Start, Abu Dhabi, 2009

Will Abu Dhabi finally give a race worth watching?

2011 Abu Dhabi GP previewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Start, Abu Dhabi, 2009
Lewis Hamilton leads at the start of the first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Neither of the previous Abu Dhabi races provided the excitement to match the spectacle of the ultra-modern venue.

With no alterations to the track this year, it’s down to the much-vaunted 2011 rules changes to buck the trend of tedious races at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Will they make a difference – and can anyone keep Sebastian Vettel from his 12th win of the year?

“A very, very popular event”

That got a lot of things right and at least one thing spectacularly wrong when they built the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi two years ago.

The architecture is ambitious and exciting, and helps make this a desirable event for the money men, as Renault’s Eric Boullier explains:

“Abu Dhabi is a very, very popular event and racing spectacle. To give you an example: we are absolutely jammed to the rafters in terms of the number of guests we have, and the interest we have received.

“It arrived on the calendar back in 2009 and since then it has acted as an extremely important race for the annual F1 circus. It brings motorsport to the United Arab Emirates in a big way.”

As you’d expect for a modern circuit, its safety standards are impeccable. These were put to test in a big way during the first round of the GT1 world championship in 2010.

Sebastien Buemi’s cousin Natasha Gachnang, driving a Ford GT, experienced every racing driver’s worst nightmare: brake failure at maximum speed heading towards turn eight. In her attempt to slam the brakes on as hard as possible she inadvertently caught the accelerator, and hurtled into the barriers with the front wheels locked and rear wheels still spinning.

This had the makings of a truly appalling accident. Gachnang’s life was saved thanks to the large run-off area and TecPro barrier, which contained the car’s deceleration at between 20-40g. She survived with only a broken leg.

The worst track in F1?

Yas Marina circuit information

Yas Marina, 2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Lap length 5.554km (3.451 miles)
Distance 55 laps (305.5km/189.8 miles)
Lap record* 1’40.279 (Sebastian Vettel, 2009)
Fastest lap 1’39.394 (Sebastian Vettel, 2010)
Tyres Medium and Soft

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Yas Marina track data in full

But while the facilities may be first-rate, there is one significant flaw with the Yas Marina circuit: it is an irredeemably awful track, perhaps the worst in F1.

Slow corner after slow corner with straights too long and wide to give any impression of speed. It’s broken up by chicanes which hinder overtaking and is too long for traffic to have much effect on the leaders.

“It?s not one of the most challenging venues of the season,” admits Mark Webber, “with every real corner being second and third gear.”

The hotel the track passes under may look spectacular, but the two races held at this circuit previously have been anything but.

There were rumours the circuit owners would address the track’s many manifest flaws before this year’s race. Sadly, that has not happened. Once a track is built and its infrastructure is in place, further renovations are costly, as Silverstone architects Populous explained in an article for F1 Fanatic last year.

The chief executive of the Yas Marina circuit, Richard Cregan, decided they would wait and see if the 2011 regulations changes improved the racing at the circuit before deciding on any alterations.

Last year provided a graphic illustration of the difficulty of overtaking at the circuit as Fernando Alonso spent 40 laps stuck behind Vitaly Petrov, losing the championship in the process. Despite being quicker, at no time was the Ferrari driver able to get close enough to even try to make a pass.

But would it really have been a more satisfactory outcome to see Alonso press the DRS button on his steering wheel and fly past the Renault on the straight?

Vettel eyes 12th win of 2011

Vitaly Petrov, Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Abu Dhabi, 2010
Alonso gets stuck behind Petrov in last year's race

As was the case at the first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix two years ago, both championships have already been decided. So will this race see a continuation of Sebastian Vettel’s dominance?

He is the only driver to have won here, though Lewis Hamilton has also gone well here in the past. The McLaren driver took pole position and led before retiring in the inaugural race, and finished runner-up to Vettel last year.

Once again, the question facing Hamilton going into this weekend is whether he can stay out of trouble and away from Felipe Massa.

