Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: pub knowledge
Big, brash and just extraordinary – the Abu Dhabi showcases all that’s bold about Formula 1. James Roberts from F1 Racing magazine delivers some pub knowledge about the weekend’s racing…
This weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is the only twilight race on the Formula 1 calendar. The 17th round of the 2013 world championship starts in daylight, 5.00pm local time (1.00pm in the UK). And as darkness approaches the largest permanent lighting system in the world illuminates the circuit. The rapid transition from day to night in the Gulf means the race finishes with track temperatures 15°C lower than those experienced in the early laps.
The Yas Marina circuit sits on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi and cost an estimated £800 million to build. The two-year construction project involved over 14,000 staff and 35 million man-hours. The Hermann Tilke-designed facility held its first grand prix in 2009.
Hotels and hairpins
A unique feature of Abu Dhabi is the Viceroy Hotel that straddles the track between Turns 18 and 19. The 499-room hotel (where the drivers stay) has a roof filled with over 5,000 diamond-shaped colour changing LED panes – and on the final lap of the race it represents a giant chequered flag. Another unique feature of the Yas Marina venue is the pitlane that exits through a tunnel under the circuit at Turn 1.
The 5.5km track is one of only five anti-clockwise circuits on this year’s calendar and represents the shift of the global reach of Formula 1 over the past decade. The first grand prix held in the Middle East was the Bahrain GP in 2004 and prior to that there had only been one world championship race held in an Arab country. That was the Moroccan Grand Prix held at the Ain-Diab circuit near Casablanca in… 1958.
Driven round the bends
Twelve of the circuit’s 21 corners are taken in second gear or below, with six taken at less than 60mph. Only Singapore has more corners on the lap (23) of the current tracks used in Formula 1. On average drivers change gear 68 times per lap, which again is the second highest of the season behind Singapore.
Big boys playground
On the outside of Turn 7 sits Ferrari World, the largest indoor amusement park in the world themed, you’ve guessed it, around Ferrari. Not content with that record, the park also has the fastest roller coaster in the world. Formula Rossa is meant to simulate the acceleration and top speed of a Formula 1 car and reaches 149mph. The roof of Ferrari World features the largest Ferrari logo ever created, measuring 65m x 48.5m.
Pole to problem
Qualifying in pole position at Yas Marina has been a poisoned chalice. The driver in P1 has failed to finish three out of the four Abu Dhabi Grands Prix. In the inaugural race, Lewis Hamilton retired with a brake problem, and again in 2012 after losing fuel pressure. He went further than Sebastian Vettel who led away from pole in 2011 only to suffer a first corner puncture.
Twenty-six year old Sebastian Vettel won his fourth consecutive world drivers’ championship in India last week and joins a quartet of legends to achieve four titles. But when Michael Schumacher was 26, he had only one world championship to his name. When Alain Prost scored his first grand prix victory for Renault, he too had just turned 26. Juan Manuel Fangio started racing cars when he was 23, but it was another 18 years before he won his first world drivers’ crown. Vettel has time on his side to be statistically the greatest ever.
By virtue of a fourth place for Jenson Button, McLaren set a new record for consecutive races in the points at last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. It was their 56th consecutive score, beating the record previously set by Ferrari. This weekend in Abu Dhabi, Ferrari can take the record back. They pulled level in India thanks to Felipe Massa’s fourth place, having started their latest run at the 2010 German Grand Prix.
After retiring in India, Webber is still waiting to surpass 1,000 points in his F1 career. The Australian is currently on 996.5 so he needs an eighth place finish or better to crack the barrier in Abu Dhabi. If he doesn’t do it there, he’ll have just two more races before heading for F1 retirement.
James Roberts is associate editor of F1 Racing magazine and is writing regular blogs around the Formula 1 season
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