Yas Marina Circuit: Complete Data
|Official Name||Yas Marina Circuit|
|Location||Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE|
|Track Length||5.281 km (3.281 miles)|
|Race Distance||58 laps (306.183 km)|
|Grand Prix Held||14 (2009 – present)|
|Race Lap Record||1:26.103 (Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B, 2021)|
|Most Poles||Lewis Hamilton (5)|
|Most Wins||Lewis Hamilton (5)|
Yas Marina Circuit: History
The Yas Marina Circuit was designed by the prestigious Hermann Tilke, and construction began on the artificial island of Yas Marina in 2006, making it, after Bahrain, the second of the four circuits built in the Middle East. Qatar and Saudi Arabia are the other two circuits in the Middle East.
The circuit opened in 2009 to host the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix and is believed to be one of the most expensive circuits in the world, with a construction cost of around $1 billion. It boasts impressive facilities, including a Ferrari and Wagner theme park, a marina, a golf course, shopping centers, and several hotels, including the incredible 500-room five-star hotel that crosses the track and changes color at night with 4,800 LED panels.
The 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix made history as the first race to start shortly before sunset and finish at night, thanks to the impressive lighting installation. Since then, it has been held uninterruptedly at that time, hosting numerous season finales. Sebastian Vettel was the first winner of the Abu Dhabi GP in 2009, and Lewis Hamilton, with 5 victories, is the most successful driver.
The Yas Marina Circuit has become one of the world’s most prestigious circuits and hosts the Formula 1 Grand Prix and numerous other competitions. It has a contract with F1 to remain on the calendar until at least 2030. Its impressive facilities, the day-night race, and the title showdowns that have taken place have made it one of the most special events on the calendar.
Yas Marina Circuit: Layout Guide
The original circuit design was 5.554 km long and had 21 turns and some distinctive features, such as a pit exit that runs under the track. Most of the corners are medium or slow speed, making it a very technical track where getting a good balance of the car is difficult, with some long straights.
Because of this, the circuit soon received a reputation for poor racing, criticized on numerous occasions for its lack of overtaking opportunities. Kimi Raikkonen described it this way: “The first few turns are quite good, but the rest of it is shit.”
As a result, plans were announced to reshape the track for the 2021 Grand Prix to encourage overtaking and improve racing. The changes were as follows:
- Eliminating the chicane and widening the hairpin at Turn 7.
- Removing the four sharp corners at Turns 11, 12, 13, and 14 to be replaced by one long banked turn.
- Opening up the radius of four corners (Turns 17, 18, 19, and 20) to create a faster-flowing section of the track.
Thus, the current layout consists of 5.281 km and 16 turns, which is more than 12 seconds faster than the original layout. The layout is very wide and flat in all its sections. Sector 1 comprises some medium and high-speed corners, leading into Sector 2.
Turn 7, the hairpin, gives way to the longest straight of the circuit, followed by hard braking and chicane, which is the clearest overtaking point of the track and leads to another long straight. The third sector is the most technical of all, very twisty and slower than the others, where it is tough to overtake, but key to obtain a good lap time.
Yas Marina Circuit: Onboard Lap
The following video shows the pole lap of Max Verstappen in 2021, who, with a time of 1:22.109, set the record of the new layout, more than three-tenths of second-placed Lewis Hamilton. You can feel how the Dutchman gives his all on the Yas Marina circuit, squeezing the most out of the car and the limits of the track.
Yas Marina Circuit: Weather
Temperatures in Abu Dhabi are very high during the day, and rainfall is rare. Since its celebration in 2009, it has not rained at any Formula 1 Grand Prix.
The most outstanding feature of the weather at the Yas Marina Circuit is that as it is a day-night race, temperatures drop as the laps go by, which makes it very interesting for tire strategies, as they behave differently according to the temperature.
Thus, a tire that may have performed very well when the temperature is higher at the beginning of the race may not perform as well at night, or vice versa. Therefore, teams test all tires during free practice sessions. However, the free practice sessions are held during the day, so it is always a mystery how the tires and cars will behave at night.
Yas Marina Circuit: Curious Facts
- The Yas Marina Circuit is one of the only circuits in the world where part of the pit lane exit runs underneath the track.
- Since the first race in 2009, Etihad Airways has always sponsored the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
- The circuit has five grandstand areas (Main Grandstand, West Grandstand, North Grandstand, South Grandstand, and Marina Grandstand) and has a capacity for up to 60,000 fans.
- Bruno Senna was the first driver to complete a test lap of the circuit.
- The floodlights are turned on from the start of the Grand Prix, ensuring a seamless transition to night racing when the sun goes down.