The most significant action from a championship point of view is among the midfield teams. Toro Rosso appear to have single-handedly saved Renault from losing fifth in the championship by keeping Force India and Sauber from catching them. The latter pair are fighting a rearguard action to keep Toro Rosso behind.

Sauber’s efforts in this are not being helped by Kamui Kobayashi enduring a seven-race streak out of the points. He needs to bounce back at the circuit where he scored his first points finish two years ago.

Another unusual feature of the race is its late evening start, with darkness falling throughout the race: “The challenge doesn?t really come from the changing light, but the track temperature drops significantly when the sun sets,” says Kobayashi. “This makes it quite difficult to adapt during the race.”

Novel it may be, but it’s made little difference to races here in the past – just another example of how this Grand Prix is an exercise in style over substance.

Who do you expect to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix? Can anyone keep Vettel from victory? Have your say in the comments.

2011 driver form

Q avg R avg R best R worst Classified Form guide
Sebastian Vettel 1.29 1.53 1 4 17/17 Form guide
Mark Webber 3.88 3.44 2 5 16/17 Form guide
Lewis Hamilton 3.65 3.93 1 8 15/17 Form guide
Jenson Button 4.65 3.07 1 6 15/17 Form guide
Fernando Alonso 4.53 3.5 1 7 16/17 Form guide
Felipe Massa 5.71 6.57 5 11 14/17 Form guide
Michael Schumacher 10.47 7.83 4 17 12/17 Form guide
Nico Rosberg 7.65 7.8 5 12 15/17 Form guide
Nick Heidfeld 13.36 8.5 3 12 8/11 Form guide
Vitaly Petrov 10.12 10.57 3 17 14/17 Form guide
Rubens Barrichello 14.47 13.29 9 17 14/17 Form guide
Pastor Maldonado 13.88 14.67 10 18 12/17 Form guide
Adrian Sutil 11.94 10.27 6 15 15/17 Form guide
Paul di Resta 11.82 11.38 6 18 16/17 Form guide
Kamui Kobayashi 13.59 10.69 5 16 13/17 Form guide
Sergio Perez 14 11.64 7 17 11/15 Form guide
Sebastien Buemi 14.71 11.15 8 15 13/17 Form guide
Jaime Alguersuari 14.35 11.64 7 21 14/17 Form guide
Heikki Kovalainen 18.18 15.75 13 19 12/17 Form guide
Jarno Trulli 19.31 16.67 13 20 12/16 Form guide
Narain Karthikeyan 23.13 20 17 24 7/8 Form guide
Vitantonio Liuzzi 22.47 19.73 13 23 11/15 Form guide
Timo Glock 20.71 17.75 15 21 12/17 Form guide
Jerome D’Ambrosio 21.94 18.07 14 22 15/17 Form guide
Pedro de la Rosa 17 12 12 12 1/1 Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo 22.89 19.14 18 22 7/9 Form guide
Karun Chandhok 20 20 20 20 1/1 Form guide
Bruno Senna 11.67 13 9 16 6/6 Form guide

2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Browse all 2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix articles

Images ?? Yas Marina Circuit, Renault/LAT

98 comments on “Will Abu Dhabi finally give a race worth watching?”

Jump to comment page: 1 2
  1. I actually thought the 2009 race was pretty entertaining. It was a shame to lose Hamilton, but there was plenty of overtaking and battling. The scrap between Webber and Button at the end had my heart pounding and it was a brilliant way to finish the year.

    But I won’t deny the track is pretty average. They had a clean slate to work with, but decided to fill it with fiddly chicanes and 90 degree, street circuit-esque corners. The first few corners are actually quite interesting, but the rest of the track seems to be about showing off spectacular architecture and expensive yachts rather than showing off Formula 1. It basically makes a mockery of Formula 1 and treats it like a show – which to an extent, it is – but fails to take into account the fact that people aren’t going to want to tune in to watch a sunset and glowing hotel every year. No-one looks forward to it any more.

