x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Yas Marina's challenging bends explained

Tony Whitaker, the circuit's chief driving instructor, explains how the F1 drivers will tackle the challenging 5.5km track.

Not one of the 24 drivers on the grid for Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will know the 5.5 kilometre Yas Marina Circuit better than Tony Whitaker, the chief driving instructor at the track, who has done "probably around 2,000 laps" in various vehicles, ranging from a standard road car to the Formula One two-seater.

The 46-year-old, who joined Yas Marina Circuit last year after working in a similar role at the Sakhir Circuit in Bahrain, began his driving career in unconventional fashion. "Normally," he says, "people have money and decide to go into racing but it was different for me." He started out as a volunteer marshal at Brands Hatch circuit in the UK.

"I then moved up to race recovery, dealing with things on the race track, and from that I progressed to working in the pitlane," he recalls as he drives The National around Yas Marina in a Renault Clio, finding the racing line and apex perfectly at each corner.

"I eventually moved up to race control and whenever we were not busy I would get the instructors to take me out. I started learning how to race cars and it progressed from there to actually racing cars and, from there, to teaching people how to drive racing cars.

"I have done the whole apprenticeship, if you like, and learnt from the bottom up, which a lot of people haven't done."


1. The first corner is quite quick as you come to it after coming down the start-finish straight. You need to try to take as wide an entry as possible to generate exit speed so you go as right as you can before you swing across. There is plenty of run-off area on the outside.

3. Slightly uphill, this is a fast section of the circuit, a very fast left- and right-flowing combination. It is important to get the apex right to keep your speed as high as possible; the key to being quick here is to look for the tyre marks as your marker to turn, to ensure you have the right line for the exit.

5. This is what I call the Bus Stop [a reference to the famous Bus Stop chicane at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium] - a very sharp left and right, second-gear section where the drivers will be hard on the brakes, leaving it as late as possible. You will leave your braking as late as you can as you come down the hill, with the F1 drivers not touching the brakes until the 50-metre board.

7. Once you have done the slow left and then right turns, you will get on the power and accelerate hard before braking for the hairpin. The drivers will go slowly through the hairpin, concentrating on getting the cleanest exit they can from the corner so they can carry as much speed as they can get onto the 1.2km straight, the longest in Formula One.

8. This turn is the best chance for overtaking on the track. F1 drivers won't touch their brakes until just before the 50-metre marker board - coming down from 300km to 90km in a matter of a second or so. A good chance to out-brake the car in front, and there is a big run-off area for anyone who gets it wrong.

9. A tight right-hander, which again is all about getting the exit right for the long straight that follows. If you have just overtaken someone, it is important to hold your line to ensure they cannot repass you on the exit.

11. Another overtaking chance at the end of a long straight, but 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.

12. This is the start of the "Monaco" section of the section, as it can be referred to; a tricky second gear, left, right, left section before a short burst of speed; very technical, but if you get it right you find a lot of time on a lap here.

16. The double righthander is a big favourite for drivers - you will go flat out through the first part, not touching the brakes, but you have to get on the brakes big time to get round the second-gear corner in front of the hotel.

18. It is very tight under the hotel, like a mini-Monaco as you are very close to the barriers and there is nowhere to go if you run wide. It is all about keeping it smooth and keeping your line so you can get on the power early on the exit.

21. Coming to Turn 21, the last corner, it is again important to get a wide entrance, going as left as you can before you turn into the apex, so that you can really carry speed down the start-finish straight to begin another lap.