Abu Dhabi GP: Track notes, DRS, tyres, stats and more

Only a couple of changes have been made at the Yas Marina circuit ahead of this year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Firstly, additional TecPro barriers have been installed in parts of the barriers at turns 11 and 17, while the orange bumps on the right between Turns 12 and 13 have been extended by some 16m. Also, a 50mm high ‘sausage’ kerb has been added behind the negative kerb on the exit of Turn 21.

There are two DRS zones, both of which have been extended since last year.

The first zone’s detection point is 40m before Turn 7, with an activation point 270m after the same turn, while the second detection point is 50m after Turn 9 with activation 165m after the same corner.

For the final outing of the year, the three softest tyres in the range have been selected, the supersoft, ultrasoft, and hypersoft. Interestingly, it’s the last time that the purple and pink colours will be seen on an F1 tyre in a race, as next year’s tyres will feature only three permanent colours: white, yellow and red.

Last year’s tyre nomination also featured the three softest tyres in the range – soft, supersoft, and ultrasoft – but all the tyres are now a step softer than last year, with the hypersoft being two steps softer than the 2017 ultrasoft.

The surface at Yas Marina is smooth and not especially demanding on tyres, allowing the softest compounds to be used. Abu Dhabi was actually where the hypersoft made its debut, at last year’s test after the grand prix.

The race starts in the late afternoon and ends in the evening, which affects the usual evolution of track temperature during the Grand Prix, while the anti-clockwise circuit is all about traction and braking rather than lateral force.

A one-stopper has usually been the winning strategy, with Valtteri Bottas triumphing last year after starting on ultrasofts and moving to supersofts. Only one driver went for a three-stopper, but this should change with the softer tyre nomination?

There’s a quite a variety of speeds and corners in Abu Dhabi so the cars tend to run a compromise set-up, with medium downforce levels.

“Once again we’re bringing a tyre nomination that’s somewhat softer than previous years,” says Mario Isola of Pirelli, “with the hypersoft selected for only the sixth time this year, and for only the third time at a permanent race venue.

“Nonetheless, the hypersoft is not entirely new to Abu Dhabi, as it was first run there a year ago, making Yas Marina the only track where the hypersoft has previously tested and will now be raced. How it actually performs in race conditions at the circuit, especially with regard to strategy, is going to be interesting to see – and of course those tactics will already begin in qualifying on Saturday.

“Once again, the teams will get a chance to test next year’s tyres after the race: of course they will run on 2018 cars, but this test will nonetheless provide a useful taste of the future.”

Yas Marina is a mid-range power track, but it is particularly hard on the ICE due to the long 0.745 mile (1.2km) back straight where the power unit will be at full throttle for 14secs.

Over 50% of the lap is spent at full throttle, with average speeds of 120 mph (190 kph), similar to the Circuit de Gilles-Villeneuve. Top speed will peak at over 205 mph (330 kph) down the back straight between Turns 7 and 8. This may seem slow in comparison to the highs of Mexico and Brazil, but it’s just as impressive as the cars will be running medium to high downforce settings and the sea-level air is much denser than at high altitude.

Fuel consumption per km is the fifth highest of the season behind Melbourne, Montreal, Spielberg and Sochi. The first two sectors are relatively fuel efficient but the stops and starts of the final sector dramatically increase the consumption. It is increased further by the sea level altitude and running in the lower temperatures after sunset.

Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton are the most successful drivers at Yas Marina. Both drivers have three wins to their credit, with Vettel victorious for Red Bull in 2009, 2010 and 2013 and Hamilton triumphant in 2011 with McLaren and in 2014 and 2016 with Mercedes. Both drivers have three other podium finishes: Vettel finished third in 2012, 2016 and last year, while Hamilton has three second places – in 2010, 2015 and 2017.

Apart from Hamilton and Vettel there are two other Abu Dhabi Grand Prix winners on the grid this year – Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas. Raikkonen won with Lotus in 2012, while Bottas was victorious last year with Mercedes.

The only other current driver with a podium finish to his name here is Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard finished second in 2011 and in 2012. Both podiums were scored while driving for Ferrari. Aside from their wins, Raikkonen and Bottas also have single third place finishes to their name here. Bottas’ came in 2014 with Williams, while Raikkonen’s was scored in 2015 with Ferrari.

Mercedes is the most successful constructor at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Silvers Arrows have won the last four editions of the race. Red Bull are next on the list with three wins, in 2009, 2010 and 2013. The only other teams to win here are McLaren in 2011 and Lotus in 2012.

Hamilton has the most pole positions here, with three. The Briton started from the front of the grid in 2009, 2012 and in 2016. Only in 2016 did he manage to convert pole into a win. On both the other occasions he failed to finish. A brake problem ended his 2009 race after 20 laps, while a fuel pressure problem resulted in a DNF after 19 laps in 2012.