x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Preview lap hints at thrills and spills

If its computerised equivalent is any indication, there could be lots of errors and overtaking, and even a crash or two at the start of the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 1.

Leamington Spa // If its computerised equivalent is any indication, there could be lots of errors and overtaking, and even a crash or two at the start of the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 1. "That first lap is going to be amazing," said Andy Gray, Codemasters' communications manager. Kris Dutton, one of those responsible for testing the Yas Marina element of the new computer game, said: "There is a smooth start. But you have to turn quickly, and you are immediately back on the brakes."

In the F1 2009 game, as the cars climb a short hill, plenty of overtaking takes place. Soon after, as they approach the north grandstand, descending rapidly, a tight left-hand turn appears suddenly, leading to a narrow chicane. Those trying the game for the first time often miss the turn, and sprawl on to the gravel. The same may be true for the Formula One drivers using the circuit for the first time.

"It definitely creeps up on you," said Benjamin Patterson, the quality assurance team leader at Codemasters. "You have to take it just right." Soon after leaving the north grandstand, a stretch of more than 1km allows drivers to put their foot on the gas. "Those cars that have got Kers can really use it here," said Mr Patterson, referring to the energy-saving system that gives cars a boost of speed. The opportunities for high-speed overtaking are stronger here than anywhere else.

Further on, a narrow chicane bordering the marina is the most challenging section of the circuit, with the driver forced to slow down quickly and negotiate a very narrow series of bends. "That is a really enjoyable part of the circuit," said Mr Dutton. The track continues past the Yas Hotel, although a tricky turn before the distinctive building means drivers have no time to admire the view. Soon after, the track bends back around the edge of the marina and on to the start-finish straight.

Two or three times during the race, the drivers will have to turn at this point to enter the pit lane to refuel and change tyres. "It is a tight pit entrance," said Mr Patterson. But it is the long exit from the pit lane - through a tunnel with two tight corners underneath the track and out on the top of a hill - that captures the gamers' attention more than anything else. Mr Patterson said: "It is unique, there is no other circuit like it. There is real room for error."

rhughes@thenational.ae