After Finishing Second, Hamilton Has Choice Words For The Yas Marina Circuit
For all it's excess and massive expense the Yas Marina track isn't among Lewis Hamilton's favorite tracks on the calendar. "They need to change this thing," the newly four time World Champion said in the cool down room after the final race of the 2017 season. Hamilton doubled down on his comments in an interview with Will Buxton after the podium ceremonies saying the track layout made passing too difficult.
Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina track is one of many designed by Fomula 1 favorite Hermann Tilke. In addition to Yas Marina Tilke has designed: Malaysia Sepang, Bahrain Bahrain , China Shanghai, Singapore Marina Bay, Circuit of the Americas, Sochi Autodrom , Baku City Circuit and many more. His designs is the modern take on F1 tracks. Problem is he has come under fire for designing boring, featureless tracks that are difficult to pass on. Yas Marina is one on a long list of tracks that have huge paved run off areas and lack the charm of the more classic tracks on the F1 calendar.
Not all of this is Tilke's fault mind you. Safety requirements play an enormous role in track design these days. Most of your classic circuts made use of public roads or were just hammered into the existing terrain. What makes classic tracks like Spa and Monza great is also what makes them dangerous when modern hyper fast F1 machinery goes full speed on them. Gaurd rails, catch fences are great but don't offer huge levels of protection to drivers. Sand traps do a great job of slowing cars down and are more aesthetically pleasing but they offer their own down sides as well. If a car should run off track slightly and catch the sand the best case is they bring debris onto the track that reduce grip and in some cases cut down tires. In addition should a car get stuck a caution period has to take place to remove the stricken car, detracting from green flag racing.
Now these features would be acceptable if the on track racing was exciting. Some of Tilke's newer designs like COTA were built with passing in mind. Sadly Yas Marina doesn't allow for such provisions. The track is ultra technical but that leads to less oppurtunity to pass. Couple that with the wider 2017 cars and Hamilton was able to catch but ultimately not challenge his teammate Valtteri Bottas for the race win. Granted his title was well and truly decided by this point and his finishing second had no bearing on the championship.
What is the solution? The owners of Yas Marina are not the types to be shy with their money. If the track could be redesigned to make racing more exciting I think they would be all for it. Abu Dhabi is the season finale, it should be on a track that promotes all out racing and most importantly passing. Imagine if Ferrari hadn't shot themselves in both feet this season. Imagine if Hamilton were battling not only on track for victory but off it for the Championship. Yas Marina would have been a massive let down. Now imagine the same scenario but with passing a plenty, suddenly you have something very, very special.