Yas Marina Abu Dhabi by Populous

How Yas Marina could be changed to aid overtaking

2011 F1 calendarPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Yas Marina Abu Dhabi by Populous
Yas Marina Abu Dhabi by Populous

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix race organisers have been urged to make changes to the Yas Marina track to improve opportunities for overtaking.

But with several permanent structures in place around the track, re-configuring it could prove difficult.

This exclusive image produced for F1 Fanatic by the architects who designed Silverstone’s ‘Arena’ extension show how a revised Yas Marina track could look.


Populous were approached by Silverstone to revise parts of their circuit in order to allow Moto GP bikes to race at the track.

The revisions went down well with F1 fans after the first Grand Prix on the revised layout, with 80% saying the changes were an improvement.

But whereas the grandstands at Silverstone are temporary constructions, all bar one grandstand at Yas Marina is permanent. This means the footprint of the circuit is very tight, giving them less scope for change without incurring significant costs.

Drew MacDonald, motorsport specialist at Populous, points out the limitations on any future changes to the track:

We’ve tried to ensure that none of the existing stands would need to move so that Yas Marina can continue operations – ticket sales and so on – with minimum disruption.

Unfortunately there is little that can be done with the long back straight – which came under some criticism for being too long – due to a tunnel.

This is a major, six-lane access road to the centre of the circuit and would cost in the regions of millions of US$ to change as well as causing significant disruption to track activities.
Drew MacDonald

Within those limitations Populous have suggested changes to the track in two areas to improve opportunities for overtaking, mainly by cutting out the track’s slow, narrow chicanes.

There have also been rumours that Yas Marina is hoping to attract a Moto GP race of its own, which they have also kept in mind.

Turns three to seven

Adrian Sutil in the turn seven hairpin, 2009
Adrian Sutil in the turn seven hairpin, 2009

The chicane in front of the hairpin is there for a reason but it also causes problems for drivers trying to overtake:

The run-off at turn seven is insufficient – that’s why there’s a chicane before the hairpin.

Since the grandstand is a permanent structure, which forms viewing for the arena behind, moving it is not an option. The only other option would be to move the hairpin further back, but this would detract from the viewing experience.

We think it’s best to try and leave the track grandstand relationship as it is but change the way the speed is moderated prior to it.
Drew MacDonald

Populous looked for a different way to slow the cars down before the corner without inhibiting overtaking:

We’ve maintained our philosophy that the first hairpin is followed by another overtaking opportunity very soon afterwards. We found that for F1, Moto GP and sportscars, this worked very well with the relationship between ‘Village’ and ‘The Loop’ at Silverstone

We’ve removed the chicane by taking the track slightly further infield. This also creates a new turn four, which is a sweeping left-hander approached at speed.

That leads into a tight, but wide, first hairpin followed by a double-apex tightening left-hander, similar to the Courbe de Caupenne at Nogaro. We used a similar geometry on the Dubai Autodrome and it often catches drivers out on the exit.

This is a challenge which will control speed through the corner down to the next hairpin. The existing hairpin would then be used as a more traditional hairpin which we’re showing widened.

What we learnt at Silverstone is that by bunching the cars at Village they do have a go at the loop and again at Brooklands, which ideally would be a little tighter. The modifications made here are trying to capitalise on what we’ve learnt from Silverstone and the existing hairpins of Yas Marina.
Drew MacDonald

Turns 11 to 15

Kimi R??ikk??nen in the turn 12 chicane, 2009

The chicane after turn 11 is also removed in the Populous design and again the opportunity is used to introduce some more flowing corners into the layout:

We’ve also proposed removing the chicane after the hairpin which is currently turn 11.

This creates a tighter, more traditional hairpin where a passing move should stick when it is made.

After that we’ve added two sweeping curves similar to the ‘Esses’ in Suzuka.
Drew MacDonald

Populous say they’re happy to put a rendering of the altered track in their simulator for the race organisers to inspect.

