Abu Dhabi hosts the 18th round of the 2012 Formula One World Championship with teams making the short trip from India to the Yas Marina Circuit.
F-1’s only day/night race has been a great success in its three previous runnings, with the organizers entertaining the crowd with a good selection of support races and other attractions.
Inside the F-1 paddock, the Yas Marina Circuit has developed a good reputation — both for its compact arrangement and convivial atmosphere but also with the quality of its garage and circuit facilities, which have been instrumental in it becoming a venue for the young drivers’ test which will take place in the days following the Grand Prix.
YMC has three very different sectors. High-speed turns dominate the start of the lap, down to the chicane and hairpin at turn seven. After that, the middle part of the lap has two very long straights separated by a heavy braking zone into a slow-speed chicane. The end of the lap around the harbor has been deliberately designed to mimic Monaco, and like that circuit is mostly slow speed and highly technical.
YMC demands a little bit of everything in terms of set-up. It has the second-longest straight in F-1 so demands good top speed; it features heavy braking and a varied selection of cornering speeds requiring good traction and high downforce. It suggests a wider array of set-up options, though compared to the last three races it does not place such a premium on high-speed cornering ability.
Famously the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix saw Sebastian Vettel crowned after a tense season finale into which he went lying third in a championship, 15 points behind Fernando Alonso and seven behind Mark Webber. The finishing order in India last week ensured the Drivers’ Championship can’t be claimed at Yas this year — but Red Bull go into the race with a good chance of taking the Constructors’ Championship.
► Abu Dhabi is unique on the F-1 calendar being a (scheduled) twilight race. Beyond the aesthetic impact of a race which starts in sunshine and finished under artificial light, the primary effect on racing is that track temperatures typically fall as the race progresses — which presents an unusual variable for tire strategists to consider.
► When the lights are turned on, Yas Marina becomes the largest lit permanent sports venue in the world. Unlike some other sports where lighting will be switched on as required during a day/night event, for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the lights are on from the start of the later sessions to ensure a consistent level of illumination for the drivers.
► Unique among F-1 circuits, Yas Marina features a run-off area that extends under a permanent spectator viewing area. Cars approaching turn eight brake from above 300kph down to less than 100kph and for those that don’t managed this successfully, the escape road extends out under the West Grandstand.
► The Yas Viceroy hotel, under which the track passes, is very difficult to miss. Its distinctive illumination is the product of 5,389 pivoting LED panels.
► Sebastian Vettel’s victory in India last week was his fourth in succession. He previously managed that feat between the Brazilian Grand Prix of 2010 and the Malaysian Grand Prix of 2011. Of the current field, Jenson Button won four in a row between the Bahrain and Turkish Grands Prix of 2009. Fernando Alonso managed four straight wins in 2006 and Michael Schumacher had a run of seven (and another of five) in 2004, six across 2000/1 and four in 2002 and 1994. Discounting the Indy500, Alberto Ascari managed nine straight wins across 1952/3.
► Vettel has now led grands prix for 205 consecutive laps, taking the lead of the Singapore Grand Prix on lap 23 and leading from the end of lap one to the chequered flag in Japan, Korea and India. He is exactly 100 laps behind Ascari’s all-time record.
► Fourth and fifth in India saw McLaren score points for the 55th consecutive race, equalling the record held by Ferrari. McLaren’s run started at the 2010 Australian Grand Prix. A top-10 finish at Yas Marina will see it set a new benchmark.
► Renault recorded their 150th victory as an engine supplier in India. They have 35 victories in the back of Renault’s own cars; 64 with Williams; 12 with Benetton; 5 with Lotus and now 34 with Red Bull.
► Red Bull can win the Formula One Constructors’ Championship this weekend. They currently lead Ferrari by 91 points and McLaren by 101. They need to leave Abu Dhabi with a lead of 86 points (or 87 points if McLaren win the race) to be confirmed as champions.