Yas Marina Circuit: The Ultimate Track Guide

The now traditional venue for Formula 1’s season finale, the sleek and futuristic Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi holds a Grand Prix which starts at dusk and ends under floodlights.

TRACK LENGTH3.451 miles
MOST POLESLewis Hamilton (5)
MOST WINSLewis Hamilton (5)

The Yas Island is a man-made island located to the east of Abu Dhabi’s main island. Work on the Yas Island began in 2006 at a cost of $40 billion. The Yas Island is a leisure complex, which houses a golf course, shopping centres, hotels, a Ferrari-themed theme park and, of course, the Yas Marina Circuit.

Image: © Andrew Balfour

After a circuit had been built in Dubai and had unsuccessfully bid to host a Formula One race, Abu Dhabi – the lead emirate in the United Arab Emirates – put plans together for their own circuit. The deal was formally announced in early 2007 at a special ‘Formula One Festival’ held in Abu Dhabi.

Building of the circuit began in May 2007. As was the case when the Bahrain International Circuit was built, the track surface was shipped from Shropshire, England, as the aggregate offers the best grip available to F1 cars. In June 2008, Abu Dhabi’s place as the season-closing event was confirmed when the FIA revealed the calendar for the 2009 F1 season. The oil-rich country wanted a Grand Prix event to boost its identity, and hosting the season closing event has certainly helped that.

Herman Tilke designed the track, which features a mammoth 21 turns. The track has some distinguishing features, including a pit exit which runs underneath the track. Between turns eighteen and nineteen, the track runs underneath the magnificent Yas Viceroy hotel. The track was opened in October 2009 and the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was held just a month later, as it became the second location in the Middle East to hold a Formula One event. It was also the first race which started in the daytime and ended under floodlights.

Image: © Andrew Balfour

The circuit received a mixed reception following the first running there, with Kimi Raikkonen summing up the general reaction by saying: “the first few turns are quite good, but the rest of it is shit”. The track is often criticised for its lack of overtaking opportunities. At the end of the 2017, designer Tilke said that he was looking at ways to create more overtaking at the track. The track was reconfigured ahead of the 2021 race in an attempt to increase overtaking opportunities.

Yas Marina Circuit currently holds a contract to host the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix until at least 2030. A contract extension was signed in 2021.


  • Yas Marina Circuit has an unusual start to the track. The tight left-hand turn – a result of the circuit being anti-clockwise – is one of few such openings to a lap on the F1 calendar.
  • Etihad Airways have sponsored the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix since its inception.
  • The floodlights are turned on from the start of the Grand Prix, ensuring a seamless transition to night racing as the sun goes down.
  • The track has a capacity for up to 60,000 fans.
  • Bruno Senna was the first driver to complete a test lap of the circuit.
  • The track itself cost $1.3 billion to build.


Perhaps the most highly anticipated title showdown in Formula 1 history was contested at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where Max Verstappen claimed his first World Championship.

After a tense title battle throughout the season, Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton headed into the final race of the season level on points. On the re-profiled Yas Marina Circuit, Kimi Raikkonen’s farewell weekend did not go according to plan with him crashing out at the end of Free Practice 2.

Verstappen took the early advantage with pole position under the floodlights on Saturday evening. While Red Bull opted to start on soft tyres, Hamilton started on the mediums. Despite Red Bull’s expected tyre advantage in the opening laps, Hamilton stormed into the lead at the start. Verstappen attempted to take his lead back later on the opening lap, but was run wide and failed to do so after the pair nearly made contact. Despite Verstappen’s cries for Hamilton to hand him the position, the incident was not penalised by the stewards.

Verstappen made his first pit stop at the end of Lap 13, while Hamilton came into the pits two laps later. Playing the team game, the yet to pit Sergio Perez proved to be a real obstacle for Hamilton. An enthralling wheel-to-wheel battle ensued between the pair. Hamilton eventually found his way by, but Verstappen had closed to within two seconds.

Hamilton continued to lead, with him looking set for an eighth title victory carrying a twelve second advantage with five laps remaining. However, the Safety Car came out following a crash for Nicholas Latifi. Rolling the dice, Verstappen opted to pit for fresh tyres.

With the laps counting down, Michael Masi made the unusual decision to not allow lapped cars to overtake ahead of the restart. However, Masi then changed his mind, allowing a select number of lapped cars to overtake – which put Verstappen right on Hamilton’s tail ahead of the restart.

The race resumed with one lap to go and Verstappen passed Hamilton with relative ease on his fresh soft tyres. The move secured Verstappen his first World Championship victory, with Hamilton unable to make a final move stick. Controversy reigned and, despite protests from the Mercedes team, Verstappen’s title was confirmed later on that evening.


Valtteri Bottas took victory in 2020’s curtain-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as Lewis Hamilton returned to action after battling coronavirus.