Although the race organisers have indicated changes to the circuit are being considered, there’s no word yet on what those changes might be or who would design them.

The track, which was used for the first time last year, was created by Hermann Tilke, the man whose company is behind most of the new circuits on the F1 calendar.

Do you think the Yas Marina circuit needs changing? Do you think these proposed alterations are an improvement? Have your say in the comments.

Some readers have already suggested changes to the track in the forum.

Yas Marina as used for the 2010 Grand Prix

Yas Island, 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Yas Island, 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Yas Marina with revisions by Populous

Yas Marina Abu Dhabi by Populous
Yas Marina Abu Dhabi by Populous

Read F1 Fanatic’s earlier interview with Populous

Images ?? Yas Marina/Populous, Force India F1 Team, Ferrari spa

152 comments on “How Yas Marina could be changed to aid overtaking”

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  1. Craig Woollard
    23rd November 2010, 11:24

    The problem is, overtaking can’t happen at Yas Marina unless the layout is changed to a low-downforce circuit. Look at the tracks where overtaking does happen, I can only pick out a few. Interlagos – Medium downforce, high undulation, variable weather. Spa – Medium downforce, high undulation, variable weather, Silverstone – Medium downforce, no undulation (bar Stowe), variable weather. Monza – Low downforce, no undulation (except on run up to Ascari Chicane), variable weather, Montréal – Low downforce, no undulation, usually dry. I think you get my point. Unless I’m mistaken, undulation, variable weather & low downforce circuits provide overtaking, being in the middle of a desert, does not.

    1. Monza has variable weather? It’s usually dry, isn’t it?

      1. Yep, 2008 was the first and so far only wet race there I think. :) It’s been wet on some practics IIRC though.

        1. *that should be ‘practices’ not ‘practics’ :p

  2. I like the proposals around the Marina section. Much better. Not convinced by the run down to the hairpin.

    One section I would like to change is the hairpin/chicane at the end of the straight. I’d like to change that to something more like the chicane at the back of Brands Hatch – something where the cars are at speed, on the edge of grip, instead of first gear trundle-athon it currently is.

    Also, it reminds me of my suggestions for the awful, awful Bahrain track (the third one here is my favourite) – image

    1. Craig Woollard
      23rd November 2010, 11:41

      The third one is the one they use for endurance races. That layout wouldn’t aid overtaking at all, the second one wouldn’t assist either, I do prefer that layout to the 2010 version though.

    2. The Bahrain loop is also my hot-favorite by a mile, I’d love to see the cars in full Monza tea-tray spec whistle round and round that track.
      Too many fiddly identikit layouts nowadays, tracks should instead strive to have their own distinct character, that third layout would certainly catch the attention. A modern replacement for the old Hockenheim.

      Anyone heard what they have planned? I know the 2010 mickey-mouse sector is out, but hopefully it’s not just back to the tedious same-old same-old. I fear it may be.

  3. Alex and Craig above are thinking in the right direction.

    It’s not *just* the tracks that is the problem… although as Craig has shown the high downforce tracks are the one’s with limited overtaking… we need low downforce, high mechanical grip cars… but that ain’t going to happen as the FIA are safety minded, and this would produce cars faster down the straight AND faster through the corners. We could reduce top speed by simply not having the silly long straights, I don’t think any of the tracks Craig mentions have km long straights.

    …and then there is the drivers which brings me back to an earlier comment I made…

    If Kobayashi can do it, then so can all the other no-marks! KK is reminding us the problem is not just the track and the cars, but the drivers as well… and he doesn’t even have the fastest car in the field… Vettel’s overtakes at Silverstone were embarrassing in comparison in what was the fastest car by a country mile.

    1. Craig Woollard
      23rd November 2010, 11:48

      Spa has the run up to Les Combes, but even then, there’s 4 corners between La Source and there… Thanks for agreeing with me anyway :)

      1. True, but it’s uphill so the car doesn’t quite hit the same top speed as it would at China or Korea for example.

  4. Just give me and my mate a couple of days with a pair of Cat D11’s and we will fix the circuit. After we have finished I can absolutely guarantee Kimi fanboys that he will be faster around the circuit in a C4 than Nando in an F10. Actually I dont think an F10 would make it over the first yump on my redesigned circuit…..

