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. Keith, have you given any thought to holding another round of the circuit design contest? Perhaps for this round you could persuade the kind professionals at Populous to participate in the judging and provide feedback on the designs? :)

  2. (why not put down a more grippy Tarmac off the racing line in some corners, it might make the drivers vary their lines into them and won’t be so much of a penalty when going round another car) how true john snow.
    and to add to that put grippier tarmac on the inside on the braking area for the turns that way encouraging divebombs.

  3. The climate in Abu Dhabi or Bahrain definitely works against the tracks. For instance, Silverstone has produced some very drab races (before 2010) but these have been interspersed with wet races which soften the blow to some extent.

    Tracks in hot dry climates must then work even harder to produce decent entertainment. If only Yas Marina wasn’t designed to be flat as a pancake, then we might get some variation in braking leading to more overtaking.

  4. Modern conceptions of curves – square curves. Tilke, knock it off, that’s not funny.

  5. Hi Keith,
    in my humblest opinion this is the best solution to improve overtake in Yas Marina:
    tight corner at turn 11, with turn 17 that become a critical point for overtaking, and turn 7 moved 100 metres back


  6. I’ve revised my previous idea to incorporate a chicane layout similar to HounslowBusGarage’ idea:


    I’ve also increased the radius of turns 2-3 to reduce the effects of the downforce penalty of cars traveling in dirty air behind another car, and hopefully benefit from the tow instead. Turn 8 has also been tightened again similar to the original configuration.

    1. Well done…for all the money spent the 1st. time, they couldn’t get it right.:(

      1. Thanks!

        Alright, my final version and then I’m done I promise lol! :


        1. Do you work for Populous Eric?? Because you probably should do! Thats areal nice design.

          1. If they had a Canadian office I’d certainly try lol.

            Thank you for the kind words :)

        2. Pretty good with that last one….

          However I would open out the exit of the hairpin in the north (to the “right”). Make it a sharp tight in, followed by an opening exit onto the straight.

          It’s the same as you’ve done with the chicane at the end of the main straight. Someone who is defending at that chicane could now be got down the back straight.

          I also like to some extent what you’ve done with the last two corners… However I would keep the final corner as a sharp >-corner, that potentially gives some variety in the last few cars.

        3. HounslowBusGarage
          24th November 2010, 21:16

          Looks pretty good, Eric.

          1. Yes, exactly like that. :)

            I think that just introduces an extra bit of speed on the exit from the hairpin that would allow following faster cars to get on the throttle and up behind the leading car as they go onto the straight.

            Thinking about it, what would be an even cooler idea would be if the straight wasn’t straight but curved infield more before going straight.

            Kinda like this… (not very good with graphics)

            This way it makes that section in front of the grandstand much more exciting and opens up the chance for faster following cras to get a move on slower leading cars.

  7. What about just running it backwards (clockwise)?Obviously the turn 7 / hairpin runoff issue still hangs around like a bad smell, but it fits Populous’ philosophy of overtaking opp straight after an overtaking opp. The Populos tweak at turns 11-14 could be interesting clockwise too.
    I could envisage issues with lines of sight for spectators and other runoff arrangements, but they have a sovereign wealth fund to play with… just get it done.

  8. here’s my version for abu dhabi

    i’ll just turn the hairpin into one big left hander and at the end of the straight make a fast kink like the old woodcot…

  9. Race with camels!

  10. In two words…start again

    What a indightment on Herbert Tinkles that the tracks only a couple of years old and everyone knows its a massive snorefest – it proves that Tinky should retire and take up jigsaw puzzles. All his tracks should be looked at. The suggestions would at least give the circuit a little character, and watching on TV I’d be able to identify where the drivers are!
    Personally I think most of the corners would benefit from re-profiling – the last 2 in particular look likes theres space to make two really good corners leading to start finish
    i.e. turn 20 faster, turn 21 longer corner where the cars really ‘wind themselves up’ onto the main straight. Legard would wet himself.

  11. Of all Hermione Twinkles tracks this is his worst.

    And now he’s off to America to potentially to put prozac out of business.

    1. HounslowBusGarage
      24th November 2010, 23:12

      I Do Know How You Feel, Mikos.
      But it’s not all Tilke’s fault. I’ve worked in the marina industry for a few years, and before that I designed hotels. So I think I know how the brief might have developed on Yas Marina.
      “We want a motorbike and sidecar, Herman. A really fast one.”
      “With a six burner gas cooking hob on the side, as well.”
      “Oh, and a full set of halogen lights.”
      “And security cameras please, four of them.”
      Unless you are prepared to wrestle with the client and nail down what he/she/they want(s) in very precise terms at the outset you will wind up receiving the instructions I outlined above.
      As far as I remember, Yas Island was already pretty well planned out before they ever got Tilke involved to design a circuit there.
      And if that’s right, he would have had to work with whatever was shown in the masterplan – whatever his remonstrations it’s unlikely the client would agree to move an apartment block or shopping mall 100 metres to accommodate Tilke’s run off areas!
      Whatever the design process, it seems pretty clear now that someone miscalculated the run off area needed for F1 cars at the first hairpin. This necessitated the silly chicane on the way in. And now we are all trying to fugure out the best way to improve the circuit given that the grandstands hemm the circuit in very tightly.
      Austin might be different. As far as I can see, there is no attempt to interweave a marina, hotel, mall, airport, state capitol into the track design and the track seems to have come first . . . so it should be okay.
      I *do* have sympathy with Tilke having read the FIA regulations on new circuits. But I still can’t forgive him for his use of constant radius curves, slow corner enty onto long straights, consistent medium speed chicanes and lack of elevation/camber changes.
      Austin might be his last chance – and it looks good so far – let’s hope it’s a real belter!

