the first time the Yas Marina circuit configuration has been changed since it opened in 2009. The new layout features 16 corners instead of 21 and its length has been reduced by 273 metres. The race distance has therefore been increased from 55 laps to 58.

The alterations were designed by Driven International and implemented in conjunction with MRK 1 Consulting. Driven’s managing director Ben Willshire told RaceFans the new layout will be “around 10 to 15 seconds – depending what set-up and DRS – quicker.”

Max Verstappen’s pole position time for last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was 1’35.246. That was almost half a second off the track record set by Lewis Hamilton the year before, at 1’34.779.

Artist's impression: Changes to Yas Marina circuit for 2021
Analysis: Will Yas Marina’s three key changes put an end to F1’s follow-my-leader finales?
The changes include replacing turns four, five and six – a chicane and hairpin – with a single, quicker corner; removing a sequence of slow bends from turns 11 to 14 with another fast left-hander; and easing turns 17 to 20, where the cars pass underneath the Yas Viceroy hotel.

A range of possible alterations were tested before the final design was settled on. “We had a lot of driver-in-the-loop simulation testing,” Willshire explained.

“We have tested it in the sim and correlated our data against what Formula 1 are looking and worked with them quite closely to evaluate the lap. So that’s been a big part of the design process using the simulator.”

Formula 1’s analysis of the track also indicated lap times will decrease significantly, said MRK 1 managing director Mark Hughes.

“We did our own in-house simulations which were then also replicated by Formula 1 using their sim technology and it was reassuring to see that they were incredibly similar,” he said. “It validated the quality of our own in-house simulations.”

“We’ve got less slow corners as well as the shorter lap distance,” Hughes added. “But it also means it adds three laps to the race distance, so it’s better for the spectators as well.”

Look out for an in-depth guide to the changes at Yas Marina coming soon on RaceFans

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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 “Yas Marina changes will slash F1 lap times by “10 to 15 seconds””

  1. if the title is decided by a change from low speed corners (rb) to relatively fast corners (Merc) lol
    Better for the circuit tho, hopefully it’s a proper venue for the last race now. I still think it should be Brazil, but I understand why this will never happen

  2. We’ll see, but 10-15 seem exaggerated.
    I’ve reckoned this season’s equivalent as 5-6 sec faster than the outright track record, so 1:28 or 1:29.something. seem unrealistically extreme for such a long lap, although Istanbul Park & Albert Park are roughly as long in lap distance (the same race lap amount) & outright records what they are, so perhaps after all.

    1. 15 seems long but 10 wouldn’t surprise me…both remove very low speed corners, shorten the overall distance, and increase speed on the following straights

    2. @jerejj Well from the onboard shots: it is 9 to 10 seconds from touching the brakes for turn 4 and straighening the steering wheel coming out of turn 6. The replacing single banked corner will be not more than 4 seconds I think. So that is about 5 to 6 seconds gain.

      Then again about 9 to 10 seconds for the second sequence, turns 11 to 14, and I think about 5 seconds for the new corner. So for this complex 4 or 5 seconds gain.

      So 9 to 11 seconds on the corners alone. Add a higher straight line speed and I think the 10 to 15 seconds is not that far-fetched. Or my calculation of the new corners is way off.

      1. @matthijs @realnigelmansell
        The longest straight has lost some length, although the new corner should compensate for top speed.
        The 2nd DRS straight speed could get slightly lower since the preceding corner remains unchanged & that straight has also lost length.
        Some time will get gained from the four S3 corners (three slow + the already high-speed penultimate) that have become slighter-angeled.

  3. I don’t see how FIA could allow significant changes to tracks in the middle of the season. Teams will design their car around tracks for the season, and choose characteristics according to layout, so totally unprofessional to allow them to be altered after the car is set.

    Same with other car, tyres or operational changes that are really not necessary. I was hoping with Todt and Brawn there would be common sense, but it’s as it always was really. Shame.

    1. Completely agree.
      Tracks and rules should not change during a season.

      1. Completely agree.
        Tracks and rules should not change during a season.

        What a clown comment. We would have had 10 race seasons if that during COVID by your silly logic.

        1. Your back… typical ad hominem reaction.
          But to help you: its not about adding tracks or changing venues as a result of external forces. Its about the layout.. as shown in the article ( read it, new for you!)

