The Yas Marina Circuit is a racing circuit in Abu Dhabi, UAE, and is the current home of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The emirate of Abu Dhabi had felt that Formula One represented a good way of making the emirate known to a greater percentage of the world, as well as providing a cornerstone to the Yas Island project. After discussions with the F1 management, Hermann Tilke was contracted to design the circuit. Groundbreaking was in May of 2007, and the circuit was certified in October 2009. Bruno Senna was the first driver to complete test runs on the circuit, and the first organized event was a two day GP2 Asia test, held the weekend before the first Grand Prix.
The circuit is part of the master plan of Yas Island, an artificial island just to the east of Abu Dhabi proper. As such, the circuit is very flat, with less than two meters of elevation change (the pit exit tunnel has more than that). But due to landfill settling, the track is getting bumpier over time, and will need major resurfacing in the future.
Much of the island will eventually be a resort and entertainment complex, with a total cost of over US $40 billion. The circuit, which is near the southern tip of the island, was the first part of the development completed, along with the Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi hotel, which passes over the track. In close proximity are a pair of theme parks, sponsored by Ferrari and Warner Brothers, and a water park.
The track was reported to cost close to £6 billion (US$7.5 billion).
The circuit was designed by Hermann Tilke, is 5.554 km long, and cost US $1.3 billion to construct. The front straight is just under half a kilometer long. The pits are on driver's right, but the pit lane dips down and passes under the track before the first turn via a tunnel, and actually rejoins the track on driver's left in the third turn. A large grandstand is on driver's left, which is inside the track.
The first corner is a left of slightly more than 90°. A shorter straight leads to a deceptive 45° left bend, then immediately into a long, right sweeper (where the pit lane rejoins the track) followed by a gentle left and a short straight. At the end of that straight is the slowest part of the track, surrounded by "V" shaped grandstands. A tight 80° left followed by a 90° right leads to a hairpin which changes direction by just over 180°.
The hairpin exits onto the longest straight of the track, at 1.2 km. Cars often exceed 320 kph near the end, and this is the best passing spot at the track. Another set of grandstands are at the end, this time in an "L" shape. They are designed to accommodate an escape road and the end of the straight under the seating. After a sharp left-right combination, the cars are off on another straight, this one about half a kilometer in length, and gently arcing to the left, but they are still well over 250 kph at the end.
At the end, the cars hit a left-right-left combination that drives like a chicane, but was necessary due to a waterway just beyond. At this point, the track is following the perimeter of a yacht harbor until reaching the front straight, but the right angle corners keep coming like a street circuit. Another sharp 90° left leads to a series of short straights separated by two 45° right kinks. Then a tight 90° right at the Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi hotel leads to a pair of lefts, taking the cars under a section of the hotel, which makes for a spectacular scene at night. A short straight leads to a 70° right and a 110° right, and the cars are back on the front straight.
The Formula One configuration has never changed since the track was opened, but there are a number of alternate track sections, and these are often being added to, including loops for motorcycles to break up longer straights. There are two separate links between the complex at the end of the back straight, and the corners just before the front straight. And after the section where the pit lane rejoins the track, there are several alternate bends, short cuts and tight 90° technical sections that can be used. Hypothetically the track could accommodate three separate circuits in use simultaneously, with no overlaps or compromises of safety.
In addition, and completely removed from the rest of the track, a world-class drag strip runs from behind the "V" hairpin down to just past the first turn of the F1 track. And in between the first turn of the main track and the end of the drag strip is a tower, used by track management to coordinate logistics, traffic flow, security and other issues. Drivers heading down the pit straight are staring right at it, which adds to the enclosed feel of that straight.
The circuit, having been completed in August 2009, was first driven by Bruno Senna. Senna, whom had failed to acquire the Brawn seat at the beginning of the season, was now hoping to ascertain a race seat in Formula One for the coming season with one of the new entries that were preparing to join the grid for 2010.
Commenting on the circuit, Senna noted "I would say the layout is quite selective, it is not exactly the same as Bahrain, where you can find at least four overtaking points, but you can earn a position in one place or another - the 1.2 kilometer-long straight will ease that, for sure. Some corners are crazy as the cars will pass very close to the wall, like in the IndyCar series - this mix of characteristics is cool."
As a part of the unveiling of the new circuit, former F1 drivers, David Coulthard and Martin Brundle completed a few laps of the new circuit in two seater Formula One cars. Brundle was the first driver to raise concerns for the new circuit, commenting "the first place we find ourselves is in a tunnel for the exit of the pit lane. And believe it or not, this is unlimited speed during the grand prix. Goodness only knows what will happen if there is an accident."
Coulthard further backed up Brundle's comments, calling it "a bit silly."
The reaction of the actual drivers was largely more positive. Nico Rosberg liked the fact that every corner was unique, while Fernando Alonso said that there was always something to do. Adrian Sutil felt that the lighting was an improvement on the night race in Singapore, as those lights were "too bright".
And Giancarlo Fisichella echoed the comments of the tunnel at the end of the pit lane, saying it was "difficult and dangerous."
The following is a list of Formula One World Championship events held at the Abu Dhabi circuit:
Just beyond the "V" grandstands is Ferrari World, a themed amusement park and experience.
"Its like entering Wembley" - Lewis Hamilton. 2009.
"Formula One has a new World Champion. Now here is the crowing glory of circuit design in 2009. Even Bernie Ecclestone no less can hardly believe his eyes. Frankly, how can anybody top this. South Korea, next year? Donnington? Silverstone? Hockenheim? Magny-Cours? Spare any change for an 800 million pound monument to motorsport? I suppose it helps that the world's richest city is just up the road but take nothing away from the achievement of transforming a desert island into a grand prix venue in less than two and a half years." - Jonathan Legard. BBC. Qualifying. 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
"All very easy on the eye of course, very photogenic. But what about the racing?" - Jonathan Legard. BBC. 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
"Dusk to dark is interesting. You don't get sunlight bouncing down the track and into your eyes too much because of the sandy haze that there is here. But it is interesting as the natural light fades and the artificial light takes over the dominance of showing you the line. Its a technical track, it misses some of the high speed challenges of Silverstone or Spa for example. But its harder to get these slow corners right, there is more time to be one or lost in them."
- Jonathan Noble and Jamie O'Leary (30 October 2009). "Drivers praise Abu Dhabi circuit". Autosport.com. http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/79876. Retrieved 31 October 2009.
- "Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - prologue". motorsportmagazine.com. 31 October 2013. Archived from the original on 20 January 2016. https://web.archive.org/web/20160120131648/http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/f1/abu-dhabi-grand-prix-prologue/. Retrieved 8 September 2014.
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