Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 August 2020

Abu Dhabi F1: Greatest hits from a memorable decade

Ten years of racing at Yas has seen some amazing moments. Race No 11 is certain to add to the rich storyline

Little more than a decade ago Yas Island was a desert island dissected by a few strips of tarmac.

But soon the island would be unrecognisable, having been transformed into a venue for royalty, film stars and 50,000 fans to witness one of the world’s most prestigious motorsport races, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The race, one of the highlights of the Formula One calendar, has been staged 10 times already, with some amazing highs and some incredible incidents punctuating the performances of the world's best drivers.

Here are the most memorable moments so far. And one thing can be guaranteed, there will be many more in the future, starting this weekend.


2009: With a 5pm start the inaugural 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix became the first day-night race in the sport’s 69-year history at the most lavish venue ever erected to host an F1 event with tailormade track, runway, drag-strip and state-of-the-art waterfront team facilities plus the unique Yas Marina hotel. But F1 and Yas Marina weren’t done with nature just yet and in 2013 witnessed a partial solar eclipse as inaugural victor Sebastian Vettel went on a devastating nine win charge to his fourth title. In doing so he matched Michael Schumacher’s 2004 record of 13 wins in a single season.


2010: Abu Dhabi hosted the denouement of one of the greatest seasons in F1 history with a four-way final round title showdown between Vettel, Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. Surely F1’s Spanish Terminator couldn’t lose with an eight point cushion and needing just a top four finish? But a Ferrari strategy gamble saw him trapped behind Vitaly Petrov for nearly 40 laps and after eight months of racing Alonso was 13 desperate seconds away from the place he needed. Instead Vettel won the race to take the title by four points to become – at 23 and 134 days – the youngest champion in the sport's history and only the third driver to win a title having led for just one race – the last.


2010: F1 legend Michael Schumacher ended his first season back from retirement with a horrifying smash. On the very first lap the seven times champion was nudged into a spin and Antonio Liuzzi’s Force India speared up the front of the cockpit, narrowly missing his helmet and crunched into the engine cowling behind his head, coming to a halt straddling the stranded Mercedes. Thankfully both drivers were uninjured but the much-loved veteran, himself, described the incident as “frightening”.


2012: Kimi Raikkonen launched a thousand memes and even more t-shirt slogans as he snapped at his anxious engineer: “Just leave me alone, I know what I’m doing”. And he certainly appeared to as he fended off Fernando Alonso for 36 laps to hand the lowly Lotus marque it’s first win since Ayrton Senna in Detroit 25 years before. The Iceman’s words didn’t ring so true a couple of races later in Brazil when he spun off and fired up a safety road ‘shortcut’ to discover a newly fitted locked gate – all seen on live tv worldwide – and had to do a swift u-turn. His engineer left him alone that time too.


2012: Many stand out moments were to follow for Nico Rosberg in Abu Dhabi, not least a world championship title, but his 2012 race was memorable only for two accidents in nine laps, the second of which was one of the biggest of his life. Rosberg careered over the top of Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT on the flat-out 190mph approach to Turn 16. “I don’t blame Narain. His steering broke so he braked. It was scary, all I saw suddenly was blue sky,” said Rosberg who escaped injury.


2013: The National award for sheer nerve has got to go to David Coulthard who performed donuts in his Red Bull on the Burj al Arab’s helicopter pad 690 feet above Dubai as a publicity stunt to celebrate their fourth successive world championship double. The priceless F1 racer (the car, not the driver) had to be heaved into the heavens dangling from a helicopter in one of the most unusual sights ever seen in F1.


2014: Teams resisted promoter Bernie Ecclestone’s ambitious bid to make the final three races worth double points but Abu Dhabi weren’t afraid to gamble despite the public uproar. The increase was ditched afterwards but proved an omen for Lewis Hamilton as the F1 ace celebrated the end to the six year wait for his second world title at the dawn of the F1 energy-harvesting hybrid era. There was also a sad note as the event was one of the first to test the Virtual Safety Car system introduced after the Japan accident that claimed the life of rising star Jules Bianchi.


2016: An ill-tempered season-long rivalry between two childhood karting pals turned global superstars, went to the wire. Lewis Hamilton won the race at a canter but openly disobeyed team instructions as he tried to conjure a fourth title. Teammate Rosberg only had to finish second but Hamilton tried to back him into the clutches of the chasing pack. Ordered to pick up the pace Hamilton said: “I’m happy where I am. Let us race!” It didn’t work but Mercedes’ delight at finally having a German champion was short-lived as Rosberg quit F1 five days later.


2018: Nico Hulkenberg displayed his dubious grasp of bovine behaviour. The German was launched into the air off Roman Grosjean’s Haas at Turn Nine and somersaulted sideways into barriers upside down. The rattled German said on the team radio. “I’m hanging here like a cow.” Marshalls quickly put out an engine fire but it took three anxious minutes to free the Renault racer. Doctors later gave him the all-clear.


2019: After a record 765 point haul in 2016 will the Silver Arrows onslaught on the team record books continue this year despite the absence of boss Toto Wolff? Mercedes arrive with five consecutive wins at Yas Marina and only one team has done better at any one circuit in the sport’s history – McLaren at Monaco in the Senna & Prost heyday from 1988-93. Mercedes have a one-shot bid to add to their overflowing trophy cabinet.

Updated: November 29, 2019 11:27 AM



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