Turn five could be best spot for overtaking at revamped Yas Marina – Alonso

2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Drivers have tempered expectations that the revamped Yas Marina circuit will allow for more exciting wheel-to-wheel action in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Since its addition to the calendar in 2009, the circuit developed a reputation for being difficult to overtake on. This was established in 2010, when Fernando Alonso spent most of his race stuck behind Vitaly Petrov’s slower Renault, the result of a tactical error by his Ferrari team which cost him the world championship to Sebastian Vettel.

Alonso believes the changes at the beginning of the lap are most likely to present new opportunities for passing.

“The changes are made for more overtaking and I doubt it [will help], because turn nine and the last sector you cannot overtake because this last sector is narrow, et cetera.

“So the only change that will help the overtaking is going to be turn five. And that remains to be seen if you are able to follow closer or no. So let’s see, turn five is the big question mark for tomorrow.”

Yas Marina 2021 and previous layout
Yas Marina 2021 and previous layout
However Alonso doubts he would have been able to pass Petrov had this configuration been used in 2010. “No, only that the DRS will make the difference,” he replied. “That’s why they introduced it.”

His team mate Esteban Ocon was complimentary towards the new turns five and nine, which have replaced the slow complexes of years past. “I think it’s interesting for the high speed turn nine, definitely,” said Ocon. “And for a longer straight into turn five.”

Ocon wanted to see more change at turns 13 and 14 which have been widened but remain off-camber. “I would prefer it with camber, because as soon as you have a car in front, you literally lose three tenths,” he said.

“That’s where I’ve been losing since the beginning of the weekend. It’s a huge amount of lap time. And if they camber the corner, it probably will be different.”

The team behind the track changes said the possibility of changing the camber at those corners was rejected due to the significant earthworks involved, which would render it impractical.

Scrap the chicane to promote passing, says Wolff
The drivers have been largely unanimous in their view that the new track presents a more satisfying challenge, even if it doesn’t produce better racing.

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez said the track is “really nice to drive, and we will see tomorrow how good is it for racing. I have my doubts, still, on how good it will be for racing.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff believes the track needs more drastic changes in order to improve the quality of racing. “That track is still tricky to overtake,” he said. “I think next step we should take away, turns six and turn seven and then just go full blast for two kilometres with DRS and it would be exciting,” he laughed.

“But the straights are not long enough. Turn five is too quick to what was expected, and […] turn nine is too fast as well. Even with the banking, you can’t go in with another car, two cars side by side.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Yas Marina, 2021
Passing is still likely to be tricky, drivers predict
“So I’m rather sceptical about the overtaking, but maybe we can make an improvement for next year again.”

The short length of the braking zones at the end of some corners may present a challenge for overtaking, said Williams’ head of vehicle performance Dave Robson.

“I think the circuit changes are better, the circuit definitely flows more and it’s more enjoyable for them to drive. And I think it’s more enjoyable for us to come set the car up for it. It is a better circuit.

“Whether it will achieve exactly what they want, I think the braking zones don’t necessarily lend themselves still to it. But if you can follow more closely out of that high speed chicane at turn two, three, four – and be following closely as you go into turn five, grab the DRS – then you may well be able to overtake going into six at the end of the first straight. We’ll see tomorrow.

“I think overtaking will be a little bit easier than normal, but perhaps not as much as as people had hoped. But I think there’s no way to know for sure until we see the race unfold tomorrow.”

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2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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7 comments on “Turn five could be best spot for overtaking at revamped Yas Marina – Alonso”

  1. Watching the F2 races yesterday I suspect the only way of overtaking in an F1 car will be to pressure the car in front to go defensive into turns 6/7, and get a good enough exit to blast past with DRS on the run down to turn 9. I can’t see many overtakes being done in either turn 6 or turn 9 itself – you’ll need to have the move done before you get there to make it stick.

  2. Sounds to me like a driver will have to work to make an overtake rather than breeze past under DRS.

    That in itself is a good thing, providing of course that it’s possible to overtake which it hasn’t in the past on this track.

  3. They took out the double chicane at the end of the last straight. That was the best overtaking spot…

  4. I still reckon the same as before, i.e, post-longest straight corner.

  5. Lando Norris could play Petrov 2010 after a zesty overtake at T1 on the car ahead

    Alas, but there was no DRS in 2010. In fact I believe the race-long Alonso/Petrov fight was a key factor for the introduction of DRS which pretty much has ruined F1 ever since.

  6. That overhead shot of T1 chicane really shows how tight it is. Backing up the apexes and opening it up a bit would be nice to see.

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