How Yas Marina could be changed to aid overtaking

2011 F1 calendar

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

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

  1. It seems to me that by Popous breaking up the square geometry of the track they have made it look more ‘natural’ and flowing.

    The spectators in the hairpin grandstand will be edit from seeing more of the cars because of the new double hairpins, I don’t know whether racing fans will see a benefit.

    From a drivers perspective, the final sector will be interesting with various new corners.

    You mention that there are constraints in changing the layout because of roads and grandstands – I’m sure there is enough money for them to do what they want on Yas Island. :D

  2. *Populous.

    I also forgot to say, that I liked the ‘Yas Marina Fast Layout’ which was posted on a Round Up early last week. (link possibly posted by geemac?).

  3. Feynman said on 23rd November 2010, 10:51

    Already posted mine a while ago, so won’t repeat it all here,

    Same basic idea as the Populous one for “post Turn 3″ I think, although I still prefer the idea of trying to eek some slight unused gradient out of the current circuit layout.
    For those still unsure of the theory, think of the new tight section as a Mirabeau, Lowes, Portier … slow the cars down, shed the aero-loads, allow them to get nose-to-tail, give the people in that little stranded grandstand a bit of a show, and then allowing someone to occasionally stick a nose up the inside on the (now 3 times longer) spurt down to the hairpin. Make any mistake at all in this sector and you’re kippered down the straight.

    Warming to the Monaco theme, I’d like to ammend my suggestion with Armco barrier round the outside circuit edge for the last two corners. Put a crane in the now redundant acre of run-off area.
    You’d now have that tricky off-camber corner under the hotel, maybe bang the wall like Webber on exit, and skim the new barriers coming onto the straight. If they get away with it up St Devote, we can do it in Abu Dhabi. With all the big boats, and barriers you’d then start to have yourself a proper Monaco in the desert … think of the broken wheel-rim sparks under floodlights.

    Finally, I appreciate the place is floating on oil, and “guest” workers can be cattle-trucked in at the drop of a hat, but still, it’s Yas Island, not Fantasy Island. Assuming they are running to any sort of budget whatsoever: with this solution you’d only need 50feet of tarmac over an existing service road, a truckload of shiny barrier and someone with a spade to knock in some fence-holes, job done in a long weekend.

  4. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 23rd November 2010, 11:18

    I’m not a fan of the Populous changes. I don’t think they really address the two major problems with the circuit: the turn eight/nine switchback and the section under the hotel; the first section is a problem because it very definitely favours the defending driver, whilst the section under the hotel has a repetitive, stop-start rhythm. I also think that with the amount of space available at the sections where they want to make changes, the limited amount of space means that their proposals might be a little too tight and compact. I can see their first revision in particular being a problem space-wise, while I don’t think there’s actually that much wrong with the bottom chicane. It might be a chicane, but it favours the attacking driver, and most of the passing that we see on a Grand Prix weekend takes place there.

    If I were approached to redesign the circuit, this is how I would do it:

    First of all, I’d run the circuit in the “opposite” direction. The cars would drive down the main straight in the opposite direction to what they do now, using the existing roads that shorten the circuit into its smaller halves to connect the main straight into the back half of the current circuit. This would also make the first corners very quick. The circuit would continue as planned down to the bottom chicane and up around the hotel. There wasn’t much that I could do here, but maybe the angles of the corner could be changed a little to make it more like the Parabolica.

    Then it’s time for the biggest change of all: the cross-over. The circuit would need to cross over itself somehow, though I’m envisioning a tunnel more than a Suzuka-style flyover. The road would then loop up behind the existing grandstands and then cut under them. This is possible because the tarmac run-off that already exists at this corner actually goes under the grandstand, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to convert it into racing circuit.

    Then it’s down the long back straight, and the only problem with the circuit: there is nothing to slow the cars down into the hairpin. The existing chicane is there to shave speed off into a corner with virtually no run-off, but in this version there is nothing. That said, it may be possible to use some of the alternate routes so create a semi-chicane (kind of like turns eleven and twelve at Albert Park) to shave some speed off. Having cleared the hairpin, the cars could skip the chicane via the escape road ready to tackle the hill. The only difference here is that I’ve added two extra bends to force the cars to zig-zag a little more. The rest of the circuit continues unabridged (though in reverse to the existing cnfiguration) back to the main straight.