      1. I am not absolutely satisfied with the design of Austin. Surely it has a whole sector of flowing corners and elevation changes but I doubt that it helps overtaking. There´s also the >1 km straight with 2 hairpins at the ends and some needless corners in sector 3.

        I´ll never understand why they don´t use the space to create flowing desert circuits.


  12. How good would it be if Bernie let the next track to be built be based on design ideas from F1 Fans….Then if it was rubbish we’d have no one to blame but ourselves!

  13. Great race tracks have unique features and no great race tracks were built on a billiard table. They all involve elevation changes, banked turns and off-camber turns. The tracks at Interlagos, Spa, Monza and Monte Carlo are examples of places where it is truly a joy to watch racing whereas Yas Marina is a boring, yawning festival where the only interesting thing is the “hairnet” over the hotel. And, maybe, the pit exit.
    What a shame that they spent multi-millions of dollars on a show-case, gaudy, look-at-me facility while only giving second thoughts to the F1 circuit itself. I think they can afford to piddle away a few million more for whatever it takes to make it a World-Class racing facility. Even if they have to demolish and rebuild a grandstand or two they could increase their meager seating capacity in the process.

    1. You obviously weren’t there…. there is NO WAY that race was a boring yawn fest…. it was exciting, tense and full of incident EVERY LAP.

      And that was just the race… the circuit itself and the entertainment put on by the organisers made it a great weekend.

      What I was disappointed by this year was the action in the support races which weren’t nearly as good as last year.

      1. No, Mark I wasn’t there. I watched it on SPEED TV with the rest of the peasants here in the U.S.A. that can’t afford the trip half way across the world.
        Follow Alonso for two laps and you could see he wasn’t getting anywhere. Same for Webber, et al. It was a wishing-well race for anyone that didn’t want Vettel to win.
        If you get that excited by a mediocre race you should switch to NASCAR Sprint Cup and you’d have an orgasm every lap.

  14. I don’t think the Abu Dhabi needs major alterations to help overtaking. The big problem is the radius of the last corner. Like the final turn in Sepang, the apex is too forgiving to give a driver behind a chance to get a run on the driver ahead.

    Tightening this corner right up will help overtaking significantly for two reasons. One, if it is tight enough it will give a driver a chance to have a dive entering the corner, either providing an overtaking opportunity or making the driver ahead drive defensively. Two, it will make it much easier for a driver behind to get a run on a driver ahead down the following straight because faster cars generally have more grip/better turn-in capability and a sharp apex exaggerates this advantage.

    Here’s a diagram of how this could look (hope link works):

    1. Sorry, link didn’t work, you’ll have to copy/paste :)

      I’d also like to add that I think the modifications proposed by Drew (and others) to the corners following the second straight are definitely an improvement.

      1. That’s a terrible idea…

        It has all the existing problems of the entry… it makes the hairpin even tighter – I’m not even sure F1 cars could get round it, it looks almost as tight as the Station Hairpin at Monaco… and by being as tight as that it would reduce overtaking on the main straight even more.

        The corner needs a bigger radius not a smaller radius…. and as discussed earlier in this thread it needs a tight in and open out configuration rather than a pointy hairpin.

  15. The track was designed for looks (made to look like a pistol) and spectators, not for driving unfortunately. The Yas Marina Circuit is breathtaking as a facility and second to none as a facility, but lacks as a track. I’ve driven both the Yas Marina Circuit and the Dubai Autodrome and can say that the Autodrome is a lot more fun to drive and would probably make a better F1 circuit.

  16. I got an idea about the chicane: how about just connect the first left turn of the chicane to the long straight using a left turn with a big radius?

  17. My version:
    1. Replaced the the chicane-hairpin with a cambered hairpin (similar to Tarzanbocht, albeit a bit tighter)

    2. Replaced the chicane at the end of the straight with a short and fast kink. The turn can be widened to allow drivers to take multiple lines, slipstreaming into the chicane at the end of the straight.

    3. Added a banked corner after the chicane, with a section similar to the last sector at Valencia, passing over a bridge to add to a spectacle, elevation change, and a possible overtaking opportunity into the 90 deg corner (ie: Kobayashi on Buemi at Valencia).

    4. Added a fast bend into a new hairpin to give a new overtaking opportunity.


  18. Apologies for the confusing wording in my previous comment:P

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