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.


FIRST F1 RACE 2009
TRACK LENGTH 3.451 miles
NUMBER OF LAPS 56
NUMBER OF TURNS 21
MOST POLES Lewis Hamilton (5)
MOST WINS Lewis 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.

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.

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 Yas Marina Circuit currently holds a multi-year contract to host the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which was signed in 2014. It is unknown when the contract ends.


FAST FACTS

  • The 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.

?? 2020 ABU DHABI GP RECAP

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.

?? 2019 ABU DHABI GP RECAP

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.

?? 2018 ABU DHABI GP RECAP

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.


?? ABU DHABI GP WINNERS AND POLESITTERS

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