Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2017: Circuit and strategy preview
As the curtain falls on the 2017 F1 season, RealSport previews the circuit and tyre strategy that all 20 drivers will be aiming to master this weekend.
The Yas Marina Circuit is one of F1’s most high-tech and modern venues. Constructed at great expense (£800m/$1.322bn) and build on an artificial island, the circuit boasts several hotels (including the famous Yas Viceroy Hotel that is situated between turns 18 and 19), entertainment venues, and of course, the enormous sprawling monstrosity that is Ferrari World.
But of course there is also a circuit present and since 2009, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has been a mainstay on the calendar, often hosting the final race of the year and seeing several championship deciders as a result.
The five and a half kilometre circuit is one that features 21 corners and has proved extremely popular with the drivers, who often praise the layout and challenge of producing a good lap around it. In addition to this, the track surface is one that is often very kind to tyres, which often allows drivers to push harder and for longer than they would usually be able to.
The first overtaking point comes at turn one, but this doesn’t really come into play much after lap one due to the relatively short pit straight that doesn’t usually allow cars to get close enough. Most of the rest of sector one, up until turn seven, tends to be single file only, although you can often see the odd daring manoeuvre around the five-six chicane.
In 2011, the FIA introduced two DRS zones to the track, one down the turn seven to eight straight, and one immediately following it on the long run down to turn 11. Each of these DRS zones has a detection point immediately before it. This is where we have seen a lot of the action go down in the last few years, so expect more of the same this year.
This sequence of corners and DRS straights really has the potential for some fantastic back and forth overtakes.
Unfortunately, the rest of the lap is very much a single file affair, and especially as the race gets older drivers may not want to take the risk of heading off line around the slippery, off-camber corners that make up this final sector. We’ve seen moves around turn 16 before, but given the plethora of DRS options available drivers might just think that it’s worth waiting for the long straight on the next lap to make their move.
Given the low-wear nature of the Yas Marina Circuit, it is very likely we will see a one-stopper on the ultrasoft/supersoft being the rubber of choice, but that hasn’t stopped the teams mixing up their selections a bit.
Some teams have doubled up on their sets of the ‘hardest’ tyre available this weekend and taken two sets of the yellow-walled soft tyres. Lance Stroll stands out in this group, as he has elected to take only one set of the red-walled supersofts, indicating that either his race strategy lies elsewhere, or that Williams simply don’t intend to run Stroll on a practice program with this tyre. Time will surely tell, but this could be an interesting area to watch.
Also in Stroll’s/Williams’s thinking may be that sometimes throughout the year, the harder tyre(s) have actually ended up being the better race tyre, especially among the front-running teams, Mercedes in particular. This may inform why Lewis Hamilton has also elected for two sets of the softs.
The only other real thing to note is Renault’s choice to take the largest allocation of the supersoft tyre, with four sets for each of their drivers. This could simply because the team want to gather more data on this set before they head off to work on 2018’s car, or it could indicate a divergent strategy from the rest of the field. Unlikely, perhaps, but it’ll sure be interesting to find out!