The 2017 Formula 1 season will be remembered for a lot of things. Lewis Hamilton put himself in the record books as a four-time world champion. Ferrari rebounded to be genuine title contenders. And some drivers were switched in and out of cars quicker than they would have liked. But all of the excitement, triumph and failure will draw to a close at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend.
The last outing on the Formula 1 calendar has always had an end of semester atmosphere, only reinforced by Hamilton having already won the title.
But the Yas Marina circuit in part generates that special atmosphere. At a staggering cost of $1.5 billion, it is the most expensive dedicated Formula 1 circuit – and it is clear that no expense was spared.
The brightly painted run-off areas, palm trees and the LED lights on the Yas Viceroy hotel – under which the cars drive – sparkle as the sun sets during the race. Next to the track is the Ferrari World theme park with the world’s fastest rollercoaster.
Yas Marina is a complete facility and an enormous drawcard for many spectators. It’s also the epitome of the luxurious yachting lifestyle with modern super-yachts lining the track along the marina as the cars plough through the slow section towards the end of the lap.
It may lack the history of some other tracks, but the 5.554km/3.451mile Yas Marina circuit sure makes up for all of that with the spectacle of being the only twilight race on the calendar and a true party venue on the exclusive super yachts.
Paddy Lowe from Williams says: “It is a fantastic destination for a Formula One race with a certain glamour and party atmosphere for the spectators and fans to enjoy. The Yas Marina itself is spectacular with both qualifying and the race happening at twilight which gives it an extra magical feel as we take to the track.”
What To Look For
It’s fair to say that Yas Marina has its share of critics among Formula 1 aficionados. The wide run-off areas don’t truly penalise drivers, there are few genuine overtaking spots and it generally lacks the excitement of Silverstone or challenge of Monaco.
That aside, the circuit does represent a unique challenge.
Qualifying is critical and teams need to leverage every minute of the practice sessions to the find the best setup for their cars. This in itself is tricky with the circuit rewarding all-round performance through the slow and fast corners and the two long straights.
One of the best overtaking options is the first long straight – something that will favour the teams using Mercedes engines and hurt others like McLaren. To maximise speed a good exit is required from the preceding left-hand hairpin Turn 7.
And expect to see the biggest cheer reserved for retiring legend Felipe Massa. This weekend will be the Bazilian’s final race in Formula 1 in a career that has covered almost 270 starts, 11 wins, 16 pole positions and 41 podiums. Rumours are already swirling that Massa could enter Formula E but for now his focus is on the soaking up the Abu Dhabgi Grand Prix.
“For me, it will be quite an emotional weekend as it will be my final race with Williams as well as my final race in Formula One.”
“I am looking forward to it and plan to enjoy every moment, to finish my Formula One career on a high note!”