    2. What? When are you going to make changes to a track? It is not the only track being worked on this season.
      As long as it is safe as per fia guidelines then what is the problem?
      Some tracks are being built as we speak, their layout is planned and set as was the case with this.
      Teams might moan that their sim tools are not going to be as accurate in abu dhabi as they used to but it is not like thr tracks has changed from monaco to indianapolis.

    3. You do know they race (fundamentally) the same car at every track and that the teams build set-up options that they can change from circuit to circuit?

      1. You do know that teams build car with a specific philosophy in mind? Doesn’t seem like it.

    4. What about last season and to a degree this season where race dates have changed venues mid season? Do not agree at all. Abu Dhabi changing a few corners would not impact any cars designs.

      1. Yes the covid season was a spanner in the works, but force majeure. ‘Changing a few corners’ that alters the lap time with 10-15 seconds is significant. If the car philosophy is close to 50-50 whether to have a car favor low- or high speed, changing a couple of tracks could completely upset their strategy, and possibly affect the championship outcome, where just a single point could make the difference as we all know.

        1. @balue

          Changes to the track were mooted as early as 2017 – not exactly new news or a complete surprise to everyone. The teams competed at some completely new-to-F1 circuits last year. Did the teams ‘speculatively’ complain then?

          What about the changes to Spain and Spa in 1994?

          The text above quotes “We had a lot of driver-in-the-loop simulation testing” which means driver input and/or feedback for the track alterations.

          Over a month until the teams arrive – they won’t arrive there, completely oblivious…

    5. Using your logic, when exactly would you be allowed to change them then?

    6. @balue These changes started or got confirmed before this season had begun.
      Furthermore, using your argument, no track configuration changes could ever get done.
      I’ve never seen any similar views, LOL.

      1. @jerejj You don’t understand the difference between middle of the season and after the season? LOL.

        1. When everybody has trashed your every defence of a spur-of-the-moment brain dump, it’s probably time to bow out of the argument gracefully and move on..

          1. in your vision a Galileo Galilei never existed then ;)

          2. erikje, well that’s raised the tone of the debate a notch or two ;)

        2. What about changes that would take more than the timespan of the “off-season” to plan, execute and complete?

          When would there be time in such a situaiton?

  4. Refreshing to see another company taking care of track layouts. Tilke produced layouts from very bad to pretty good let’s admit it, but nonetheless some variety is always welcome. Hopefully this new flow will provide better races, but at least it will bring uncertainty for this season.

  5. 10 is quite a bit. I was expecting around 5-10 seconds.

    Does anyone know if this is just an additional layout being added on top of the older one or the older one is being broken down and won’t be available for use anymore?

    1. The original chicane at turns four and five remains but the previous hairpin is gone, and everywhere else changes have been made the original corners are no longer there. More on this in the upcoming feature.

  6. I don’t see how the long lefthander after the second straight will account for better racing than todays combination. I am certainly no fan of this combination, but I remember some back and forth there. This new corner layout reminds of an 80s tracks corner where there was never any overtaking. I do want to be proven wrong though!

    1. I think the first new corner will greatly improve close racing and also will improve overtaking on the following straight. I don’t think that the second new complex will improve overtaking, but it will improve close racing and it will be much more exciting for the drivers.

      1. @matthijs Not necessarily, as following through high to medium-speed corners is generally more challenging than slower ones. Marginal impact at best for both close racing & overtaking, but lap flow & driving enjoyability will definitely improve.
        We’ll see, but I’m slightly reserved about the former two.

  7. The lower lap time seems to me a relatively unimportant byproduct of the changes? I mean, I feel it is a reasonably irrelevant number to me. Okay, so the lap time is lower and it is safe to assume average speeds will be higher. Seeing the removal of 90 degree bends make it plausible that also the speed difference, the spread of speeds will be narrower. Okay.
    But the actual reason for the changes had nothing to do with lap times, it has to do with following and overtaking opportunities. Did the sim work teach us anything about this? I mean, that is what we want to know right?

  8. I am really looking forward to this. For me personally they changed the worst 2 parts of the track and replaced them with 2 great corners. This will change the nature of the track and the setup of the cars drastically and could make this track a modern classic.

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