    I can’t see anyone but Vettel winning it for the third year in a row this weekend. The track doesn’t lend itself to overtaking, but that shouldn’t be too much of a problem with the DRS this weekend. However, with Vettel in his Red Bull, in the form that he’s in, it seems highly unlikely that we’ll see anyone within a second of him after 3 racing laps on Sunday.

    That said, I’d be all too happy to be proven wrong.

  2. Even if Fred had DRS last year, he would not have been able to get past Petrov. He was bouncing off the limiter. Petrov was simply faster in a straight line.

    1. Exactly, Thats something people often ignore.

      Alonso been stuck behind Petrov was purely down to Renault having a very efficient F-Duct, going for a low downforce setup & gearing the car for maximum top end speed. Both Petrov & Kubica were the fastest in the speed traps most of the weekend.

      Plus don’t forget that Ferrari simply made an error with Alonso’s pit strategy, Petrov ended up with the best pit strategy.

      Petrov then drove well enough to hold Alonso behind in the corners & under braking (Where Renault’s setup wasn’t ideal) & was able to easily build a gap down the straghts with his top speed.

      1. Don’t forget about Webber as well, he couldn’t pass Alonso either, but Red Bull don’t have great straight line speed

    2. FRED? lol Flistone?

  3. Will this years race be any better?

    No because DRS will just make passing easy, dull & unexciting!

    1. Not necessarily. It’s been pretty even this year as to how it’s affected race action.

      1. No it hasn’t, Every DRS pass I have seen on both the world-feed & BBC incar feed has been far too easy, dull & none of them have been exciting to watch.

        All the best overtaking has been well outside the DRS zones which just proves how ridiculous DRS is!

        I hope F1 ditches the stupid system & it never gets used anywhere again!

  4. I needs chopping in half, something like this

    Laptimes somewhere near 1.15.ish.

    And some gravel traps!!!

    1. Johnny b goode
      9th November 2011, 10:52

      Yes! I know cars can fly through gravel at high speed, but absolutely no reason why they can’t have it at the low speed corners, and the chicanes (which is pretty much every corner on the circuit anyway) :P

      I hate how easy it is to just cut a chicane if you make a mistake.

    2. Actually I think that is a very good layout, but the problem is, some moneybags could not see the action from their yachts.

      At the current layout they have this very combination of corners after the 2nd straight, just to slow the cars down, and show them to the top dogs. //as the track goes around the marina//

      1. I meant very stupid combination of corners

        1. yeah i thought about that problem @bag0 … they could always get off their yachts!!!!

          This layout reminds me a bit of Montreal and Hockenheim. Tilke should be afraid!

  5. I do think it’s sensible for them to hold off with any proposed changes until they can evaluate the race after the 2011 rules have had an outing. The only bit of this circuit that stands out is turns 3 to 7, that’s the long sweeping corner before the chicane that leads into their hairpin.

    I do think we could see another winner here, the circuit doesn’t particularly suit the RB7 (though, that was meant to be the case with Spa and Monza!). This one could be won from the pits.

    1. “I do think it’s sensible for them to hold off with any proposed changes until they can evaluate the race after the 2011 rules have had an outing.”

      To me that comment highlights the biggest flaw with DRS especially. Because people within F1 apparently see DRS as a success they don’t seem to want to try & do anything to actually solve the heart of the problem be it car or circuit design.

      Don’t forget DRS was originally only brought in as a temporary fix before the 2014 regulation changes came in with the planned return of ground effects. However that planned switch to ground effects has now been dropped with DRS been retained as a more permanent measure.

      1. Cynically one could think that it does exactly what it was intended to do by some: take some of the symptoms away so F1 can go on as it has without many changes in aerodynamics and track layout :-)

  6. No.

    But I’ve been proved wrong before!

  7. Now, what to hope?
    Do I prefer short term entertainment over structural long term solutions?

    What’s clear from all the comments, is that we are stuck with this one. So, I hope they will adjust the circuit, either by Populous, Prisoner Monkeys or someone passing by with a pen in his hand…

    But maybe that’s just denial at my side, maybe we’re also stuck for the next ten years with DRS. Oh my, then I’m gonna be grumpy father, explaining to my son that everything used to be better.

