The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix entered the Formula 1 calendar for the first time in 2009. Since then it has secured its position as the final race on the calendar, meaning that often one or both championships have been decided there. While the first race was a dead rubber thanks to Brawn’s domination, in 2010 a three-way duel for the World Drivers’ Championship was settled by a win from Sebastian Vettel who claimed his first title. In 2012 Vettel made a masterful drive from the back of the grid to a 3rd place finish and another title. Nico Rosberg claimed his first championship in a tense Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2016.
Thanks to its position on the calendar Abu Dhabi is a vital race for your championship hopes in F1 2018, but its unique layout makes for a tricky challenge. The Yas Marina Circuit has 21 corners and can be punishing on tyres, however it also includes two long flatout stretches, a tight final sector to test your car placement, and some extreme kerbs that can punish you for getting it wrong. While there is plenty of run-off space and the track is far from narrow, there are not many overtaking points for you to gain a position here, and a few corners that can really catch you out if you aren’t careful. Let’s start by looking at the overtaking points.
The back straight in Abu Dhabi connects two hairpins, making it a perfect chance to get an overtake in. If you get a good exit from turn 7 you can pick up an epic slipstream and open up the DRS, allowing you to pull alongside and get beyond your opponent even before the braking zone. If you do have to get a move done on the brakes then the inside is the only way to do it. The hairpin is too tight and the following tight-right means any outside overtaking attempt puts you at a serious disadvantage for the next corner.
The turn 8 hairpin and turn 9 right-hander leads you down another long straight past the support pit lane to a three-corner chicane that makes the second overtaking spot on the lap. Turn 11 is a sharp left, and the entrance is fairly wide, meaning you can go wheel-to-wheel either on the inside or outside. It is naturally trickier to get a move done to the outside, but if your opponent gets too defensive into the corner then you can sweep around the outside and get the pass finished into turn 12.
There are other places you can launch a passing attempt if you are daring. You can make a move into turn 5 except it is difficult to follow closely through turn 3, but the number of tricky corners exceeds the amount of overtaking points. The nature of the circuit leads to corners that are chained together and awkwardly angled.
Let’s start at the first corner. This left-hander has a pretty late apex and a tight exit, making it a slower corner than you expect. While there is run off space on the outside you need to be flatout all the way down to turn 5, meaning a poor or wide exit from turn 1 can cost you a lot of time and leave you vulnerable to a daring dive into turn 5.
This is one of the toughest corners to get right consistently in F1 2018. Just like Bahrain turn 10, this corners braking zone can extend back into the curve of the previous corner, especially on worn tyres or with a heavy fuel load. Thankfully, there is plenty of run-off ahead of you, but going deep will cost you a huge amount of time as you immediately have to get right on exit for the next corner.
The final corner is another one that is tighter than you might think. This right-hander feels the same as turn 20, but you cannot carry nearly as much speed through it. You have to get the exit right to avoid spinning out or losing time, but the biggest risk here is taking too much kerb on the inside as that will quickly scrub speed and bounce you wide.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix requires a responsive front end, but this can’t be at the cost of straight line speed. The best way to strike the balance is to trim front wing and find the responsiveness with your anti-roll bar settings. You can find our setup here, but remember that your own driving style, controller setup, and level of assists you may need to make a few tweaks to full unlock your pace.
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