Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo, Yas Marina, 2022

Overtaking still difficult at Yas Marina despite 2021 track changes, say drivers

2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Formula 1 drivers say overtaking at the Yas Marina circuit remains difficult despite the changes made to improve racing at the circuit.

Yas Marina underwent major surgery ahead of the 2021 race. The chicane leading to the hairpin that is now the fifth corner of the lap was removed and the slower turns 11-14 were replaced by a sweeping and banked left-hander. That leads into the narrow and tyre-punishing final sector where minor changes were made, opening up the radius of some corners.

The changes were intended to deliver better racing, particularly once new technical regulations were introduced this year. The 2022 F1 rules altered the cars’ aerodynamics, which was intended to make it easier for drivers to run behind one another for longer before tyres and internal components overheat.

Last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, during which seven of the 58 laps were run behind the Safety Car, had 20 overtakes. This year’s race ran Safety Car-free and saw 53 on-track passes – well over twice as many.

Nonetheless some drivers feel the final sector of the track is continuing to thwart their overtaking attempts. “I think a lot of this is the last sector,” said Valtteri Bottas. “That sector is still, even with slight modifications, so difficult to be close and be within one second [of another driver].

“So it is tricky. I think most of the overtakes are because of tyre delta.”

Alexander Albon made similar comments. “We’re still struggling with the thermal effects of the tyres,” he said. “We can follow better, but we still struggle with tyres overheating and that’s just a dilemma that we have.

“Sector three here, following another car you lose so much downforce, just because you slide the tyres a little bit more when that happens. The tyres overheat so quickly, it gets really tricky. Unless you catch a car and overtake them within one or two laps, you’re stuck behind them.”

He also said turn nine is hard to overtake in, despite being passed at the corner on the final lap of the race by Zhou Guanyu.

“Turn nine is too fast,” said Albon. “With our cars we’re braking as we’re turning into the corner, which [means] you can’t out-brake people once you’re turning in flat, or about 10 metres into the corner. So I think turn nine is an issue.”

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2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching Photography back in the UK. Currently based...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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15 comments on “Overtaking still difficult at Yas Marina despite 2021 track changes, say drivers”

  1. I honestly love Turn 9, and just because it isn’t a heavy braking zone doesn’t mean it should go. Plus you make it a heavy braking zone it will go back to back-to-back motorway DRS passes that Abu Dhabi used to have before, where passes would cancel each other despite the best efforts of the driver behind.

    I agree that work needs to be done on Sector 3, but hey, can’t remove that luxury hotel can we. They could change the camber on some of those corners though, it would increase cornering speeds and make it easier to follow more closely than the current point-and-squirt 90-degree configuration.

    1. @wsrgo Passes still cancel each other, no different from the pre-2021 configuration + the corners below & around Yas Hotel are already more open & faster than before the configuration changes, so nothing to do with those anymore.

      1. @jerejj A lot less than before. The 2011 race was absolutely horrible to see. The passes cancelling thing only happens when drivers run wide at 6, like Alonso and Perez did. The new 9 also challenges drivers to make more daring moves and provides multiple lines of attack.

        The corners around the hotel have just been widened, that’s not enough. The negative camber has to go, it’s just a stupid idea to have that. Positive camber will allow for less of a delta in accelerating speeds, allowing better following.

        1. @wsrgo
          Good point about running wide at the preceding corner combination.
          Concerning the Hotel corners: Wider & apexes rounder rather than sharp 90, allowing for a slighter turning angle, but I don’t see how the negative camber that doesn’t really exist anymore could realistically go away entirely.

  2. Similar view & feeling, YMC is certainly more enjoyable to drive after last season’s configuration alterations that improved lap flow, even if overtaking hasn’t necessarily improved from before based on two races (the latter featuring cars designed with racing quality in mind).

  3. Sector 3 is still atrocious. That’s where something should be done. Probably the worst sector of all tracks in the current calendar.

    1. @Edvaldo Not much to do anymore after the configuration changes that already addressed the critical corners, i.e., the three around Yas Hotel.

  4. As mentioned over and over again, it is not about the number of overtakings, it is about the ability to race closer. And the modifications have made it a much better track to race on. Many of the close battles we saw in the last two years were fought either at one of the modified corners, or at the straights just after these modificatied corners. And I also feel that the track is more flowing and more demanding thanks to these changes.

  5. Unfortunately there’s not a lot they can with sector 3…. Turns 10-14 are boxed in by the marina and the hotel. You could maybe open up the final 2 turns to give them more speed down the pit straight and then make turn 1 a heavier braking zone but you’ve got the pit entry to deal with so more speed around the final turn probably isn’t ideal.

    Unfortunately they designed sector 3 for the VIPs rather than racing so they’re stuck with that now.

    1. @petebaldwin The penultimate corner is (& was already before its alteration) already very fast, full-throttle/nearly in qualifying trim.
      Therefore, nothing to do with that corner anymore & the last corner is medium-speed, so I don’t see a need for alteration.

  6. Overtaking should be difficult. I thought for once the DRS made the overtakes ok rather than totally dull.

  7. The changes have improved it a lot, much nicer flow in first two sectors

    1. @viscountviktor More so S3, but especially both the circuit’s north & south-ends.

  8. Perez was left out last year but pitted twice this year coming out behind other. More overtakes.

    DRS is an ugly fix. Better options exist.

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