- Lewis Hamilton, with 5 wins, is the most successful driver at the Yas Marina Circuit, followed by Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen with 3 wins each.
- Red Bull and Mercedes, with 6 wins each, are the most successful constructors at the Yas Marina Circuit. Only two other constructors have won at this circuit: McLaren with Lewis Hamilton in 2011 and Lotus with Kimi Raikkonen in 2012.
- Drivers are on full power for 69% of a lap at Yas Marina, including over 14 seconds on the back straight, which is one of the longest straights in F1. Drivers make an average of 68 gear changes per lap.
- The layout design allows up to six different configurations to host other racing series competitions.
- Until the inclusion of the Mexico City Grand Prix and the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, Abu Dhabi was the only current Formula 1 race named after its host city instead of its host country.
Remarkable F1 Races At Yas Marina
2010 Abu Dhabi GP
The second edition of the Abu Dhabi GP, which hosted the final round of the 2010 season, saw an incredible fight for the title, being the first time in F1 history that four drivers had a chance to win the championship.
Fernando Alonso led the championship with 246 points, followed by the Red Bulls of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel, with 238 and 231 points, respectively, and Lewis Hamilton, with 222 points, was fourth in the championship.
On Saturday, Vettel took pole position, while Hamilton was second, Alonso third, and Webber fifth. After an early Safety Car, Webber was one of the first drivers to change tires, a strategy copied by Alonso as he was the closest driver in points. However, it turned out to be a bad strategy, as both drivers got stuck behind traffic, while Vettel and Hamilton avoided it by stopping later.
Thus, Alonso spent 40 laps in seventh position, unable to overtake the driver in front, Vitaly Petrov, and having to finish fourth to win the championship, while Vettel led most of the race. The German won the race and became the youngest driver in history, 4 points ahead of Fernando Alonso in an incredible end to the season.
2012 Abu Dhabi GP
The 2012 Abu Dhabi GP will always be remembered for several things. The first was the epic victory of Finland’s Kimi Raikkonen, his first after his return to F1 and Lotus’ first since 1987. The Finn started fourth but soon moved into second, and after Lewis Hamilton retired from the race, he moved into first position.
As the laps went by, Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari put more and more pressure on the Finn, and his race engineer, in a Safety Car period, told him to take care of the tires, to which the Iceman replied with one of the most iconic radio messages in history:
“Yes, yes, yes, yes, I’m doing it all the time. You don’t have to remind me every second.” […] “Just leave me alone; I know what I’m doing!”
The Finn knew what he was doing, as he was relentless in his defense against the Spaniard. The other remarkable feat of the race was the incredible comeback of Sebastian Vettel, who started from the pit lane due to a grid penalty and found his way through the grid to cross in third position, keeping the championship lead over Fernando Alonso.
2014 Abu Dhabi GP
The first season of the hybrid era, which marked the era of Mercedes dominance, saw a superb final round between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. This was the first race (and last so far) in which double points were offered for the championship, which drivers and teams negatively received.
Because of this, Lewis Hamilton had to finish in the top two to win the championship. On Saturday, Nico Rosberg took the pole position, while Hamilton was second. On Sunday, the Englishman took the lead right at the start of the race after a bad start by Rosberg.
The two Mercedes dominated the race, and Lewis Hamilton crossed the finish line first, winning his second title. Rosberg, who was second throughout the race, finished fourteenth due to a problem with his car during the closing laps.
2021 Abu Dhabi GP
The 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was one of the most controversial races in history. Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton were battling for the title all season and reached the final round with the same points, 369.5, after many clashes and battles.
On Saturday, Verstappen took pole position, while Hamilton was second. However, the Englishman took the lead at the first corner and soon consolidated the lead, running well ahead of Verstappen throughout the race.
However, when everything seemed to be decided in Hamilton’s favor, with 5 laps to go, Nicholas Latifi crashed into the barriers, causing the Safety Car to come out. Verstappen and other drivers changed tires, while Hamilton and many others did not. The Safety Car period ended just one lap before the end, and some lapped drivers could unlap themselves, so Hamilton and Verstappen fought side by side during the last lap for the championship.
With fresher tires, Verstappen managed to overtake Hamilton in a lap full of drama, emotion, and adrenaline, thus taking the title. The Grand Prix was very controversial due to the decision to end the Safety Car on the last lap and let only some lapped cars unlap themselves, which caused a movie ending.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, held at the Yas Marina Circuit, has become a must-see race on the calendar, hosting some of the most epic and dramatic season finales in recent decades at one of the most impressive and advanced circuits.