Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Preview: Tyres, DRS, Lap, Session and TV Times
The 2013 Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix takes place this weekend at the Yas Marina Circuit, close to the city of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
This is the year's only "day-night" race—it starts just before dusk and ends under the stars. The 4,700 lights are turned on before the start to ensure track lighting remains constant throughout.
In 2010 Yas Marina hosted the championship decider, but there'll be no repeats this year—both the drivers' and constructors' titles were clinched at the previous race in India. Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull are now four-time world champions.
But further down the field there's still a lot to play for. Even if the Red Bulls do streak off into the distance—and the track suits them, so they probably will—the scraps for the minor placings should provide more than enough excitement.
Here's a full preview of the weekend's action.
As It Stands
Sebastian Vettel has an unassailable lead in the drivers' championship, so that race is over.
The current standings are (with thanks to Formula1.com for the lovely table):
Red Bull wrapped up their fourth straight constructors' title last week in India. The battle for second is wide open here too—and the teams probably care a bit more about being runner-up than their drivers do.
The current standings are:
|1||Red Bull Racing-Renault||470|
Yas Marina Circuit
The Yas Marina Circuit is something special. Not because of the track itself (which is almost entirely devoid of character and far too forgiving on mistakes), but because of what used to be here.
Empty space and sea water.
Yas Island, upon which the circuit lies, is man-made. It was created for the sole purpose of being a world-leading tourist destination, and it very much achieved that goal.
Oh, and the largest IKEA store in the Middle East (which is proudly displayed on the tourist map).
The country's government created something truly remarkable—but then they got Hermann Tilke to design the circuit, and it came out rather average.
It's not horrible (if you ignore the blue run-off areas) and it does the job, but it could be so much better.
Kind of like designing a world-beating supercar, then giving it a stock two-litre turbo-diesel engine from a Ford Mondeo.
An onboard lap is available here, on the Formula1.com website.
A lap begins on the pit straight with a decent-length run down to Turn 1. Walls line either side of the circuit all the way up to the entry to this slow/medium speed 90-degree corner.
There's plenty of room on the exit for anyone wishing to run a little bit wide.
Turns 2, 3 and 4
The track rises slightly towards a couple of quick corners. First up is the flat-out left of Turn 2, which leads immediately into the even quicker Turn 3 (a right).
If you like fast corners, these two are the circuit's best. Turn 4 is a left-hand kink at the exit of Turn 3.
Turns 5, 6 and 7
After a short straight the drivers brake hard for a slow, fiddly chicane comprised of Turns 5 and 6. It's first left, then right, the latter corner being the slower of the two.
The term "Mickey Mouse corner" could well have been coined for this chicane.
Next up is the first-gear hairpin (Turn 7), a left-hander that is the slowest corner on the track.
It's worth noting here that removal of Turns 5 and 6 would probably make "natural" overtaking at this circuit easier. They break up the flow and spread the cars out, so getting rid of them would allow drivers to be closer going into the hairpin (Turn 7).
Unfortunately, that hairpin has no run-off area, so Mickey and Minnie have to remain for safety reasons.
Turns 8 and 9
The cars exit the hairpin onto the back straight, one of the longest in F1. The drivers are at full throttle for 15 seconds before braking hard for the second-gear left-right chicane of Turns 8 and 9.
It's slow and tight, so expect to see some action here as drivers defend, attack or attempt to wrong-foot a rival.
On paper the approach to Turns 8 and 9 is the best overtaking spot Yas Marina has to offer, but some drivers may wait it out. That's because there's another long straight next up—by completing a move into 8, you leave yourself wide open to a counter-attack.
Turns 10, 11, 12 and 13
Out of the chicane the cars enter a straight that isn't straight, and Turn 10 is the left-hand sweep making up the first half. It's shorter than the previous one, but the drivers still get 11 seconds at full throttle before another big stop, this one for Turn 11, a slow left-hander.
This should be considered the ideal place to overtake, so expect plenty of attempts into here on Sunday.
