2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – preview

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2016

THE DRIVERS ON: THE CIRCUIT

#14 Fernando Alonso

“The faster first sector and the two long straights in the middle sector at Yas Marina mean that it isn’t a track that will naturally suit our package, but over the course of Friday we’ll work hard to dial in the car to make the most of what we have and extract as much performance as possible.

"It’s an interesting track to set the car up for, as although it’s in the desert the track temperature cools a lot during the course of the race as we reach twilight, so the tyre conditions and grip levels are constantly evolving as we reach the chequered flag. It’s a really unique place and a great circuit to end the season at, and I hope we can push for a positive end to the year."

#22 Jenson Button

"Yas Marina is a pretty technical race track, with a relatively low average speed thanks to the tight corners in the final sector, which gives it many of the characteristics of a street circuit. Typically, overtaking is quite tricky there, so it’s important we do as much as we can in qualifying and hope for a strong, clean start like many that we’ve enjoyed so far this year, and make the most of our strategy in order to get the best possible result.

"If we use the track time productively on Friday it’ll give us the best opportunity to set the car up for the weekend and, hopefully, avoid a repeat of Brazil where I really struggled for pace in the race. Our package definitely has more potential than that, and I hope that I can push it to the limit and give the team and the fans a good end to the year."

CIRCUIT STATS

2015 winnerNico Rosberg, 55 laps, 1:38:30.175
2015 pole positionNico Rosberg, 1m40.237s
2015 fastest lapLewis Hamilton, 1m44.517s (lap 44)
NameYas Marina Circuit
First race2009
Circuit length 5.554km/3.451 miles  
Distance to Turn One300m/0.186 miles    
Longest straight 1.2km/0.746 miles, on the approach to the Turn Eight
Top speed335km/h/208mph, on the approach to Turn Eight   
Pitlane length360m/0.224 miles, estimated time loss 22s
Full throttle60 per cent
DRS zonesTwo, on the approach to Turns Eight and 11
Key cornerTurn Seven, a non-descript left-hand hairpin. But for all its benign characteristics, the corner is crucial because the longest straight on the lap follows. You need a good exit to maximise what becomes the first DRS zone and one of the best overtaking opportunities on the lap 
Fastest corner 260km/h (162mph), Turn Two
Slowest corner72km/h (45mph), Turn Seven
Major changes for 2016None, except for maintenance work
Fuel consumption1.81kg per lap, which is relatively high
ERS demandsMedium. There are several slow corners around the lap where ERS deployment is crucial at the exit. But there are lots of braking zones around the lap in which to regain energy under braking
Brake wearHigh. There are 13 braking zones around the lap, which means 18 per cent of the lap is spent braking. Braking forces peak at 5.09g on the approach to Turn Eight
Gear changes68 per lap /3,740 per race

 

CIRCUIT FACTS 

History lesson: 
At a cost of £800m, the Yas Marina Circuit is the most expensive racetrack ever constructed. It’s situated on the eastern side of the man-made Yas Island and it’s suitably sophisticated: the pitlane exit passes under the track; the pit garages are air-conditioned and the track has the largest permanent lighting system in the world.

What makes the track unique: 
It’s the only twilight race on the calendar. It starts in daylight and finishes at night, presenting the drivers with the unique challenge of having to contend with bright sunshine at the start of the race and darkness later on.  

Grip levels: 
Medium. The asphalt is quite smooth and it’s quite grippy. But the predominance of slow-speed corners means mechanical grip is at a premium and to help this, Pirelli bring its three softest tyre compounds to the race.

Run-off: 
Medium. A lot of the run-off is asphalt, which raises the question of track limits at various points around the lap. But there are some gravel traps and there’s a quirky aspect to the gravel at Turn Seven, the hairpin: it extends under the grandstand.

Watch out for…: 
The changes in track temperature. The asphalt can cool by as much as 15 degrees during the race, once the sun has gone down. That can alter the balance of the car and make life tricky for the drivers.

EVENT STATS

Start time17:00hrs local/13:00hrs GMT
Race distance55 laps (full world championship points will be awarded after 75 per cent distance/41 laps)
Safety Car likelihoodLow. Statistically, there’s only a 40 per cent chance of a Safety Car, largely due to no Safety Car periods in either of the last two years
When to press recordThe eyes of the sporting world will be on the world championship showdown between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. But there are other aspects of the weekend to look forward to, most notably qualifying. It’s difficult to overtake in Abu Dhabi, so a good grid position is vital
Don’t put the kettle
on
All of the cars in the top 10 made two pitstops last year, pitting on or around laps 10 and 30. Tyre degradation and wear are low at the Yas Marina Circuit, so expect more of the same this year
Weather conditions now  26 degrees and sunny
Race forecast28 degrees, with more sun 
Tyre choicesUltrasoft/Supersoft/Soft, a combination that was last used at the Singapore Grand Prix

 

EVENT FACTS

First Abu Dhabi Grand Prix:
2009.

Slogan:
Welcome to Hyper Speed.

Abu Dhabi's F1 heritage: 
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was the second F1 race in the Middle East, after Bahrain. But Abu Dhabi quickly established itself as a popular race with teams, drivers and spectators. The teams conduct a lot of testing at the track, with Pirelli staying on after the race to conduct some 2017 tyre testing at the end of November.

Smallest winning margin:  
0.852s, in 2012. This was the infamous race won by Kimi Räikkönen, who announced over the radio, “leave me alone, I know what I’m doing.” Kimi inherited the lead from Lewis Hamilton after the McLaren driver retired with a fuel pump failure. A Safety Car with 13 laps remaining closed up the field and led to a thrilling dice between Räikkönen and Fernando Alonso.