  5. What I would do is:

    For the first sector, follow that extra long radius curve before putting in a corner like Degner 1 at Suzuka (ie, a small radius open corner with lots of camber which cars have to thread their line through, just before the first switchback. Have another similar corner which lines it up parallel with the grandstand.

    In the third sector, make it a U shaped left hander that is tight on the entry, widens in the middle and tightens on the exit.

  6. I hope this becomes a reality, taking existing Formula One tracks and making changes to them to allow more overtaking.
    Especially the newer tracks – it si a disservice to the Formula One community as a whole to have tracks being used that offer almost no excitement aside from the start and pit stops.

  7. Here’s a radical idea. How about we remove the original turns 8 and 9 (the hairpins at the end of the main straight) and make it into a long sweeping left-hander kind of like a 130R. The cars would go full throttle for nearly 30+ seconds down to turn 11. Speeds more than 350 kmph can be reached. This will mean that cars will most likely run a Spa or Monza level of downforce on the Abu Dhabi track. Populous’s new sector 1 demands a very high downforce for sector 1. But as cars have low downforce, they would really struggle through this sector and thus, more mistakes would be made by drivers.

    Regarding the run-off at the new 130R, they would just have to start the turn a little bit before so that there is sufficient run-off.

    1. Don’t corners like 130R require high downforce? That may be my misunderstanding, genuine question.

      1. Yes, a lower radius corner will require high downforce. But this isn’t going to be a low radius corner. It will be more like Curva Grande or Lesmos at Monza. This year, most of the cars were taking those corners with the F-duct switched on, i.e. at low downforce.

        I used 130R as a reference so that people could visualize it easily. If my geometry is good, this is going to be some sort of a 200R or 220R. Besides, the kind of high speeds (possibly higher than Monza) we could expect expect at Turn 11 means that if anyone ran a high downforce setup, then that driver would be a sitting duck at Turn 11.

  8. Turn 8 should have a simple corner, not necessarily wider but without the chicane.

  9. I read Todt was talking about rating the tracks/layouts in terms of entertainment – this is worth an article in itself. I can think of some tracks ranking very low eg.Barcelona etc.

  10. THANK YOU KEITH! For bringing this subject to light. I voiced my opinion a couple of times after the Yas Marina race, criticizing the awful layout. I don’t have any brilliant ideas, I will leave that to the “experts”. What I am happy about is people are talking reconfiguration, and certainly needs to happen. When much faster cars (ALO behind PET for 32 laps I believe while being 8 tenths per lap faster) can’t pass slower cars, it makes for a disappointing race, especially when a WDC is on the line. I hope Bernie and crew listen to our voice. It’s in his best interest after that terrible race on an absolutely embarassing track. I do have 1 thought, blow that POS up and start over. I think ALO would agree.

    1. I was at the race and I totally disagree…

      ALO being stuck behind PET for 32 laps was thoroughly exciting, tense and entertaining.

      Every lap we were all straining to look up the straight to see how close ALO was this lap, would he or wouldn’t he make it this time, then the frustration as he failed and they disappeared off down the back straight. With us left thinking how close can he get next time :)

      And it wasn’t just that…. there were 3-4 of these tussles going on so EVERY lap we were treated to 3-4 tense, exciting moments.

      But then maybe you’d prefer a race where the fastest cars breeze past without having to try, where all the cars in front jump out of the way and let them past, and all they have to do is drive to the end of the race to pick up the points.

      I think that’s what ALO wanted, and I, for one, am glad it wasn’t like that… now that would have been a boring end to the season.

      If that had happened do you think we’d be here now having this debate ? ALO would have boringly picked up the championship and the race would have been forgotten already. Instead we’re still talking about it.