    • Feynman said on 23rd November 2010, 11:34

      Hmmm, so running it backwards, you’d take one of the longer straights in F1, extend it further, and then run full pelt, full bananas, straight at the concrete wall holding up the grandstand?

      The current run off is considered suitable for only a 2nd or 3rd gear exit from a slow chicane … if you ran backwards, and someone had a car failure, they could peel what’s left of the car and driver off the wall with a wallpaper scraper. It’d look like a Wile E Coyote Acme Rocket aftermath.

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 23rd November 2010, 11:38

        That’s why I’m suggesting a kind of quick kink beforehand. Fast enough that it’s not a brazen chicane, but slow enough to shave speed off.

        • Feynman said on 23rd November 2010, 12:08

          You might want to sketch out such kinks in the diagram, cos right now it’s still laser-straight.

          Despite all the extended run-off area, safer barriers and raised grandstands at the other end of straight, Natacha Gachnang still managed to put some extra angles in her legs when she had a brake failure. Going up against a solid wall, those kinks are gonna need to be a whole lot more kinky than I think you think.

          So by the time you’ve burned up swathes of your straight trying to slow them down for that hairpin, I’ve gotta ask what was the point of adding all that extra straight at the other end … except to maybe move one potential overtaking opportunity (braking into your turn 11) outside the circuit?

          The poor put-upon ticketed trackside punters surely see little enough live-action as it is without us putting chunks of the track out in the car park behind them.

    • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 23rd November 2010, 14:26

      I do think that is a very interesting idea you have there Prisoner Monkeys – and if you could as you say, fix the problem with the limited run-off at the hairpin it could work. To me it seems that they built the grandstands first, then the track, before realising they needed a chicane to slow the cars down. Either that or they built the circuit wholly to satisfy the fans desires to be closer to the cars…

    • Icthyes said on 23rd November 2010, 16:30

      Actually I think you went too far: just run it the other way. On the opening lap, with the cars bunched together the useless point-and-squirt corners could provide some entertainment for a change. Turn 5 could be moved back a bit so the straight goes directly to the next of corner, by-passing the chicane. Taking the next chicane backwards would also be better, as the drivers would instinctively defend by going to the left, leaving a challenger to try and go around the outside to have the inside of the next corner, making attempts more successful.

      The problem is the straight, which is too long for the run-off at the other end. What to do? Utilise the already-existing optional sections. Roughly halfway down the straight the circuit would go into the kink, which would then join up with the little fiddly infield bit to make a chicane before the hairpin. The cars would then take the proper hairpin, exiting down the shortcut and missing the chicane everyone loves to hate that’s there now.

      The final corner would probably have “too little run-off”, but they could probably extend the barriers back. That or covert the corner into a (very) mini version of China’s Turn 11-12-13

    • can’t tell you how epic that track looks. Your design would make a wonderfully unique circuit even more so and turn it into a genuine theatre of speed. Get in touch with the circuit owners!

  5. Instead of changing all the tracks, lets get some drivers with balls. How come for example Hamilton and Kobayashi manage to overtake lots more than other drivers? And if they do change the track, lets please think of other ways of creating overtaking opportunities instead of the usual long straight/hairpin combination. Some of the most memorable overtakes were made in corners which aren’t like that (Alonso on Schumacher in 130R comes to mind).

  6. Craig Woollard said on 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.

  7. 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

    • Craig Woollard said on 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.

    • Feynman said on 23rd November 2010, 11:45

      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.

  8. 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.

    • Craig Woollard said on 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 :)

  9. 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…..

  10. DavidS (@davids) said on 23rd November 2010, 12:38

    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.

  11. 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.

  12. sumedh said on 23rd November 2010, 13:05

    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.

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

      • sumedh said on 23rd November 2010, 14:55

        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.

  13. Bernard said on 23rd November 2010, 13:05

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

  14. Our Nige said on 23rd November 2010, 14:15

    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.

  15. 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.

    • Mark (@marlarkey) said on 24th November 2010, 17:25

      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.

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