x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

The twists are in the turns at Yas Marina Circuit

Graham Caygill highlights Yas Marina Circuit's six pivotal points which will test the abilities of drivers for today's Etihad Airways Formula one Grand Prix.

1 The first corner of any Formula One track is a focal point because that is where the grid will be charging when the race begins.

Both previous starts to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix have been relatively clean, but Lewis Hamilton, who starts second today, ominously warned the pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel, to expect a rough ride into the first corner.

Talking about last year when they started in the same positions, Hamilton said: "I braked early and let him go. I don't plan to do that tomorrow."

Once the racing starts Turn 1 is unlikely to see overtaking simply because of the shortness of the straight and the fact it is a fast left-hander.

It does have some bite, as both Vettel and Fernando Alonso will testify to after their respective crashes in practice.

 

2 Turn 2 leading through to Turn 3 is one of the most demanding on the aerodynamic abilities of the cars as they make a sweeping and fast left to right. If a car is deficient technically it will be found out through there.

Heikki Kovalainen, the Team Lotus driver, gave away nearly a second of the four seconds he was losing to the top teams in qualifying through the first sector, with that corner being the primary problem.

"It is a difficult corner as you cannot see the line and the apex as you are going over a crest as you take it," the Finn said. "The cars with a lot of downforce can do it flat out. It is not quite flat in our car."

 

3 If any overtaking is to take place today, it will start on the long back straight. The DRS (Drag Reduction System) kicks in midway through the straight for drivers who are within a second of the car in front as they leave Turn 7, before the straight.

Jenson Button is not confident DRS will help completely today, saying: "Yesterday I was using the DRS doing Turn 7 to Turn 8 and still could not overtake anybody."

Overtaking has been done, though, in the past on the long run to Turn 8. Button was passed there by Kamui Kobayashi in 2009, while both Hamilton and Mark Webber executed overtakes last year with late-braking moves down the inside for the tight left-hander at the end of the straight.

 

4 Turn 11 is the end of the second DRS zone and will see lots of wheel-to-wheel action as drivers look to use their straight-line speed advantage for a second time.

The left-handed corner does not lend itself easily to passing as Alonso found last year when he tried unsuccessfully to pass Vitaly Petrov and slithered wide.

Tony Whitaker, who works in the sporting department at Yas Marina Circuit, having previously worked as chief driving instructor, told The National last year the best defence is for a driver to keep his rival left on the straight.

"If you are on the inside and off the racing line it is very difficult to complete the pass as you have to turn hard left, and you literally have to throw the car around the corner."

 

5 Turn 17 is deceptively fast. A flat right-hander brings the drivers into heavy braking, and following the two hard stops early in the lap after the long straights definitely is not what the brake pads need. It was here in 2009 that the first signs of Hamilton, the McLaren-Mercedes driver, having trouble with brake wear materialised. As he was leading the race, he began to repeatedly run wide. Eventually, he was forced to retire from the race.

The corner is part of the technical final sector, with 11 corners in all.

Romain Grosjean, the French racer who drove for Renault in practice on Friday, said the drivers will be worked hard through that particular part of the track during the 55-lap race today.

"It is all second-gear corners," he said.

"The third sector is quite tricky and it is very easy to lose time."

6 You could forgive Vettel for being biased, being the only man to have stepped on the top step of the podium at Yas Marina, but he really is fond of the place.

He spoke passionately about why he likes the track, and one thing that stood out to him was what comes on the exit of Turn 18. "It is not every circuit where you drive under a hotel," he said.

The straight under the Yas Hotel is low-speed, but the drivers look to get a wide exit out of it to find time for the final corners of the lap and to keep any cars behind.

gcaygill@thenational.ae