Is the Yas Marina Circuit actually that bad?
A case for one of the calendar's most unloved circuits.
This Sunday, F1 returns to Abu Dhabi for the final race of a chaotic 2020 season. The Yas Marina Circuit prepares to host its 12th Grand Prix and this will be the ninth time the track has played host to the season finale.
It is a venue which certainly divides opinion amongst the drivers, with many praising the challenge it offers. However, others have criticised the layout, one of which was the always honest Kimi Raikkonen who famously said "the first few turns are quite good, but the rest of it is s***".
Yas Marina has also come under fire from fans, who disapprove of the lack of overtaking seen during previous races.
Abu Dhabi will be the track which has the most corners this season, with a total of 21.
Nonetheless, while there are many things to dislike about Yas Marina, it certainly deserves a place on the F1 calendar- and arguably to host the final race.
It is undeniable that Abu Dhabi is far from perfect. Firstly, the ridiculous pitlane that goes under the track, that feels rather farcical.
Additionally, some of the corners are questionable. Turns 11,12 and 13 at the end of the second back straight feel clunky and could be easily replaced by a simple hairpin. There's also the chicane of turns five and six, which rather ruin a fast and flowing first sector.
You may have noticed that the cars could easily straight line the chicane and arrive at the turn seven hairpin, but due to the enormous Ferrari World tent which lurks next to the track, the run off area after the hairpin is not substantial enough for the FIA's liking- hence the chicane to slow the cars down.
That does seem to be the problem with Yas Marina. Hermann Tilke seems to have built a track around the hospitality facilities, rather than the circuit itself being the priority- the hotel which passes over the track perfectly demonstrates this.
Despite all of this, Abu Dhabi is more than adequate, especially when other tracks such as Catalunya, Paul Ricard and Sochi remain on the calendar. Moreover, it is perfectly suited to playing host to the last race of the year- but only when it is a dead rubber.
Now, that is a highly controversial opinion I'm aware, but before you spam me with abuse, hear me out.
We live in an era in which one team and one driver dominate the sport. Six out of the last seven season finales in Abu Dhabi have been dead rubbers, with both championships wrapped up way before F1 arrives in the UAE.
Despite hosting the season finale nine times, only two World Championship's have been secured in Abu Dhabi, Sebastian Vettel in 2010 and Nico Rosberg in 2016.
With nothing on the line, we don't need a bonkers race which determines the title. Maybe in 2022, when the field should be closer together, F1 should return to having the unpredictable Interlagos hosting the final race.
Being the only twilight race on the calendar, Abu Dhabi already has an end-of-season vibe. The facilities are magnificent, the grandstands are vast and the car's look stunning against the Yas Island backdrop.
The track itself isn't so bad either. Yes, overtaking isn't the easiest, but it is certainly possible. Last year saw 48 overtakes at Yas Marina, which is actually more than we saw at Canada and Bahrain and DRS was unavailable for a small section of the race.
The aforementioned first sector features an enjoyable series of corners before the chicane, as the cars rise up over a crest- providing ample opportunities for some glorious camera shots.
Moreover, the heavily criticised final sector is actually rather good also. While it may be single file, the corners are challenging, such as turns 15, 16 and 17, where drivers commonly lock up. Also, did I mention the track goes underneath a hotel?
The end of the race is ends with fireworks to further add to the end of season theme, even if every race seems to end with a display nowadays.
While Abu Dhabi certainly isn't perfect and could do with some amending, it is more than worthy of a place in F1. It is a spectacle that is worthy of its season ending status (when the races are dead rubber!) and on Sunday it will be a fitting final stage of what has been an incredible season of racing.