As Daniil Kvyat, Kevin Magnussen and Alex Albon lined up on the grid for the final time (at least for the time being), Max Verstappen led the field away from pole position. The Dutch driver took the only non-Mercedes powered pole of the season, lapping 0.025 seconds faster than Valtteri Bottas. Hamilton, returning having recovered from coronavirus symptoms, started third. That was the order in which the top three would finish, with little action to talk about among the podium finishers. As Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly enjoyed a duel for ninth place, Sergio Perez – on his final appearance with Racing Point – retired from the race with an engine failure. Perez had started from the back and made decent progress through the field until his stoppage. The Virtual Safety Car was called as a result of Perez’s stricken car. The leaders took the opportunity to pit for fresh tyres. Future Ferrari team-mates Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc battled, with the McLaren driver getting ahead of the Ferrari. Sainz went on to finish sixth, and with Lando Norris fifth, McLaren secured third place in the Constructors’ Championship. The season came to a close with the usual firework displays and donuts from the championship-winning Mercedes on the pit straight.


Another season of Formula 1 came to an end at the 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which World Champion Lewis Hamilton won in dominant fashion.

After a crash in Free Practice, Sebastian Vettel spun in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but it had little impact on his session. On the other side of the Ferrari garage, Charles Leclerc missed out on setting a final lap time after not crossing the finish line in time. Lewis Hamilton took pole position and Valtteri Bottas set the second fastest time, but the Finn was forced to start from the back following a grid penalty for a change of engine. Instead, Max Verstappen started alongside Hamilton on the front row, but was unable to get ahead at the first turn. Leclerc overtook Verstappen later in the lap, and Sebastian Vettel also challenged the Red Bull driver. Pierre Gasly had been hit by both Racing Point drivers at the opening corner and was forced to pit as a result. On Lap 13, Ferrari tried a double stop, but it led to a slow release for Vettel, who was second in the queue. As Leclerc lapped George Russell, Verstappen took it as an opportunity to pass Leclerc, putting him up to second place. Leclerc tried to fight back, but the Red Bull pulled away. Further back, Bottas finished his fight through the field with a pass on Alex Albon for fourth place. Hamilton remained unchallenged at the front and took an eleventh win of the season. On the last lap, Sergio Perez pulled off what he called one of the best overtakes of his career on Lando Norris, while Norris’ team-mate Carlos Sainz passed Nico Hulkenberg to secure himself sixth in the Drivers’ Championship. As the chequered flag flew, the drivers partook in donuts to celebrate the passing of another season.


The 2018 Formula 1 season came to a close as Lewis Hamilton sealed an 11th win of the season and Fernando Alonso celebrated the final race of his F1 career.

Lewis Hamilton took pole for the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi as Valtteri Bottas ensured Mercedes locked out the front-row. Hamilton kept his lead at the start, but there was carnage further back as Romain Grosjean and Nico Hulkenberg collided, sending the latter into a barrel roll. Hulkenberg emerged unscathed from the accident, which was deemed to be a racing incident. After their antics in Brazil, Max Verstappen and Esteban Ocon got close to one another on track once again, this time with the Red Bull emerging unscathed. Kimi Raikkonen came to a halt on the pit straight and was forced to retire from his final race for Ferrari, prompting a Virtual Safety Car period. Hamilton pitted while the VSC was called and emerged in fifth. He was just nine seconds off the lead despite stopping. The rest of the leading drivers pitted; though Daniel Ricciardo stayed out. Further back, Stoffel Vandoorne pulled off an impressive double overtake on Ocon and Grosjean. Ricciardo finally pitted with 21 laps remaining, rejoining the order in fifth. Sebastian Vettel made his way past Bottas for second place and Verstappen soon followed suit for the final podium position. Ricciardo also passed the Mercedes. Marcus Ericsson, Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly all retired from the race on their final appearances for their respective teams. Hamilton took the win, with Vettel and Verstappen the other podium finishers. After the race, Hamilton and Vettel joined the departing Fernando Alonso for donuts on the main straight as the chequered flag fell on the Spaniard’s career and the 2018 season.


YearPolesitterTeam On PoleWinnerWinning Team
2009Lewis HamiltonMcLarenSebastian VettelRed Bull
2010Sebastian VettelRed BullSebastian VettelRed Bull
2011Sebastian VettelRed BullLewis HamiltonMcLaren
2012Lewis HamiltonMcLarenKimi RäikkönenLotus
2013Mark WebberRed BullSebastian VettelRed Bull
2014Nico RosbergMercedesLewis HamiltonMercedes
2015Nico RosbergMercedesNico RosbergMercedes
2016Lewis HamiltonMercedesLewis HamiltonMercedes
2017Valtteri BottasMercedesValtteri BottasMercedes
2018Lewis HamiltonMercedesLewis HamiltonMercedes
2019Lewis HamiltonMercedesLewis HamiltonMercedes
2020Max VerstappenRed BullMax VerstappenRed Bull
2021Max VerstappenRed BullMax VerstappenRed Bull
2022Max VerstappenRed BullMax VerstappenRed Bull
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