  11. I’d change Turn 11 into a 3 apex corner like Turkey’s Turn 8 (hopefully with more than 1 racing line) then follow Populous’s change and have a maggotts/beckets type section up to the current Turn 15.

    No idea if this will improve the overtaking though…

    Keith, If Populous have any spare time on their hands, perhaps they could suggest changes to Valencia’s circuit, as the circuit organisor was saying after the GP that he will look into circuit changes, and consult the drivers. Though I haven’t heard anything else since.

    1. Why not change the Z elevation in places instead of tweaking in plan? Downhill or uphill braking areas can expose differences in drivers’ styles, resulting in more overtaking… in theory.

  12. As Keith already knows Populous have a simulator. If time allowed they would put Abu Dhabi upgrade options in the simulator and test them. Any new circuit they design goes through this process much like the development of a car or driver.

  13. Great article Keith. I do hope they make these changes and enhance the circuit as I think that visually the track is stunning, and I love the day/night aspect of the racing.

    Now if only they could combine this with good on-track action it would be terrific.

  14. just dont go there, go to a real street track lol

  15. It is very useful to have some professionals chime in with input here, so thanks to Populous to spending some time on it – and to you, Keith, for publishing this.

    What is shown quite well, I think, is the kinds of limitations with which the actual circuit design was conceived. The intent of building the hairpin at the “right” side of the track apparently was to build a corner where the spectators and, thus, grandstands can be put very close to the track. The compromise for achieving that is quite severe, though, because you need a corner which in itself is slow enough that it doesn’t need significant run-off, and a corner right before it to make sure the entry speed into that corner is low as well. Both of which resulted in a passage of three corners which are too tight and follow each other too closely to overtake – at the very least with monoposto-type cars where you can’t lean onto the side of your opponent.

    I don’t see how the Populous idea does much to rectify this problem, as the distance from the previous corner to the hairpin still seems quite short.

    What I would completely agree with is the second revision they’ve skechted out. That chicane after the second long straight is problematic, because from what the races have shown (and even what F1 2010, though not by any means an accurately detailed simulation, can illustrate), the most promising prospect of overtaking there seems to get the opponent to defend the inside line, stick to the racing line and either hope the other guy outbrakes himself – or has to brake earlier because there’s dirt off the racing line and you can overtake him around the outside. That’s all very neat if it happens and a driver manages to exploit that and make it stick, but I think it’s a corner design that makes overtaking a bit more difficult than it could be.

    1. Actually what I think this shows is that we shouldn’t give up on a circuit after the first couple of races…

      There are plenty of good ideas for improving the circuit, improving overtaking opportunities, improving the show… even within the very limited confines of Abu Dhabi.

      All it takes is someone to grab hold of the ideas and run with them to get them implemented.

      It is doing something about it that counts… rather than just moaning by onloookers and inaction by the circuit owners.

    1. Stephen Higgins
      23rd November 2010, 19:27

      Oops, didn’t mean to make the whole thing a link, sorry Keith.

  16. This only shows how badly Hermann Tilke got this one…

    I like the improvements a lot. But I cannot get out of my head how and why they have to go through all this.

    They started with a clean piece of paper, nothing written, everything to be done. Now another company has million limitations with the grandstands, the insufficient run-off, the hotel in the middle…

    I hope FIA think twice before approving a circuit design from now on. I also hope the organizers and the design group ask the drivers some views about it. In the end, they are the ones driving, and they know where it’ll be possible to overtake a lot better than some architects sitting in front of a computer…

