The championship is approaching its crucial climax as F1 circus moves onto UAE for the third to last race. The stage is set on Yas Island to host the 18th round of the season, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. As the paddock enduring many back-to-back races than ever in the long listed Calender, the circuit in the middle east complements them with world-class facilitates that can’t be seen often elsewhere.
The Yas Marina Hotel, that straddles the race track, is absolutely unique for any sporting venue and the marina is as good as the yacht views in Monaco and Valencia. For a race goer, the island circuit could satisfy their needs in every way with spectacular off-track entertainments on offer with Kylie Minogue set to perform on Friday with Nickelback and Eminem scheduled respectively for saturday and Sunday night concerts. The same cannot be said for the race day though, as the street-inspired circuit hardly recommends opportunities for overtaking.
The 3.451 mile race track, stretching 55 laps, boasts the second longest straight on F1 after Turn 7 which bounds the North Grandstand. It’s one of the few that runs counter-clockwise in direction with a total of 21 corners, among which, 9 right and 12 left-handers. The braking stability plays a vital role here with eleven braking events as a whole. About two-third of corners are taken at 150 kph or below and the cars exceed 290 km/h on four different parts of the circuit.
This is a track that possess every bit of action found on everywhere else. For an instance, the first sector comprises fast-flowing sweeps imposing lateral forces upto 4g through the sequence of turn 2 to turn 6 before leading onto the longest straight which is taken flat-out for 15 seconds. There is an ideal overtaking spot in S1 down into Turn 5 if the driver chasing closely behind can get beside and outbrake his opponent.
In the second sector, the cars decelerate from the highest top-speed of 320kph helped by the DRS wing to 80kph in a heavy braking zone for next chicane. The long straight is just opposite to the West Grandstand ensuring a great view. After that, the long-stretching right turning curve has the overtaking potential, on which, the second DRS was seen in the last race held at Yas – tyres experience up to 5g under braking in that end part of middle sector.
The Sector 3 lowers down the car’s speed as it has multiple slow turns to contend with. While throughout the final sequence of corners the tyres get worked out more and the resulting heat peaks a temperature of approximately 120 deg C. About 59% of Qualifying is dealt with DRS open; I reckon that rate will go even higher if the final sector has been any fast. The GP2 support series that trundle around prior to every race won’t be available as its season got to a closure, we only have the exciting Australian V8s tussle it out bumper-to-bumper.
Car Set-up: The track evolution will be mighty throughout the weekend as no racing in the circuit for most part of the year. Good mechanical grip along with good traction to get the most out of slow-speed corners impact balance quite significantly. A compromise has to be made between that and HRT’s overheating brake issues might crop up here as well as the brakes are tested to the core. As for the downforce level, medium setup is the most probable to ensure good straight-line speed and effective kerb riding.
Tyre Choices: The versatile P Zero soft compound and white Medium tyres are nominated to run for this race weekend. This is the last race for softs which already had featured in 14 others. From a tyre point of view, it won’t be tested to the very limit as in other circuits so drivers will push as hard as they can to get as high up in the grid to start the race. Despite minimal chances to overtake, only once the victory had been seized from pole in three races. The difference in speed between them should be quite small if the car set-up is right. Teams would go with two stops strategy, perhaps some might try the gamble of stopping once.
Engine: It’s the only nightfall race so the evening Friday practice is as important. As the circuit is built on an artificial island at sea level, high ambient pressure boosts up the engine power and it further goes high on the race day. In that respect, Mercedes may have an upper hand on straights as they have traditionally done quite well in the sandy tarmac of Abu Dhabi.