    …got…to…think…positive… …arrrgh…

  8. Previously, in the good old days when you had no limitations on development, you often saw a team with a good car but a dog of an engine, and another team with an absolute dog of a car, but a great engine. Boy, did we have some racing in those days! Now, if one team ekes out a little advantage on car, but engines are all limited to 18000 rpm… so little to differentiate between 2 cars there. End result, is you have Red Bull stomping to victory in most of the races, and behind them nothing is happening. At least in ’04 when Ferrari was stomping away, there was action in midfield. Williams had the formidable BMW powering them.

    We have come down to measures like DRS for overtaking. Seriously, any one who thinks DRS solves the problem, is delusional. Problem is that the cars are too similar, thereby giving no competitive edge to anyone, and the result of which is little overtaking action. DRS is a stop-gap at best. Rules need to modified to allow cars to differentiate more than they do now. Development over the year will also go along in ensuring more competition. It sucks for smaller teams because of lack of resources, but something’s got to give. You wouldn’t sand bag winners like in WTCC. Doesn’t do much to enhance image of the sport.

    Oh yes, i don’t find any race boring. People who complain about boring F1 races should try watching golf for a bit. It is not easy to dominate. Now easy when McLaren did it, or Ferrari in ’04 and not now when Red Bull is doing so. I enjoy watching the best doing what they do best on a given day.

    Funnily enough, i see a lot of British publications complain about boring races when German drivers are winning (first Schumacher and now Vettel). Didn’t see them complain much when Macca do the winning.

  9. With two DRS zone,second place to grab & Hamilton & Massa out there,I won’t bet against a good race,even if that’s not possible just bring Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) he will proved the entertainment.

  10. I personally think that this track actually would run a lot better in reverse but they can’t really change it

  11. DRS and Abu Dhabi go hand in hand. Not because the are both dull and boring, or that no one i keen on either. But Because they are both under thought solutions to a unnecessary problem. We dont need DRS, 2010 was an amazing season! and passes were down purely to driver vs. driver. Abu Dhabi has been designed so poorly by a man with a blank canvas and an unlimited budget who clearly knows how to deliver a good track (Turkey and India), but designs too “copy and paste” to consistently turn out good tracks.

  12. Worst track?? not at all. This title is well deserved by Valencia, closely followed by Hungary. Anyway, Yas Marina would reach the third position in this podium of mediocrity and boredom. :(

  13. Pretty much all of the Tilke tracks have fantastic facilities, but incredibly dull track layouts consisting of mile long straights into hairpins (Instanbul is a welcome exception). They’re also full of acres of bland tarmac run off which looks appalling, and doesn’t punish a driver for their mistakes. Little wonder that 24 cars finish the race and the order never changes. Mess up your braking at Monza, and you’re struggling through the gravel and losing places. Mess up at Abu Dhabi? Cut the chicane, barely lose a couple of tenths, and come out in the same position.

    And why are the new circuits so damn WIDE? Monza, Spa, Montreal, Suzuka, etc have a much more narrow look to them. They feel faster. They provide far much more excitement. They are proper race tracks. I’m not saying that new circuits shouldn’t put run off areas in, but they don’t need to be so huge, and slow corners and chicanes should have gravel traps.

    As long as F1 keeps going to these dull new venues, and ripping up old circuits to put in ‘get out of jail free’ tarmac run offs (Hungary is now a joke), the less and less interested I’ll be.

  14. ‘But would it really have been a more satisfactory outcome to see Alonso press the DRS button on his steering wheel and fly past the Renault on the straight?’

    Imagine if Alonso had won the championchip last year using DRS? If the majority answer no to Keiths question above, its clear DRS has no place in F1.

  15. Abu Dhabi would be worth watching if!
    A. it was in a better location, say France?
    B. it had some gradient to it.
    C. it had a different better layout
    D. had an atmosphere to it, and not a glowing hotel

Jump to comment page: 1 2

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments are moderated. See the Comment Policy and FAQ for more.