  17. HounslowBusGarage
    23rd November 2010, 23:09

    While I’ve been working on something legitimate this evening, the problem of Change 1 has been niggling away at the back of my mind, and I realised how the designers got it wrong.
    The primary design showed the traight going straight into the hairpin right into the elbow of the grandstands. Subsequent calculations showed that the runoff area would not be sufficient for F1 (and possibly other formulae) cars. Hurriedly, the track constructors (with or without the input of Tilke Gmbh) introduced a left-right chicane before the hairpin.
    Except that they got it wrong.
    The first left is about 120 degrees, which is much too easy and whereas it should be 90 degrees to set the cars a real challenge and breaking point coming off the straight. Make the cars brake from high speed into a slow corner, even if it’s before the intended hairpin.
    Alternatively, the track designer/constructors could have blended the straight into a gentle left bend towards the infield leading into a hard right immediately before the hairpin.
    Please jave a look here http://www.hfmedia.co.uk/test1/Change1%20Revision-1.gif
    at my revisions. The nasty brownish ribbon is my design laid over the top of the Populous diagram shown on Keith’s blog. The top illustration shows a much later and tighter left turn into the infield which would have offered a far more dramatic braking ad passing opportunity than the rather flacid current layout. The second layout shows a rather more fundamental revision wherein the track continues the very attractive left-right-left sequence of 2 -3 -4 into a 90 degree hard right as close to the hairpim as possible.
    In both of thesae suggestions, the spectators at the hairpin are not deprived of any of the spectacle of cars hurtling towards them and braking to negotiate a hard left or right followed by a long left sequence with passing and confrontation opportunities.
    Tell me whadda y’think

    1. I really like your second idea. It’s simple but I think it could work. A right-left chicane before the hairpin makes more sense in this situation than the current left-right. This allows the line the cars take into the hairpin to be widened a fair amount. Hopefully then they could stay a little closer to each other as they head up the straight. Not only that, the new route brings the cars even closer to the grandstands adjacent to the entry into the hairpin. Thus the viewing experience gets even better. Nice work!

      1. I agree on all points – if we must have a chicane there, yours would flow much more naturally than the current one. Nice idea Hounslow.

    2. I like the second one better….

      However, how does it help overtaking through this section and how does it increase the exit speed onto the straight ? It doesn’t.

      So the cars go into this section in procession, and all the leading car has to do to protect themselves down the main straight is to stall the following cars or brake test them at the apex of the hairpin before flooring it onto the straight.

      The exit onto the main straight MUST be widened and made faster to allow the following cars to get on the tail of the car in front on the exit onto the straight.

      1. HounslowBusGarage
        24th November 2010, 21:42

        Yes, I think I agree with you in general. But we are dealing with a number of ‘fixed points’ here.
        The grandstands are built and immovable. The angle between them is relatively shallow, so there isn’t much room to open out the exit of the hairpin to improve exit speed.
        On the way into the hairpin, there has to be some kind of track variation that causes the cars to brake heavily and lose speed before the hairpin itself because there isn’t sufficient run off room at the hairpin.
        So you either:-
        1) introduce a chicane before the hairpin
        2) pull the hairpin back and increase the run off area
        3) demolish the central section of the grandstand and use that area as run off area.
        If you put some kind of chicane on the way in, that extra bit of track uses up what little space there is between the straight leading in to the hairpin and the exit straight, so you can’t open up the exit from the hairpin by much. There just isn’t the room in the shallow angle between the grandstands.
        It’s a bit like that stupid Irish joke
        “How do I get to Dunleary from here?”
        “Well, if I wanted to get to Dunleary, I wouldn’t be starting from here.”
        Yas Marina has been built. Any replan has to start with what is already there. I wouldn’t have a super-slow hairpin leading onto a long straight either. But unless the track authorities have bottomless pockets and are prepared to demolish grandstands, they will have to use substantially what they have already got while planning improvements.

  18. Hate the first corner

  19. here’s my take:


    I started by modifing turn 2 into a long sweeping left-right S turn leading into a tight right hander. Hopefully this could allow the chasing car to get a bit closer to the car ahead for a chance to overtake at the chicane, which I’ve pushed forward slightly. I’ve also changed the tight turn 8 chicane into a fast kink. Turn 11-15 is also different, but my changes are basically the same as the Populous revisions. I’ve also sped up turns 20 and 21 to be similar to the Lesmo 1 and 2 turns at monza. The new circuit length is 5.52km, a difference of 30m from the original.

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