Sporting legacy:
Football and cricket are the most popular sports in Abu Dhabi. The UAE Football Association was established in 1971 and Pakistan now plays all of its home international matches at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium. But the popularity of motorsport is growing in the region and the Yas Marina Circuit is used all year round for track days.

Did you know? 
Six of the 21 corners at the Yas Marina circuit are taken at less than 100km/h (62mph). Only Monaco and Singapore have more.

Don’t forget: 
McLaren has won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix once, in 2011, and taken two pole positions. 

Fan zone:
James, aged 18, from Dubai, asks: “How do the drivers cope with the changing light, from day to night?”

McLaren’s answer: “As the sun sets, it can be very blinding for the drivers – particularly on the straight towards Turn 15. To counter that glare, they place a dark tear-off on top a clear visor. Once the sun has dropped behind the grandstands, they can then dispose of the dark visor tear-off, giving them clear vision for the remainder of the race.”

THE DRIVERS ON: THE EVENT

#14 Fernando Alonso

"I enjoy racing in Abu Dhabi every year. Not just because it’s become synonymous with the end of the season, but there's a unique atmosphere there – a combination of the ‘end-of-term’ feeling, anticipation ahead of the winter development push and the buzz from the fans as we go racing for the final time in 2016.

"From the cockpit, it’s incredible to race at twilight and watch the light fade as you complete lap after lap. It brings a new dimension to the spectacle and makes the whole weekend really enjoyable. For McLaren-Honda, this race marks the end of a significant year for the team, and the last time I’ll race with my team-mate Jenson for the foreseeable future. It’s been a pleasure to work with him and I’ll miss him being in the garage next to me, but he’ll still very much be part of McLaren-Honda’s plans and I want to wish him all the best for the exciting things he has in store for the next step in his career.”

#22 Jenson Button

"I’m really looking forward to this weekend, and have been for a few races now. It marks a very special chapter in my life and I’ll have my friends and some of my family out in Abu Dhabi with me which I’m very excited about. It’s going to be a hugely emotional weekend and I hope with the support of the fans, the team and the people that are closest to me, we can go out there and give it our absolute maximum and enjoy the weekend.

"It’s not the end of my career with McLaren-Honda, but it’s the start of a new phase that I’m incredibly positive about. This race marks the culmination of a huge amount of hard work, dedication and passion for the sport that I love and I’m immensely proud of everything I’ve achieved in the past 17 seasons, and the fantastic progress we’ve made over the past couple of years with McLaren-Honda. It’s been an amazing project to work on and my involvement certainly won’t end here. I’m looking forward to concluding this chapter in style and starting a new one with just as much enthusiasm, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

HEAR FROM THE MANAGEMENT

Eric Boullier
McLaren-Honda Racing Director

“The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, for McLaren-Honda, cements a very positive year, where we have overcome challenges, fought hard, pushed relentlessly and seen firm progression in every area. As I always say, we aren’t where we want to be, of course, but we're fighting fit and looking ahead to a strong winter of further development. I’m incredibly proud of how far we’ve come in three short years – two on the track – and indebted to the incredible commitment, steadfast loyalty and unwavering support demonstrated by our team members in the UK and Japan, our Partners, and our amazing fans.

“This weekend also marks a very significant moment for McLaren-Honda, as we bid farewell to Jenson, who will be stepping out of the cockpit after the race on Sunday to embark on a new chapter both with McLaren-Honda and in his personal life. As we know, it’s farewell for now and not goodbye, and we’ll be working side by side with him over the coming year, when he'll be as close to the team and our developments as ever. Nevertheless, it’s a poignant step in our history together and an opportunity to celebrate his 17 seasons in the sport, seven with McLaren, and celebrate his many achievements on track. We'll certainly miss him in the garage, but we look forward to continuing our relationship and the exciting projects we’ll be working on together in 2017.

“Last but not least, we approach this weekend with positivity, but the awareness that it will be a challenging grand prix on a track that is complex in character and offers a set of unique parameters within which to set up the car. With qualifying and the race taking place in very different conditions from the earlier part of the weekend, setting up the car for all eventualities is tricky but is also what makes this venue so unique, creating an awe-inspiring spectacle for fans at the end of a long season. The Yas Marina circuit and its ever-impressive facilities provide a stunning setting in which to go racing for the final time in 2016, and I hope we can finish the season on a high – for Jenson, the team and our fans across the world.”

Yusuke Hasegawa
Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer

“With the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the 2016 Formula 1 season comes to an end. It’s been a long season for the team, but for an improving team like ours, every day spent together helps us grow stronger. We’ll also bid farewell to Jenson, who has been the glue to the McLaren-Honda team alongside Fernando since the beginning. We’ll miss his smile at the track, but we’re very happy that he'll continue to support the team’s development next year. 

"The circuit at Yas Marina has a unique layout with a traditional race and street-like circuit combined into one, unlike the several previous races. Each sector is very different, from slow 90-degree turns to full-throttle straights, so it will no doubt be another busy weekend to set up both the power unit and chassis to get the maximum out of the package. 

"When we see the chequered flag on Sunday evening, it will mark the transition for us to fully focus on the 2017 package. This is an exciting, albeit challenging time as we have just about three months until our next chapter begins. We hope to end our year on a positive note, and enjoy the twilight race in Abu Dhabi."