Here's how to fix the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix track
The Yas Marina Circuit needs major surgery if we are to avoid another boring GP
"They've got to change this track."
So said Lewis Hamilton after 55 laps of trying to hunt down his team-mate Valtteri Bottas. And so said me the very first time I saw the layout - and that was before the first Grand Prix was held at Abu Dhabi back in 2009.
It’s classic Tilke, lots and lots of fiddly corners with only one series of high speeds swerves all connected together by two great long straights. But it’s no use giving drivers those straights if they are too far behind the car in front when they start them.
Before you even reach the first of those straights there’s a series of seven corners where the dreaded ‘dirty air’ will drop you back while from the end of the second straight back the to start there are no fewer than ten corners strung together without a break. The result? After just eight laps of racing the entire field was spaced out over a second apart and all out of DRS range...
Just eight laps after this the cars were too spaced out for DRS to have any effect (Pic: Sutton)
So what to do? Well, let’s worry about the cars with their excessively sensitive aero for a while and instead of trying to change them – which most of the teams don’t want – change the circuits instead. The Australians talked about doing this in Melbourne but in the end decided against it and now Mr Tilke is actually talking of doing something at Yas Marina – a very small change to one corner which he believes can have a big difference!
My suggestion is a bit more drastic. Firstly cut out Turns 5 and 6 to increase the straight after 4 and provide overtaking into 7 (yes a hole in the Grandstand might be needed to provide more run off but they can afford it).
Then cut out 12 and 13 and make 11 a looping hairpin heading directly to 15, which will no longer be a corner, and then straight on at 16 to a new, tighter 17 (it looks like there’s some land there) and then a longer run back to 18.
My redesigned Yas Marina Circuit
My proposed alterations would make all the difference
Total number of corners reduced from 21 to 14, two extra overtaking spots added and endless succession of corners broken … job done!
Of course none of this is likely to happen and we are facing three more years of racing with these cars so do we just have to sit back and expect more of the processions we’ve witnessed? Well, no. There is another way to spice things up even if it goes completely against my view of what Grand Prix racing should be about and it’s those three dreaded letters: DRS.
Looking at the Abu Dhabi race it’s clear that around one and a half seconds behind is as close as you can run before the dirty air begins to take away your grip, cause the car to move around more and wear out your tyres.
This could be the answer (Pic: Sutton)
So my first move would be to increase that DRS range to two seconds which would at least keep the pack tighter and add a few more overtaking opportunities.
But then you still have the problem of losing all that ground again through the never-ending series of corners. So why not add more DRS zones?
Not necessarily in places where it might create overtaking but, say for a short blast down the Yas Marina start finish straight to negate some of the time lost in the previous set of corners. Yes, it’s very artificial but we can’t just sit back and watch three more years of what we’ve got now.
And, before I go we can’t pass Abu Dhabi by without a quick mention of the ‘fuel saving’ that Kimi Raikkonen complained of – or ‘endurance’ racing as he called it. Yes the hybrids have created amazing fuel economy, blah, blah, blah - but nobody cares!
Raikkonen has had enough of all this fuel saving (Pic: Sutton)
Give them bigger tanks, fix their engine settings and - before some engineer says you will complete the race in a shorter time if you start lighter and save fuel later – insist everyone starts with tanks full.
All of which has overshadowed a brilliant drive by Valtteri Bottas!