Following immediately is a slow and fairly unspectacular right-left chicane made up of Turns 12 and 13.
After a few seconds of acceleration comes Turn 14, a tricky off-camber (apex higher than the outside edge of the track) left taken in second gear.
Turns 15, 16 and 17
Next up is short straight (with a rare patch of beautiful green grass on one side and the marina over the wall on the other) followed by two flat-out rights, Turns 15 and 16.
The drivers brake for the tight second-gear right of Turn 17 on the exit of 16, and of all the corners on the circuit this one looks the easiest to get wrong.
Turns 18 and 19
After a short burst of acceleration comes a second-gear left, Turn 18.
The track then passes under the spectacular Yas Viceroy Hotel before Turn 19, another second-gear left.
Turns 20 and 21
The wall closes in at the exit of 19 but there's still at least a car's width of room on the outside. A short straight follows before the medium-speed right-hander of Turn 20.
The drivers then brake and drop back down into second for the right-hand Turn 21, the last corner of the lap.
The entry is on the inside just before Turn 21.
After the line of garages, the pit lane dips down and passes under the circuit (a unique feature in F1), then climbs back up to exit on the outside of Turn 3.
Tyres and DRS
Yas Marina is quite kind to the tyres. Most of the corners are low-speed, with only three putting the tyres through any significant lateral strain.
The track surface is often dusty at first, and the circuit "evolves" quickly throughout the weekend as it's cleaned up and rubber is laid down. The multitude of support races (GP2, GP3 and the Porsche Supercup—all absent in India) will help with this.
Track temperature drops dramatically during the race as night falls—from around 45 degrees Celsius at the start to 30 at the end. This could have a noticeable impact on tyre performance.
Pirelli are bringing the yellow-marked soft and white-marked medium tyres. This is quite a conservative choice, so some (if not all) teams will be hoping to one-stop on Sunday.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will have two DRS zones.
The first will have a detection point just before the hairpin of Turn 7 and will cover (approximately) the final two-thirds of the long back straight.
The second's detection point will be just after the chicane (Turns 8 and 9). The activation line is midway through Turn 10, and the zone will end with braking for Turn 11.
Because the zones are right next to each other with separate detection points, any driver overtaken in the first will have a great chance to re-pass in the second.
So expect to see some drivers deliberately not overtake in the first zone.
Abu Dhabi has a hot desert climate. The city gets a rainy November day once every five years, with a monthly average of 0.3 millimetres—about as deep as two sheets of paper.
There are no freak rainstorms forecast, so expect a hot, dry weekend with temperatures at race time somewhere in the region of 30 degrees Celsius.
BBC Weather will have the latest, but you won't need it.
Bonus Feature: Emirates National Auto Museum
Located around an hour's drive south of Abu Dhabi is the Emirates National Auto Museum. Set within a huge pyramid, this is the private collection of one of my favourite people, Sheikh Hamad bin Hamdan al Nayhan.
Sheikh Hamad is the man who captured headlines a few years ago when he carved his name into an island he owns—in letters so large they could be read from space (pictured above).
Sadly, recent map images show the giant HAMAD has been removed. All that remains is a small dock and a road surrounding where it used to be, but maybe he's just picking a new font.
Comic Sands, perhaps?
Session Times, UK and USA TV Times
As always, the Adu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend will consist of three free practice sessions, qualifying and the race.
The session times are as follows:
All are given in Abu Dhabi local time (GST). Formula1.com has a handy one-click tool to convert them to your own timezone.
In the UK, all sessions will be shown live on Sky Sports F1. Qualifying coverage starts at midday on Saturday (session starts at 13:00). Race coverage begins at 11:30, and with the lights going out at 13:00.
Full coverage details including times for free practice sessions is available here.
The BBC doesn't have live rights to this race, but extended highlights will be shown after qualifying and the race. The full schedule is available here.
In the USA, NBC has the rights. Live qualifying airs on CNBC at 09:00EDT on Saturday, with the race on NBCSN at 08:00EST on Sunday. Full coverage details are available here.
Enjoy the weekend!