The purpose-built Yas Marina Circuit has been the home of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix since the event’s inception in 2009. While the racing isn’t the best around here, the track does offer some spectacular views, thanks to its unique dusk starting time. This is the only race in F1 that begins in the day and ends during the night.
It’s also a circuit that has played host to some dramatic title deciders in both 2010 and 2016. There are no gravel traps around the circuit, but don’t mistake that for meaning this is an easy track to drive around, track limits are strictly enforced here. The configuration of the circuit has remained constant over the past 10 years, so if you were fast here in F1 2018, you should be again.
Yas Marina is unusual in that its start/ finish straight isn’t the longest on the circuit, nor is it a DRS zone. That being said, you’ll be arriving into the first corner at about 185 mph (298 kph) and need to brake down to fourth gear beginning at 75m before the turn.
This is a 90-degree left hander, like you commonly see at street circuits, but you have to take a more flowing line due to its higher speed. The key is to get as straight of a line out of the corner so that you can carry as much speed as possible going into Turn 2.
I’ve found that the best line is to cut a little inside kerb, but no more than over the whole red and white painted section, as a penalty will come your way. It’s also better to cut the inside than run wide on exit, as the grooves in the outside kerbing hugely unsettles the car.
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The most thrilling corners on the track are the only real high speed ones, the Turns 2-4 complex. Long gone are the days of having to lift through these corners, in qualifying, you can go flat-out throughout.
Your self-preservation instincts tell you to lift, but don’t, keep the pedal to the metal and try to avoid all the kerbs through both Turns 2 and 3. As you exit T3, ease the lock off the steering wheel to carry as much speed as possible through the right-handed kink of Turn 4.
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Because of the incredible speed you have out of Turn 3, you arrive into the next braking zone at Turn 5 at over 190 mph (302 kph). Position the car as far to the right before braking, but don’t use any of the outside kerbing. Brake at the 100m board down into third gear and swing the car to the left for the 5-6 chicane. Clip the kerb of T5, squirt the throttle and dab on the brakes into second gear for Turn 6, avoiding all the kerbs.
Turn 7 follows soon after. Accelerate into fourth gear before it, brake down to second once again beginning at the white DRS detection line that runs across the track. I find that braking a little later than what you’d normally expect and going for a cut-back wide line is the fastest, as the longest straight on the track follows T7.
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Turn 8 follows a DRS zone and as such, is the main overtaking opportunity on track, sharing that title with Turn 11. Both the inside and outside lines are good for passing here, but the inside is preferable. The straight before T8 bends to the left towards the end, so beware of that when you’re approaching the braking zone.
You’ll be arriving into the Turn 8-9 chicane at over 205 mph (328 kph) and need to brake down to second gear beginning at the 100m board. Swing the car to the left and kiss the apex of Turn 8 before squirting the throttle, lifting and clumping over the kerb for Turn 9. Get back on the power hard after T9, but be sure to avoid the kerbs on exit.
Turn 10 is a kink to the left that won’t give you any trouble, but it is where the second and final use of DRS is allowed.
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Turns 11-13 are a triple chicane that seem scary at first, but once you have the rhythm, they’re pretty pedestrian to get through. As Turn 11 follows a DRS zone, it is one of the best spots on the track to overtake. Down the inside is the dominant line, if you’re on the outside, you’ll get pushed wide by the car on the inside.
When you aren’t passing another car, though, you should use the outside, get all the way out so that the car is straddling the white and red kerbs for the braking zone. Brake down to second gear beginning at the 100m board and don’t worry if you slightly miss the apex of Turn 11, the run through 12 and 13 is what matters here.
Swing the car back to the right for Turn 12, taking a wheel’s width of inside kerb, doing the exact same for Turn 13 but on the other side of the car. Half-throttle the car throughout these corners, that’s the fastest way, before sharply accelerating on the exit of T13.
Stay on the right-hand side of the track on exit, as that’s the line you need to take through Turn 14. There’s no braking marker for 14, so when you’re maxing out fourth gear, brake down to third gear. Kiss the inside kerb and completely avoid the outside kerbing, you get sucked in if you put more than wheel onto that run-off area.
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Turns 15 through 17 are a series of right-handers, two of which you can take flat-out. Completely miss the apex of T15, as that’s the line that allows you to carry the most speed, before turning in for Turn 16. 16 is also flat, but you need to get on the brakes as soon as you hit its apex for Turn 17.
Brake down to second gear and be careful on the anchors, as locking up here is very common. Avoid all of the kerbs, except for the outside on exit, it usually helps to run a wheel over those going towards Turn 18. Overtaking here is possible, but it’s not advisable, as there’s only really one line, as Nico Rosberg found out in 2012.
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Turn 18 follows quickly after 17, so be on your toes for this 90-degree left-hander. You have to take a flowing line through here, as soon as you’ve finished turning right for Turn 17, swing the wheel back to the left for 18.
A slight lift is all that’s required to get through when you start turning left and remain in third gear. Avoid the inside kerbing if you can, and don’t worry if you go slightly wide of the apex, as this allows you to carry more speed and sets you up better for Turn 19.
Stay on the right side of the track for Turn 19, you can even go as far as putting your right-front on the outside kerb on entry. Dab the brakes and stay in fourth gear, avoiding all of the kerbs, as they usually throw you into the barriers on the outside of exit.
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There’s a short burst of a straight heading towards Turn 20, but not one that’s long enough to give you a chance at overtaking. Be on the left side of the circuit and brake down into fifth gear beginning at the 50m board. You can run the car over the outside kerbing on exit, but it’s risky, as it’s bumpy and unsettles the car on re-application of the throttle.
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The final corner on the circuit is one that doesn’t look difficult, but is one that you can easily lose heaps of time if you get the wrong line. Brake at the point where there’s the line across the track for the pit lane entry, or when you’re revving out fifth gear, and decelerate down to third gear.
Stay tight while going through the corner, going wide may feel faster, but it’s not, especially if you make contact with any of the kerbs here, they’re lethal. Get back hard on the power and fade to the right side of the track down the start/ finish straight.
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There aren’t many high-speed corners here, so although the third sector in particular is slow, you don’t need much downforce around here. I went with a 1 wing angle on the front and 5 on the rear, as you need the back end to be settled through corners like Turns 2 and 3.
The usual 70% on-throttle and 100% off-throttle transmission doesn’t work too well around here, I went 50%/ 70% as traction isn’t really an issue in Yas Marina. Tyre wear isn’t an issue here, a 1-stop with softs going to mediums is easily achievable, so you can afford to be adventurous with low camber and toe angles.
You should avoid the kerbs around here, but you also need the suspension springs to be soft, in case you end up using them when battling, I went with 1/2. There aren’t many high-speed direction changes in Abu Dhabi, so the anti-roll bar can be softer than normal at 3/4. The ride height should be low, as usual to help straight-line speed, 4/4.
There are some very big stops in Abu Dhabi, so the brake pressure needs to be high, around 89% is the highest value you can get away with, without locking up too much. The front brake bias should be around 53%, as lock-ups usually occur on the front axle.
The tyre pressures should be lower than normal at 22.6psi on the fronts and 21.1psi on the rears. The reason behind the lower pressures, is that you still get good grip at the lower values, but this will lower tyre wear rate even further.
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