A driver’s guide to the Yas Marina track
First held in 2009, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has quickly become one of the jewels of the F1 calendar, and a race that every driver now aims to win. The Yas Marina circuit is famed as one of the most diverse tracks in the world, incorporating everything from long straights to tight and twisty corners.
Like many modern circuits, the drivers have the safety of a vast run-off area to their right should they make a mistake through the opening corner. This can come in useful during the start, when drivers are in close proximity with each other. Immediately after the first corner is a series of fast flowing curves, which eventually lead to a complex of slow-speed corners, which sees the drivers, slow to a meager 70km/h. This can offer drivers a fabulous opportunity for overtaking, especially at the start of the race.
HRT’s driver Dani Clos regards the opening sector of the lap as one of the best aspects of the track, in addition to the highly technical closing sector. The 23-year-old Spaniard has raced around the circuit in many varying forms of motor sport, including F1 during a Young Driver Test in 2011.
“The Yas Marina is a really nice track, I’ve raced there three years in GP2 and I also did the Young Drivers Test with HRT last year,” explained Clos. “The track has a good first sector where drivers need to be aggressive and there’s a really good last technical sector that’s completely different to the other two, and represents a challenge for the engineers and the drivers to find the right set-up.”
After enjoying a relatively free-flowing and high-speed opening half of the lap, the drivers are met with a daunting tight and twisty second half of the lap. Turns 11 and 12 after the second straight once again offer drivers a decent overtaking opportunity, before turn 13 suddenly looms out of nowhere. This throws the drivers to the left, as they teeter around 90km/h. Another left-hander greets the drivers, before a high-speed two-part right-hander leads the drivers into the tight turn 17 and 18. There are copious amounts of run-off areas on the left to save any drivers unfortunate enough to out-brake themselves through this highly strenuous series of corners.
At this stage of the lap, the drivers circulate beneath the picturesque Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi Hotel, which lights up a series of colours throughout the race weekend. Because the race takes part at dusk, the ever-changing colors of the hotel only add to the electrifying atmosphere of the race weekend.
However, the drivers have little time to take in their superlative surroundings, as they throw themselves around the final few corners of the Yas Marina circuit. After the tight left-handed turn 18, the drivers are immediately met with an equally challenging left-hander at turn 19. After the safety of the run-off areas throughout the previous corners, the exit of turn 19 sees the drivers come perilously close to the wall on the right-hand side.
The final two corners of the track are similar to that of turns 15 and 16, albeit not as fast. Both are right-handers, with the final corner much tighter than the penultimate turn 20, which is taken at roughly 168km/h. After the tight confines of turn 19, the vast run-off areas return for the final two corners, before the drivers storm down the start/finish straight to complete one of the most thrilling laps of the season.
Although the Yas Marina circuit is not as revered as the likes of Spa-Francorchamps, Monza or Silverstone, it’s undeniable that the 21-turn circuit is one of the most strenuous yet exhilarating 55 laps of the year.