Formula 1 2011: Yas Marina to Have a Facelift—Will It Help?

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Formula 1 2011: Yas Marina to Have a Facelift—Will It Help?
Clive Mason/Getty Images
Fernando Alonso looked at the back of the Renault for 37 laps.

The technological changes that were introduced into Formula 1 for the 2011 season have given the sport a long overdue boost (forgive the pun) and brought back good, old-fashioned racing.

Cars can now actually pass each other on the track rather than relying on pit stop strategies to decide races.

It’s just like in the old days—no more slot-car racing. No more processions. No races being decided on who gets to the first corner fastest.

This isn’t the first time engineers have been required to overcome poor design, but it’s disappointing the same design mistakes have been repeated over and over.

Of course, the engineering changes are a last resort.

The real problem lies with the massive aero wake of the cars and the dull tracks that have sprung up around the globe. While the shape of F1 cars probably won’t change, the tracks are an easy problem to fix.

The proliferation of Hermann Tilke tracks on the F1 circuit has continued unabated, despite the numerous design flaws that have become apparent over the years. Even so, he is still being engaged to design tracks and will be responsible for nine of the 20 tracks scheduled for races this year.

That includes the new Buddh International Circuit that will be home to the Indian Grand Prix. Early thoughts are that it will be a fast circuit—on par with Monza—but that doesn't mean it will be good for racing. We’ll find out Oct. 30.

Tilke is responsible for the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, the venue for last year’s title decider. It will be forever remembered as the circuit on which it is impossible to overtake. F1 followers will remember the agonizing efforts of championship leader Fernando Alonso spending 37 laps trying to pass Vitaly Petrov, and Lewis Hamilton similarly languishing behind Petrov’s teammate Robert Kubica.

The track is so bad that there is a fear that not even DRS and KERS can make it exciting. To try to make it interesting, the Yas Marina circuit is undergoing a fairly major overhaul, with changes to a number of corners.

The turn five/six chicane will be widened to allow a number of different racing lines into the hairpin at turn seven. Turn nine will be banked to allow brave drivers to try to pass on the outside. Turn 13/14 will be made into a single long sweeping curve giving better exit speeds to set up for an overtake through 15/16 and into the right-hander at 17.

It’s a forlorn hope, but maybe even this one can be rescued. It’s interesting to note that despite the changes, Brazil will host the season finale—perhaps the FIA’s not that confident in the changes either.

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