On June 25, 2008 the FIA announced the provisional 2009 Formula One calendar including the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as the 19th and final race of the season on November 15. On November 5, 2008, however, it was announced that the race would be held as the season finale on November 1, two weeks before the initially planned date, as the 17th and final race.
The inaugural race was Formula One's first ever day-night race, starting at 17:00 local time. Floodlights used to illuminate the circuit were switched on from the start of the event to ensure a seamless transition from daylight to darkness. Subsequent Abu Dhabi Grands Prix have also been day-night races.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is Formula 1’s original day/night race. The race begins at 17-00hrs local time, in the dusk and ends in darkness, with floodlights illuminating the track. The temperatures drop during the race and this has a significant bearing on tyre performance and thus race strategy. This was shown by the race in Bahrain, which also followed this format for the first time this season. The Yas Marina Circuit features six corners below 100 kph – only Monaco, Singapore and Valencia have more. The track surface is smooth.
Track length : 5.554 kilometres.
Race distance : 55 laps (305.355 kilometres).
Corners : 21 corners in total. Average speed 197km/h. A marina based circuit hosting its fifth F1 Grand Prix.
Aerodynamic setup : Med/High downforce.
Top speed : 320km/h (with DRS open) 307km/h without.
Full throttle : 60% of the lap time (ave/high).
Fuel Consumption : Med/High (Max Downforce, lower average speed, frequent acceleration events).
Brake wear : Medium.
Number of braking events : 12.
Time spent braking : 17% of the lap. Third or fourth most severe circuit of the year on brakes.
Total time needed for a pit stop : 23 seconds.
Ease of Overtaking : Low (difficult to overtake even with double DRS zones).
Lap record : 1:40.279 (Germany Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing, 2009).
The forecast for the weekend is stable with temperatures in the low 30 degrees C. But as this is a dusk/night race it’s worth noting that the night time temperature is set to fall to 19 degrees C.
Pirelli tyre choice for Abu Dhabi: Soft (yellow markings) and Supersoft (red markings). This combination was used in Monaco, Canada, Austria, Germany and Singapore.
The five events featuring super-soft tyres have produced most strategically varied races so far, with some 3 stoppers, so that could still be an outside possibility for this race, given a large enough performance difference.
The race starts at dusk and ends in the dark, so the track temperature falls as the race goes on and the teams have to factor this in. For teams looking to do longer runs at the end of the race, the temperature drop helps, so teams are encouraged to try some bold strategies to win. The added factor of double points will encourage some higher risk strategies.
Formula 1's governing body, the FIA, has retained two DRS zones for this year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. As in previous seasons, the first activation zone at the Yas Marina Circuit has been placed on the run between Turns 7 and 8, with the detection point situated just before Turn 7.
The second designated area follows on another sizeable run between Turns 10 and 11, controlled by a separate detection marker on the exit of the Turn 8/9 chicane. Monte-Carlo and Suzuka were the only circuits to feature just one DRS zone this season.
The expected Default strategy is two stops – Laps 12/32 SuperSoft/Soft/Soft). Last year saw a mixture of one and two stop strategies, with two being the more popular option. In 2012 most teams did a one-stop strategy as the tyre wear and degradation were not particularly high.
There have often been alternative strategies tried at this circuit and this is likely to happen this year with teams pushed to try more high risk strategies with double points on offer.
Although at 40% the statistical chance of a safety car appears quite low, there have been three in five races at Yas Marina Circuit. The 2012 edition featured two safety cars and these proved game changers for Sebastian Vettel, who was coming through the field after starting from the pit lane. The timing of the safety cars is crucial, particularly if they fall in the pit stop windows.
As far as Yas Marina Circuit is concerned, Sebastian Vettel has won three of the five races to date with Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen winning the other two. This is a track where Lewis Hamilton has always been very fast; he has had two pole position, he won in 2011 and was twice leading when forced to retire. However last year he was outqualified here by Nico Rosberg. Fernando Alonso has had two podium finishes there for Ferrari. Jenson Button has been on the podium three times.
The championship that matters i.e. the drivers, has come down to the final race again after 4 years of Sebastian Vettel boringness. And it is not just one leading the other with a huge lead, with double points anything can happen. This will be a battle to the death as Nico is hungry for his first championship and Lewis is even hungrier after waiting so long for his second. We will be on tenterhooks watching this one.
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